How to move on from my abusive father?
June 26, 2012 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Now that I know I hate my abusive father, what can I do specifically to move forward?

Background: I grew up in a very violent and abusive home. My father abused me, my siblings, and my mother physically and emotionally until they divorced when I was 13. There was some contact after that because we all needed him to provide money for schooling or medical bills, but he used that money to manipulate and control us in overt ways. For example, "You have to say X to me in order to convince me that I should give you money to go to the doctor." Or, "If you don't do Y for me, then I don't think I feel like giving you money for textbooks anymore." It made me sick to my stomach and eventually I just went without or worked three jobs simultaneously so that I could avoid him more.

Now, I know this sounds illogical, but for most of my life, I felt guilty that I did not have a better relationship with my father. I remember speaking with a counselor back in college about how I felt like I should try to talk with my father about the abuse and ask him for an apology so that we could reconcile. I felt badly for years for not loving him because "after all, he is my father."

Fast forward to now. I am a 28 year old woman (in the mid-atlantic region of the USA) and I have been working weekly with a therapist who focuses on survivors of abuse for the better part of the past year. I also have been slowly implementing a lot of changes in my life regarding boundaries, safety, and stabilization. I have a long way to go, but I also recognize that I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have a beautiful life filled with making art and music and meaningful friendships with good people. I am struggling with intense depression and anxiety day-to-day, but deep down I feel hopeful that I am going to feel better eventually.

Recently, it hit me (while I was at someone's wedding actually and the father of the bride was making a speech about how wonderful and strong his daughter is) that I don't feel guilty anymore about not loving my father. In fact, I think I can calmly say that I hate him. Or at least that I don't want to have any contact with him ever again.

It was as if I finally saw it with clarity: this man abused me when I was a vulnerable child in ways that have made me terrified to speak about them for two decades -- and he continues to abuse me verbally in horrible ways when I force myself to be in touch with him because I think I ought to. He has confirmed to me and my siblings that he has no willingness to acknowledge or apologize for any of the abuse. I think two of my four siblings are still speaking to him because they need his financial help or are hoping to receive an inheritance from him when he passes away. But I don't want his money or a relationship with him.

So, I am over it! Or, I want to be. This is where you come in, Ask MetaFilter!

I want to permanently sever ties with my father and move on with my life. I read this previous post, but I want more. Please tell me:

a) how you cut ties with your abusive parent(s) successfully and in a way that has left you feeling stronger and happier

b) any literature you think I should read on the subject that will give me perspective and empower me

c) if you have any suggestions for a symbolic gesture or ceremonial act I could do to mark my decision (I know it sounds cheesy, but some part of me kind of wants to do this and I would like it to be a little bit more thought out than, oh smashing something or writing a letter to myself).

d) any advice to build on the wonderful comments in the thread I linked to above that can help me provide myself with the kind of care and confidence that my father did not instill in me

Thank you in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Learn to love yourself more each day. Surround yourself with loving and supportive people. Grieve the father he never was and never will be. Allow yourself to feel anything and everything that comes up for you. Share your feelings with safe friends. Seek therapy and continue with it, especially when the feelings are unbearable. Remember that the healing will take time and effort.

Don't give up. You're worth it!
posted by strelitzia at 4:01 PM on June 26, 2012

I'm not sure if this is going to come across right, but I think that for c: you may want to symbolically forgive your father.

You can absolutely cut ties, and it sounds like you should. You never have to forget the abuse he inflicted upon you. However, there is something very cleansing about the act of forgiveness, in that it gets past the pain and past the anger and allows you to start from a place of positivity.

It may not be something you want to do, and I respect it, but forgiveness is a powerful thing (I say this as an atheist who used to be a Catholic, so take that info as you will).
posted by xingcat at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know about the abuse factor, so I cannot help there. But after my dad ditched our family for another woman when I was 12 and divorced my mom, I worked for a few years in repairing our relationship before I decided that I simply don't actually want him in my life. I will never trust him again or stop feeling angry at him. I still see how hurt my mom is, even after all these years, and I don't think I can get over that. I am 28 now and I would say around maybe 20 (I don't recall) I just stopped talking to him completely. I ignored any of his attempts to contact me and wouldn't go to any functions he was at. He still sends me a card in the mail once in a while (he gets my addresses from my siblings or my mom) and I just throw them out.

