What Is Abuse Amnesia and How Do You Heal?

Have you ever considered the effects abuse whether its physical or emotional can have damaging or devastating effects on your memory? Trauma leaves life long scars that may take forever to heal. Ever wondered why some people don’t see red flags, signs of an abusive partner?

Last week I was asked “how can someone heal from Abuse Amnesia?” Below I have put together 9 ways one could start the healing process.

What is Abuse Amnesia?

Abuse Amnesia is a form of cognitive suppression where an abuse victim has trouble remembering episodes where their boundaries have been violated. In some cases, not-so-positive traits are used to adapt to an abusive situation. These include minimizing, denial, rationalization, pretending/fantasizing, “spacing out,” alcohol and drug use developing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and posttraumatic stress.

An exacerbating condition occurs if the person experiencing abuse grew up in an abusive household. In this case, the person may have been conditioned to adapt to an abusive environment by utilizing the above-listed coping styles. People in this situation do not typically respond to “red flags” because they have become accustomed or desensitized to them during their developmental years. They have most likely honed the art of abuse amnesia.

HOW TO HEAL FROM ABUSE AMNESIA

If you realize you have abuse amnesia, then action is required to change. Here are some practical steps to take to stop the patterns of abuse:

Realize you have value and should be treated accordingly. You do not deserve to be treated poorly by your partner. You deserve dignity and respect. Settle for nothing less.

  1. Get support. You need to find healthy relationships to be part of and safe people to talk to. Abuse is damaging to your personhood. In order to heal, it is essential that you be around people who will not abuse you under any circumstances. Find support from kind, compassionate people who are good listeners. Consider meeting with a therapist.
  2. Write a list of abusive incidents and keep adding to it. Write down what the abusive person is doing to you and keep adding to it. It might look like this: (1) Called me a name; (2) Blamed me for our last fight; (3) Didn’t follow through with a commitment; (4) Threw a cup at my head; and so on. In healthy relationships, keeping a “record of wrongs” is unwise because it is counterproductive to focus on a partner’s failings; however, in an abusive relationship, different rules apply.
  3. Write a recovery plan for yourself. To do this, you need to know what you want to change about yourself—not the other person. This list can contain as many goals as you want, but three may be a manageable start. For instance, you could have goals such as these: (1) I will pay attention to my needs and take care of them at all times; (2) I will not sacrifice myself for a relationship; (3) I will live in an abuse-free environment. Your list should contain personal boundaries and bottom-line behaviors. Carry these written goals everywhere you go.
  4. Stop pretending and live in truth. Tell yourself, “I will not push things under the rug anymore and instead will hold my partner accountable.” How do you hold someone accountable? You tell them, “I will not put up with this behavior one more minute. You either get help or I will not be able to invest my emotional energy in this relationship until you do.” Follow through.
  5. Value yourself. Realize you have value and should be treated accordingly. You do not deserve to be treated poorly by your partner. You deserve dignity and respect. Settle for nothing less.
  6. Find your voice. Start talking about your situation to others. Abuse thrives in secrecy.
  7. Set boundaries. There may be many boundary violations in an abusive relationship. Learn to identify what boundaries you need to incorporate in order to break the cycle of abuse and protect yourself. Remember: boundaries involve your behavior, not the other person’s. You can only change yourself. People who perpetrate abuse hate boundaries, so recognize the more you try to implement them the more you may be challenged.
  8. Learn abstinence. An abusive relationship is akin to an addiction. Both partners become addicted to the patterns and the brain chemicals involved in the toxic interactions. A primary ingredient for working a recovery plan is to implement abstinence. You must abstain from toxic encounters. One thing you can abstain from is abuse amnesia—refuse to allow yourself to just “move on” after an abusive encounter.
  9. Journal. As you attempt to heal, write your feelings in a journal. Keep track of what is happening in your relationship. Notice the patterns and write your feelings down so you can realize what is happening in your life. Journaling can help you feel your emotions, process your thoughts, and get to a place of healing. The first step for any type of recovery involves awareness. As you become aware that you have been overlooking abuse, you actually implement the first step of recovery. Awareness precedes action and impedes denial. Awareness involves the idea of realization—that is, understanding that “this is really happening, it is happening now, and it is happening to me.” source: Abuse Amnesia: Why We Stay with Our Abusive Partners

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