My copy of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, LCSW has finally arrived! Now I can get out the ol’ highlighter and pen and really dig into it, since it’s much more difficult to dog ear pages and highlight and underline passages with a digital copy which I previewed last month.
I cannot sing the praises of this book enough! Healing from Hidden Abuse is a book which should be in the hands of anyone living with this type of abuse or who has escaped a relationship of this kind and needs to find healing. Such invaluable information and insight into the mind of a psychological abuser and the dynamics of a relationship with one.
People who have experienced hidden abuse know things are not normal. You feel it and sometimes you can even see solid glimpses of the dysfunction. More often than not though, it is like a snake. It moves quickly and slithers away before you can get a good look at it. You may have tried to explain to people the exact harm that has been done to you. I bet it often comes out sounding as if you are exceptionally needy, petty, or even paranoid. Without a specific set of terms to describe the actions of a hidden abuser, targets of this type of harm feel frustrated with their inability to make other people see the games that are being played. This happens because the average person doesn’t know about psychological abuse. -pg. xvi
Not only does the author explain who this type of abuser is, why they do what they do and how it affects a relationship with someone like this, she also describes six stages necessary for healing from psychological abuse. As someone who lived with this type of abuse for over 20 years reading this book opened my eyes to the fact that healing takes time and perhaps I still have some work to do. Oh sure, I’ve moved on with my life since my ex walked out over seven years ago and have even remarried and now live in a healthy marriage, but I still experience triggers which suggest more work may need to be done on my part for complete healing to take place once and for all.
I also would love to see Healing from Hidden Abuse on the bookshelf of every pastor, elder and anyone else involved in church ministry who may come in contact with a survivor of abuse and have the opportunity to help. Too often, the church can be one of the worst places for a survivor of abuse to turn to for help because of the lack of knowledge about this type of abuse and/or the unwillingness some have to help for fear of appearing to support divorce or dissolution of marriages. No one without proper knowledge and/or training regarding abuse should be giving counsel of any kind to someone in an abusive relationship. Typically more harm than good is done and the toxic person is let off the hook while the victim is left feeling attacked all over again even if that is not the intent.
Church leadership would be wise to watch for inconsistencies in people’s stories, and not ignore red flags that are present. When church leadership fails, or flat out refuses, to recognize abusive people, the leaders are further abusing survivors by omission. -pg 35
My experience within the Christian community, and mind you it was a small amount of people, was to be questioned about whether I’d ever been hit and then made to feel invalidated if I meekly said no. I didn’t open up to many people about what happened in my first marriage for this very reason. Yet even God’s Word speaks to how powerful words can be, either bringing forth life or destroying as a fire:
The tongue has the power of life and death… -Proverbs 18:21a
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. -Proverbs 12:18
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. -Matthew 12:36-37
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. -James 3:6
So let me ask you:
Do you feel safe in your relationship? Or do you feel fearful or nervous when your spouse comes home?
Do you walk with confidence through your home? Or do you constantly walk on eggshells wondering when the next storm is going to hit?
Do you trust your spouse to listen to you and engage in a conversation with love and respect? Or are you too scared to speak up and have a voice in your marriage?
Do you share your lifelong dreams with your spouse? Or do you keep them to yourself knowing you will only be disregarded or even looked upon with disgust.
Toxic people like to accuse survivors of being selfish. This is often done when a survivor attempts something good for himself or herself. The abuser wants to ruin the enjoyment of the activity. -pgs. 46-47
Do you freely pursue activities outside of the marriage and find enjoyment in your God-given gifts? Or does the fear of being labeled selfish or stupid keep you from enjoying life?
Do you find security in the arms of your spouse? Or are you degraded and devalued in the marriage bed?
The person who was intended to be the safe harbor in their life is actually silently drowning them…Frequently, the emotional homicide is happening while other people go on clamoring about what a great guy or gal the abuser is and how lucky the survivor is to be connected to the abuser…What is seen behind closed doors is radically different than the public persona she or he is selling to the world. -pgs. 21 & 22
Does any of that sound familiar? Do you pray frequently and fervently for God to take you out of your relationship? Do you cry out to others for help only to be told that maybe you’re just too sensitive or need to submit more and stop being so selfish? Do you feel that nothing will ever change and that there is no hope?
If so, you may be living with psychological abuse, the hidden abuse which shatters a person’s self-worth causing feelings of doubts and insecurities, while quietly and insidiously destroying the very depths of their soul. Please read Healing from Hidden Abuse, find a counselor to talk with and visit Shannon Thomas, LCSW for further information about psychological abuse.
Life is too short to spend just trying to survive, it should be spent living each day to the fullest.
Survivors do themselves a huge favor when they do not make excuses for harmful actions. An important question for targets: Would you treat someone the way you’ve been treated? If the answer is no, then the abuse is easier to recognize. Resist remaining in any level of denial. The truth is painful to see, but necessary. -pg. 62
May you, dear reader, take that first step right now today towards freedom from abuse which holds you captive to a lifeless existence. Only you can start the process of change in your life, but know that you are not alone on this road to a richer, better life away from abuse.