Now, never seeing a member of your family can be tough. I've missed a lot of Christmases and family gatherings because he and his wife were invited and I refuse to see him. Eventually, I got sick of it and decided, hey, he's the asshole, why doesn't he spend Christmas alone instead? And it definitely caused some problems with my grandma when we started to have family gatherings without him and his wife. (Quite frankly, it's all so unfair -- my dad's side of the family is the only "family" my mom has left other than me and my siblings so she has to go to these gatherings with us with my dad and his wife there. I don't really care how upset it makes my grandma.) But cutting someone out of your life completely if they are family is tough. I do worry what I will do when one of my siblings gets married or something like that. I will want to be there for them, but the fact is, I know if I so much as saw him, I would feeling incredibly angry and there's no way I could stand being in the same room as him and still have a good time. If you think you can get to the point of not caring about his existence, that's great. When I was seeing a therapist, we tried to get there but I eventually decided it was easier to avoid ever seeing him. My siblings and even my mom say, he's your father, you should talk to him and I couldn't disagree more. I am 28 and I haven't counted on him for anything since I was 12. I don't need him. I don't owe him anything. I don't need to make myself less happy to accommodate someone who has caused so many other people such hardship. You are 28 and judging by your post, you sound like a perfectly capable, wonderful person on your own -- you don't need him and you are allowed to take control of your own life.

I went through depression in high school -- it was horrible and I couldn't even picture what not being depressed would be like. But I eventually got out of it with some determination and hopefulness that I could find my way out. It's been at least 7 years since I was depressed and I've been pretty content since. I say, do what makes you happier and more in control. You will get better. Good luck!
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Someone on metafilter once said something about forgiveness that has stuck with me. You are not forgiving his actions, you are forgiving his debt. He will never be able to say or do anything that will make up for the pain he has caused, so forgive him of it.

Letting go of anger is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself. Anger really is a burn that only affects the one holding it, I know this from experience. I decided one day that I would accept that the actions of the person who hurt me could be understandable from where they had come from, and I was going to let it go. The feeling of relief was so strong I stuck with it. I don't hate them. I don't talk to them either. Some people are like snakes, it doesn't matter how kind and loving you treat them, if wiggle your fingers before feeding time they WILL bite you. You don't carry hatred for the snake for biting, it's just what they are, but you don't give them a chance to do it again.

If you can turn your pain into something valuable, it might help you to come to terms with it. Volunteering at a women's shelter, using the lessons you've learned the hard way to assist others, could give it all a purpose that makes having lived through it less painful.
posted by Dynex at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2012 [39 favorites]

For me, it's been a process. I broke up with my mother almost three years ago. It wasn't something I planned on at that moment, but I'm thankful it happened. It was during an argument we were having (via email) and I had just had ENOUGH. So I don't know, despite the lack of planning, I felt very empowered just by having finally FINALLY let go. I kept my relationship with her for similar feelings, because I OUGHT to.

I didn't have a ceremony, but let me tell you, it's like a little one every time I run across a photo of her and delete digitals or destroy prints. My husband tried to stop me the first time I did it, he thought I would one day regret it, but I LOVE doing it and I won't be stopped. I've never gone on a search for them, I just do it when I find them among other things, and I feel like little pieces of badness are lifted away from me each time. There's maybe a bit of glorious perversity to this ritual of mine.

Each year since the break-up has been different. Sometimes it's confusing still, but each year I feel a little more healed, a little more free, and definitely stronger. I don't regret it one bit. Re: forgiveness. I don't know if I will ever forgive my mother, or have contact with her again. But I can see a day when I have shed the anger, maybe that's a forgiveness of sorts.
posted by upatree at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

After being civil to my emotionally and physically abusive drunk of a father for the sake of my own family, (my daughter and wife liked him,) he died about 2 years ago. And we had not reconciled, nor even really discussed his behavior to me (and his other son as well,) before he passed. I didn't attend his funeral, out of fear that the anger that has built up would cause me to vent my feelings in front of people who considered him a friend and mentor. I haven't spoken to his second wife and kids since. (Not that I don't like them, s'another story.) But it turns out that his death may have been the closure I was seeking. Please don't interpret this as a wish for your father's death, but as a suggestion that If you can manage to get to civil, time may take care of the issue.
posted by Fferret at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

With all due respect to those encouraging forgiveness, even just as an emotional exercise, I want to caution you not to bury your anger. You're in touch with it right now. You're able to say, for the first time, "I hate him." Put that into words. Write short essays and bring them to therapy with you. Feel your anger, and do all the things necessary to tolerate the distress of it.

