Your abuser is long-gone from your life, but you still hear his/her voice inside your head deriding you at every turn. Why is this and what can you do about it?
Whether you were also a victim of physical abuse or not, if you were a victim of long-term psychological abuse, you could be affected by this for many years afterwards. This is because you were conditioned during the relationship with your abuser to pair negative thoughts with events that were formerly unrelated before this program of abuse. Unless you pause to identify the sources of your negative or fearful thoughts, you may think they originate with you, and that they are realistic observations or expectations.
An example of this could be if you liked a certain type of clothing in the past because you thought you it suited you and was flattering. However, your former abuser then told you that you looked horrible, trashy, or fat in it, etc. You may have never stopped to ponder what their motives were in telling you that because at the time you had some faith in their judgment. Now if you look at a similar garment, you still think it's not for you.
You may experience negative mental interference inspired by past experiences when you
- look in the mirror or try to improve your appearance,
- do something new,
- work on improving your mind with training and educational experiences,
- engage in social activities,
- assert yourself,
- need or want something,
- make a mistake,
- play, or
- do something creative.
You may also experience déjà vu when you see someone else being berated/abused by a parent or partner.
Research on Abuse Survivors
Research, such as a University of Montreal study, suggest that some former victims of abuse suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and these can be long-lasting. Feelings of isolation, low self esteem, and depression are not uncommon.
While this article is primarily about the figurative "voices" that hinder you from living life to the fullest, some abuse survivors experience psychotic symptoms such as literally hearing voices, along with physical pain, anxiety, and hypervigilance.
Antidotes to the Negative Voices
To exorcise the toxic residue of their control over you, you may need to seek counseling from someone like Carol Vinson PhD. Many therapists use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you identify thought patterns that aren't serving you and replace them with patterns that do. Sometimes just saying what's going on in your mind out loud to a supportive person can spur some insight on your part.
Other things that may help are
- joining a group of abuse survivors,
- writing and art therapy,
- talking to friends,
- exercise, and
- helping others.
Affirmations (or religious sayings such as sacred scriptures) that resonate with you can also be an effective antidote to certain negative or fearful thoughts you have. What may be comforting to someone else might not feel helpful to you, so you need to work at finding sayings that you have faith in and make you feel more optimistic.Share