Leaving the numb

by Angelena Lewis

DSC_0887-1-129A woman experiencing abuse lives her life in a state of fear and confusion, unable to predict when the next attack will occur and unable to clearly define who is responsible or why it is happening. She may also become distant from friends and family, and increasingly dependent on her abuser even though his behaviour is offensive. After a while she begins to believe his insults, his version of events, blames herself for the abuse or may even deny it is happening altogether.

Contrary to belief, abused women are not weak or submissive but tremendously strong and resourceful. In fact there have been well -documented parallels between the impact of torture and imprisonment on hostages and victims of domestic violence. 

Unfortunately those affected by an abusive partner are likely to utilise every coping mechanism and continuously adapt their behaviour in order to cope with the situation, hoping that the person they love will change. Regrettable these efforts do little to improve the situation and the long -term effects of living under such conditions often result in psychological traumas such as chronic depression or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Interestingly enough, the symptoms of a psychological trauma may not put in an appearance until some time after the distressing event or in some cases only after the person has left the abusive relationship entirely.

Photo: Sophie Merlo, Models: Michelle Lee and Horace Silver
Photo: Sophie Merlo, Models: Michelle Lee and Horace Silver

Whether a woman experiences the long- term effects mentioned above or not, largely depends on the individual and the coping strategy employed but one thing that is guaranteed to have taken a hit is the self- esteem. Many people talk about low self esteem but not many actually know what it is. Low self- esteem is the inability to identify the good qualities and positive attributes in ones self, to think badly of ones self or capabilities and talk down to ones self more often than not.

Self- esteem and awareness are the most important qualities needed to break away and remain away from an abusive relationship or person, so I have written a list of Do and Don’t for the purpose of raising self esteem.


  • Don’t depend on others to make changes

This is common in relationship but even more so in an abusive relationship. We tend to allow feeling good about ourselves to depend on someone else changing. For example; ‘if Derek would stop hitting to me or saying cruel things, I would feel better about myself’. Whilst this way of thinking may seem like the solution to your problem, that person may never change, therefore you run the risk of suffering from low self esteem forever.

  • Don’t expect other to provide your good feeling factor

A key feature of low self- esteem is you begin to crave approval from other and a natural side effect of being in an abusive relationship is you crave the approval of your abuser (even if you don’t particularly like them). The trouble is you rarely get that approval and if you do, so often it is peppered with backhanded insults or contradicted completely with the next statement or action. If he or she gives approval you feel good about yourself, if he or she doesn’t you feel bad about yourself. This method, again, puts your self worth in the hands of the actions of another and keeps you trapped in the spiral of low self – esteem.


  • Write yourself a love letter and read it at least twice a week

Ask yourself what you would write to your closest friend to show your love and appreciation? Then become your own closest friend and begin writing.

  • Challenge negative self and reprogram your subconscious by:

– Saying affirmations

– Listening to material designed to boost confidence, such meditation Cds

  • Get physical

Practice a good posture, it sounds so simple but what you experience in your mind you also experience in your body and vice versa so take the time to practice using your body in a more positive way.

Also take the time to work out, apart from the Endorphin release exercise provides, getting into shape and releasing a negative body image may be just the feel good factor you need

  • Talk to someone

Living with low self -esteem can be a very distressing and sometimes overwhelming experience. In this case it may be helpful to speak to a cognitive behavioural therapist or coach who can provide additional support and guidance.

For more information on how to write/say affirmations, materials to boost confidence or therapist / coach who can help go to www.kwcworldwide.com

Written by Angelena Lewis

Lead Coach at KWC Worldwide

Note from Bristol Woman: If you or your family are in immediate danger, or if you have sustained physical injuries, call the police and emergency services on 999.

You can also access more information about support services for women in Bristol here: http://www.bava.org.uk

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