I say this because anger, when buried, can manifest later in life as other things: actual physical pain, for example, or dissociation, or misdirected anger, or a generally short temper. By fully experiencing your anger now, you may be able to decrease the likelihood of having Big Anger Issues of your own.

And then, I don't know if you have access to a piece of land, but as far as symbolic gestures, you could hold a funeral for your father. You could pack up a shoebox (small enough that you don't have to dig a huge hole) with little representations of the terrible things your father did to you, and you could bury that. It would be saying goodbye to mistreatment, boundary violations, and abuse in general. If your father hit you with something made of leather, put a strip of leather in the box. If he was always throwing beer cans at the wall, crush a beer can and put it in the box. Whatever symbols you can think of that relate to the abuse. You can write a "goodbye" letter and bury that, too, or simply read it to the small group of close friends you've chosen to attend.

If you can't bury something, perhaps you could go camping and burn instead of bury.

It's old and I recommend it constantly, but have you read Trauma and Recovery?

Congratulations on making this brave decision. I'm sorry you've been hurting for so long. If you ever want to chat with a fellow survivor, feel free to get in touch on MeFiMail.
posted by brina at 4:37 PM on June 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

I cut ties with my abusive, poisonous father several years ago, and am getting to the point, finally, of being able to let go of any feelings I have toward him. It's hard -- I still get a bit down around Father's Day, for example.

In my case, I tried for years to have a relationship with my father -- I wrote him letters, called him, etc. Every time I had contact with him, without fail, I would end up in tears because of his verbal abuse. I eventually decided that I had had more than enough of it, and I wrote him a letter explaining his behavior toward me was unacceptable, and that unless he was willing to treat me with respect, at least, that I didn't want to hear from him again. That was it, really -- I haven't spoken to him since, and I have no desire to.

If you want to talk, you can MeFiMail me any time -- I've been where you are, and I know how emotionally draining it is. I'd be happy to talk.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

i grew up in a very similar situation to yours: my father was physically and emotionally abusive toward my mother, my brother, and me. a big reason why i only applied to colleges back east was to get away from him. i was also diagnosed with clinical depression in my late 20s and i also rely on my friends being my "family." my parents finally divorced before my senior year in college and my father declared that he was absolved of responsibility for his kids (and my mother ended up having to be the sole financial provider for my last year in my [expensibe] ivy league school). the last time i spoke with my father was when he called me in my late twenties to try to dissuade me from going to art school, telling me it was a waste of time and money and asking me why i didn't get married instead. i in turn asked him if he asked me that because marriage had worked out so well for him. i also tried to talk to him about the abuse that he perpetrated on his family but as per usual, everything was always everyone else's fault but his. i realized that this was never going to change and it was then that i washed my hands.

i actively hated him until my late 20s and it played a large part in my discomfort with myself in those years. when i reached my mid-late 20s, i saw that i was someone who i didn't really want to be and i also saw who i did want to be. i got myself into therapy pronto—and this was they key. growing up, i was never able to express anger in a health way because my father would punish anyone who dared to get angry with him. he was the only one allowed to be angry and to express it. it took me about a decade to give myself permission to properly learn how to express anger. at the same time, i also let go of the hate i had for my father. it takes a lot of energy to actively hate someone—and i realized i would rather use that energy toward more positive things in my life. this isn't about forgetting (because it's not like one can forget one's father) or forgiving (i wouldn't say that i have forgiven him) but just about realizing that his life is his and mine is mine and the only control of have over how it affects me is how i let it affect me. it became less of an issue about how do i deal with my father and more about how do i deal with myself and my own life? what kind of person do i want to be and what kind of life do i want to live? those are the things that motivate me to make the changes i need to make to be the person i want to be.

now when i think of my father (which is rarely), or when my mother brings him up (recently to tell me he was going to be moving out of the country with his third wife, leaving his pre-teen daughter behind with his second wife), or when he tries to contact me every few years (calls and cards that i do not reciprocate), i can honestly say that i am neutral. i just don't really care one way or another becausei have no interest in his life.
posted by violetk at 5:47 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's hard to give an answer which might help you. I can only give the answer which helped me. YMMV.

