After undergoing trauma, be it in a relationship or marriage, the recovery process isn’t so simple. While survivors would ideally like to move on from the negative experience as soon as possible, the underlying emotional repercussions may be more ingrained.

The Recovery Process after Emotional Abuse

After enduring a long-term state of emotional, psychological, and physical stressors, the body and mind’s priority is being safe.

Since it can be difficult for survivors to trust again, consciously or unconsciously, the process takes time. Getting back into a healthy mode for relationships and taking back ownership of one’s body and mind can take a while. Understandably, opening up is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind.

How to Open Up After Emotional Abuse

According to the three-stage approach of recovery devised by Judith Herman in 1992, survivors tend to go through a specific process. Recovery begins with gaining a sense of security. This first step is critical to Arriving at a place where opening up becomes easier after this initial step. After all, how can someone learn to trust when all the defensive mechanisms they developed during the trauma are still driving their mind?

The second phase comes with the period of remembrance of mourning. Usually, memories, emotions, and inner conflict may arise after the initial feeling of distance and numbness. The raw processing of the trauma begins here, wherein the survivor has had some distance of time and place to look back at the relationship.

With emotional abuse, the volatile ups-and-downs of the relationship itself can cause a lot of grief, self-blame, and anger. A survivor may feel a mixture of complex emotions which can be overwhelming. However, it’s important to recognize these emotions as normal. Processing them all is a stepping stone to gaining peace of mind, but doing so requires naming each emotion as best as possible. Therapy can help survivors fully express, conceptualize, and put meaning to their feelings.

In the final phase, survivors get even closer to the goal of opening up by breaking from victimization. This part is revolutionary because, up until now, it feels as though the abuse defines every action, belief, and feeling of the survivor’s life.

It’s necessary to go through all those steps to come out on the other side, detaching oneself from the identity of a victim to that of a survivor.