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December 23, 2021

Recovering from Emotional Abuse


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Recovering

Here at Verve Lead, we are in the middle of a series examining how to handle emotional abuse from people around us, specifically situations with acquaintances and strangers, rather than intimate relationships. We’ve looked at how to respond in the moment of an angry blow-up, and how to reflect and process that situation. Today, we want to focus on recovering from this experience. 

These encounters, no matter how brief or random they may be, can be traumatic. Whether it is something that leaves you angry or frightened, something that keeps running through your head over and over, or develops into new emotional triggers, these incidents should be taken seriously and we deserve the time and energy to recover.

Much like a physical injury, there are varying degrees of emotional injury in these situations. It’s helpful to begin to reflect and process by considering what degree of trauma you have experienced.

Examples of Degrees of Trauma and How You Could Recover From the Experience 

Scenario 1

A coworker briefly snapping at you for seemingly no reason might be similar to a minor injury, like a scraped knee. Their anger might damage some trust in your relationship, and make you wary of their mood swings. 

Recovery: If this were a physical injury, you might focus on your breathing to handle the pain and clear your mind. You can do this with an emotional injury as well. Breathe. Try taking in deep breaths while counting to three, then out, also to the count of three. You can also:

Scenario 2

An angry stranger in traffic, who hurls curses at you and then follows your car for several blocks, might feel more traumatizing. It could leave you feeling unsafe in your car or around strangers for long after the incident. 

Recovery:  If this were a physical injury, it would be more serious and you might need more than your own self-regulated breathing: you might need assisted breathing. This is the time to reach out for help from someone you trust. 

  • Seek help from those around you (who puts wind in your lungs?)
  • Deliberately pursue these connections (ask to have coffee or breakfast together)
  • Don’t speak words of condemnation over yourself
  • Withdraw from conversations where others cause you to feel shame 

Scenario 3

A superior at work yelling at you for a minor error in front of others might be a broken bone. This shame and humiliation can cause lasting damage to your psyche and irreversibly damage trust between you and your superior. 

Recovery: After an intense physical injury, patients are often put on a ventilator. I equate this to seeking help from a professional. If this incident has had a deep impact and affects your daily emotions, it is time to bring in more help. 

  • Consult a well-being mentor, supervisor or therapist. Share your story and explore the deeper feelings behind the trauma. Is your emotional reaction linked to other past traumas? Does it feel like an isolated event? 

A reminder

These examples are fictional as is their associated degree of trauma. Everyone experiences trauma differently. Some people will shake off these experiences, while others can feel damaged by them for years. If you experience a trauma that others deem “minor” but it is impacting you deeply, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust, a friend, colleague or possibly a professional. 

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