My dad left our family when I was 13, and he used to beat my mom. I hated him - actively, daily, until the day he died.

As I grew older, I learned that, while his behavior was inexcusable, he was also weak and was, many times, provoked to anger. I also learned that my mom was working actively behind the scenes (unbeknownst to me) to turn us kids against my dad.

Hate is a toxin, and the same things which drove my father to react as he did, sadly, exist in me too. There but for the grace of God go I.

If he were alive, I would tell him I love him, but I would also tell him that now that now that I am grown if he hurt my mom again I would give him a dose of his own medicine. I would also tell my mom (also deceased) that I knew what she did and that it destroyed me as much as seeing dad beat her.

When you hate someone, they continue to hurt you. Holding them accountable is an act of love which repudiates the hate. They are family. There's nothing you can do to change that.
posted by brownrd at 6:08 PM on June 26, 2012

I too think forgiving him is the best gift you can give to yourself. I heard TD Jakes say something on Dr. Phil one time that really stuck with me - something along the lines that staying angry toward someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. The point is, the anger and bitterness destroys YOU, not the other person. Give yourself the gift of forgiving him. (That doesn't mean forgetting, or even maintaining a relationship.)
posted by summerstorm at 7:01 PM on June 26, 2012

I cut off contact with my father in my teens, and I changed my name in my twenties because I didn't want to keep his. It was a pretty satisfying symbolic gesture, though of course it helps if you have a name you'd like to change *to*.
posted by ktkt at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had to cut contact with my mother. She was a great mother in many ways, but she has some kind of personality disorder and she refuses to get help, which made it very difficult for me to have a healthy relationship with her. I might reconnect with her in the future, or I might not, I still don't know.

I still lived with her, so I just packed my things and moved out. We were not speaking then so it made it easier. I changed my mobile phone number and asked all my friends and family not to give it to her. The funny thing is, my mother had also cut contact with her family, so this gave me a chance to reconnect with them. I also was in therapy, which was immensely helpful.

My sister still told me about her conflicts with my mother, and it made me realise I had taken a good decision. However, it also stressed me a lot to hear about her, so I had to ask her eventually not to mention her to me. I think my sister has cut contact with her too.

I'm still not sure about what will happen to us, but I feel free, strong, healthier, and I'm starting to let go of my anger. Of course, therapy was a big part of this.

You can do it.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:46 PM on June 26, 2012

May I recommend a tattoo to commemorate your decision and the commitment you are making to honor yourself? Choose something YOU really want - the tattoo isn't about your father, it's about the person you are without him and who you will be going forward. Something along the lines of a phoenix comes to mind, to signify rising from the ashes of your past and really taking flight.
posted by TrixieRamble at 8:10 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I terminated a parental relationship for the better part of 20 years. And it HURT. "It feels like rejecting an organ," is a phrase that seems to fit. I told them why and then walked away.

I think the hardest parts were accepting that this very much was what needed to happen, and what you want to happen --it is the death of a dream in so many terrible ways. It is the release & au revior to the conviction that somehow this could be fixed and heal. But I think you are well on your way to finalizing that decision, and you have my condolences.

For me, the true healing, and perhaps for you as well, could not come until that sweet, sweet dream of recovery was put away and the truth of the wrong & the loss was embraced.

Then there is the reconcilliation of good & bad. Most people, even horrible people who do horrible things to us, are not all bad. I think it's those streaks of light --the good times, the moments of closeness where we can FEEL the good that we want so badly to flow from this person-- are what make it so dreadfully hard to let go. It is really hard to remember the good without tearing open your soul. For me, that is where so much of the feelings of guilt came from: the knowledge that as I spat on the memory of this person, I was neglecting to acknowledge a wealth of things I know were done right. A persistent feeling that something was owed to compound the grief of loss and the pain of amputation. I don't know how much of an issue that is for you, but remember that good does not cancel out the bad. I knew I was making progress in accepting and recovering when I could acknowledge the good again without immediately trying to bury the memory.

And the peace brokers...
They have so little understanding. They are annoying, they are persistent, and often they are like salt in the wound. Just turn them aside. Don't get trapped in the arguments & the explanations, just firmly refuse. Trying to reason with them will just bring you back again & again to the site of old wounds. The message I found most useful was not 'I can't/won't for reasons x,y & z,' but rather variations on the theme 'it's between him and me, your concern is understandable, but please leave it alone.'

I am sorry life has dealt you this hand. I wish you luck & strength on your journey.
posted by Ys at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

You know, I cut off major with my parents (meaning moved away and have never gone home) starting at 19 when I went away to uni. My sister did not, and our lives are very different.

Firstly I knew that I had to be at least three counties away so they couldn't guilt-trip me into constant contact, which would only be negative. They operate on the assumption that my sister and I owe our lives to THEM FIRST. The verbal abuse re: how worthless/nasty/terrible we were/are has a tandem motivation: to A. absolve them of any violence/nastiness because it's all our fault and b. keeps us meek, guilty, humble and available whenever they like - for odd jobs, care they don't want to give, if they need a whipping boy.

It sounds like your father similarly doesn't understand his role as a parent, i.e. it is not a chance to wield power over someone else, it is not an opportunity to barter your affections/requests for necessities for ego stroking/free housework/big impositions. Do you think moving far away might also help? I've moved twice, once 250 miles and then 8,000 miles and the joy of not having to give any of their 'suggestions' any credence, and them having nothing to use to 'keep me in my place', has been giddifying. It sounds like even if your dad couldn't learn anything from this, you could feel better and more in control at least.

I also didn't speak to them at all for the first two years after I moved out and it felt so freeing! Again I was far away so any phone calls that weren't going well, they were told firmly about the unacceptableness of and hung up on. If I even bothered to pick up the phone (not at your beck and call!) In other words, setting strong boundaries where I decided the terms. Although we have a superficially nice relationship now, I do not regret any of it and actually, those years were my most trouble-free. My rituals were destroying photos, binning 'gifts', getting rid of certain clothes that brought up bad memories, etc. Keeping a journal might help you through the first difficult period, looking back on it later and seeing how far you've come will likely be eye-opening.

I feel like people always want to skip to 'forgiveness' without acknowledging that its part of a bigger process, and anger, hurt and all kinds of other things come before it and are no less healthy reactions (in fact, it's these things your abusers try to train you out of feeling so they can continue the abuse, so it is good for you to feel and express them). Or that how you frame it needn't even be 'forgiveness' if the idea of that seems nauseating. Volunteering and stuff for others is great but maybe do that when you feel a bit more 'healthy', because working with the very vulnerable is stressful and challenging and you need to be 100% present for it. I say this as someone who's done a lot of volunteer work over the past three years. Get yourself sorted out first.

You really do not owe anything to him at all. You've paid your dues. You owe stuff to yourself now. Good luck and memail me anytime if you need a chat.
posted by everydayanewday at 9:01 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

As a symbolic gesture, if you're close with your mother, what about taking your mother's maiden name?
posted by Xany at 1:29 AM on June 27, 2012

a) how you cut ties with your abusive parent(s) successfully and in a way that has left you feeling stronger and happier

It's something that stays with you; it's great that you can foresee being stronger and happier with it. I cut ties with my abusive parents when, after years of setting boundaries, enforcing them, and having them trampled on and cut to shreds and dangled in front of my face contemptuously (metaphorically speaking, naturally), I realized, my parents would forever see me as having to pay them for my life. I told my mother that I would only speak to her again if, one day, she was able to apologize for her behavior towards me. She replied with, "I'm sorry you feel that way, you always did imagine we hated you." I told my father that I would no longer stand for his backstabbing and false apologies. He apologized, panicking, and said he didn't want to lose his daughter. I asked him what he thought of his wife's behavior (my mother). He said I had "always" been an ungrateful child who needed to learn a lesson (I was 28...). I told him his apologies never had been genuine, and that I was sorry I couldn't trust him any more after 28 years of insincere "omigosh I'm so sorry! But we're right to treat you like shit."

A few years later, my grandmother sent me a guilt-tripping email about how ungrateful I was not contacting my parents (sigh) or her. I told her the truth: that I was angry about how she had lied to the police in order to protect her physically abusive husband, who beat his children (my cousins) and locked one of them in the closet for hours, without water or toilet breaks, and then beat him again for having soiled himself. I told her that she had a choice with regards to me: if she wanted contact with me, she had to apologize to my cousins for protecting their abusive father. If she did not do that, she had better not say another word to me, or I would remind her of it again; I would never forget my cousins' screams and their terrified faces with their father. She was part of that. She needed to take responsibility for her part in it.

Never heard from her again. It's been several years. "Strangely", my cousins fell out of contact with me not long afterwards. I'd seen it coming. When you break ties with parents, it's important to accept that there will be other consequences too. I knew there was a risk my cousins would believe her; she played a dual game of "caring, helpless grandmother" with them; when she lied to the cops, my cousins were always inside sobbing their eyes out, they never saw it themselves. It's not their fault. They couldn't know. I tried to tell them; I was cast as a muckraker, which I knew could happen. Be prepared for that sort of thing; it's highly likely with people who operate on manipulation and fear.

b) any literature you think I should read on the subject that will give me perspective and empower me

I have had much more growth and perspective from therapy. There are books that are helpful, yes, but they're a drop in the ocean compared to the immense, lasting progress from therapy. And I say that as someone with a degree in comparative literature :o) It sounds like you have a very knowledgeable therapist, that's great.

c) if you have any suggestions for a symbolic gesture or ceremonial act I could do to mark my decision (I know it sounds cheesy, but some part of me kind of wants to do this and I would like it to be a little bit more thought out than, oh smashing something or writing a letter to myself).

Others have had great suggestions. Journaling can be good too, especially in tandem with therapy. But even without therapy, journalling helps. You start to see patterns, notice how you forget certain things (I had a tendency to forget hurtful things, actually, and focus on the crumbs of false kindness that family threw at me), and also you build your own life, independently, away from the controlling, manipulative gaze of family.

d) any advice to build on the wonderful comments in the thread I linked to above that can help me provide myself with the kind of care and confidence that my father did not instill in me

Journalling helps with this too. And therapy :) Have you asked your therapist this question, by the way? It's a great opportunity. If you're looking for personal experience: for me, it meant doing things I love, because I love them. No other reason. Not for others (I did plenty of that already), not for profit, but just because I enjoyed them. My parents had been poisonous about twisting my talents to either fulfill their own emotional needs, or crushing them like (I assume) their own had been crushed. Vengeance by proxy. So it's been very healing to reconnect with my own, individual sources of enjoyment, knowing that I have the right to. Recently my therapist added to that by saying that hobbies are vital to remaining balanced in life; for whatever reason, it came at a time where it struck me deeply, and as something very important indeed.
posted by fraula at 2:27 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Correction for comprehension: "she had lied to the police in order to protect her physically abusive husband," -> her physically abusive son, sorry. That said, the slip is telling, because her husband had been physically abusive too, my mother remembers him beating her brother (the same uncle who went on to beat his kids/my cousins).
posted by fraula at 2:30 AM on June 27, 2012

I have to post something pro-anger and anti-forgiveness here, just to keep the balance. In my experience, people are uncomfortable with anger and thus try to get rid of it by any means possible and convince themselves they've forgiven others when they actually haven't. Don't forgive him until you're ready and if you're never ready, don't do it at all. It's not what others have said about forgiveness is untrue, it's just that it's more important to honor your anger until you are done with it, so don't rush into some fake forgiving future just because you are in a hurry to get over things.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

For book recommendations, try "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans. I personally found it life changing as I at the time I had never realized that the game playing was even happening. Once I recognized it, I could break free of it.

There's one severe flaw in the book where the abusers are always men, but since that does apply in your case it shouldn't be too distracting.
posted by Dynex at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2012

I won't respond to what others have already said - there are so many great answers to this thread. In response to your third question, an art therapist can help you with the ceremonial aspect of what you are doing. Some ideas can be "prayer" ties (not religious, but each tie or bead can be a blessing or something you wish for yourself), some kind of "soul retrieval" ceremony, making a 3D piece of art, creating a small altar or table with sacred things that are meaningful to you. You can use essential oils or sage each day to "cleanse" energy and help keep you feeling empowered/positive. If you're into artmaking, "Faces of Your Soul" is a great resource for ceremony, and I don't know of anything else like it in print. Good luck!
posted by luciddream928 at 5:22 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more: you can write a simple story (think: children's story) with a mythical character who goes on a journey, meets adversity, and pulls through. I did this for a class once and it was amazing what people did with it, most experienced it as pretty powerful for them.
posted by luciddream928 at 5:28 PM on June 27, 2012

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