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How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship and Start Afresh

How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship and Start Afresh
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When you meet someone to whom you are romantically attracted, most people don’t ever think for a minute that the relationship will turn abusive. Most of us hope to live a fairy tale love story and ride off into the sunset deeply in love.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Many find themselves in an abusive relationship.

If you’ve never been in one, you might wonder why someone would ever tolerate that negative behavior toward themselves. Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to say, “why don’t they get out?” But from the inside, it’s a much different experience for most people who are abused.

How Does it Start?

Believe it or not, most abusive relationships start out just like any other. The abuser is typically very charming and charismatic. The abusee falls for the “act” they are putting on and, as a result, probably falls in love with them.

But that’s not the REAL person. The real person, deep down, is abusive.

It happens slowly. To explain better let me use a metaphor.

Let’s say you like to eat frog legs (I know most people don’t, but remember, this is just an analogy). So, one day you catch a frog yourself and intend to cook it by boiling it in hot water.

If you drop the frog into boiling water, it will be shocked and try to get out. Because of the suddenness of the change, they notice it immediately.

But, if you put the frog in room temperature water first, and then slowly, very slowly, turn up the heat toward boiling, then the frog won’t really notice until it is too late. It happens almost without the frog knowing it.

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You see, that’s what happens in abusive relationships most of the time. The abuse starts slowly, and then apologies come. And then forgiveness. Then more abuse, and more, and more, until it finally escalates into full-blown abuse.

That’s why it’s sometimes difficult for someone to recognize when they are in an abusive relationship.

What Are the Signs of Abuse?

In order to get out of an abusive relationship, you first have to admit to yourself that you are in one. You can’t change what you don’t recognize. Again, that might sound like an easy thing to do, but it’s not for many people. So, here are just a few signs that you are in an abusive relationship.

1. Name-Calling

“B*tch,” “Wh*re” and many other horrible names can be used when the abuser is angry. They use these words to degrade you and ruin your self-esteem.

See, an abuser can’t really abuse you if you love yourself – because you won’t stand for it. That’s why they have to call you names.

2. Insults

In addition to name-calling, any other kind of insult will be flying your way, too. They could call you fat, dumb, a slob, idiot, “no one likes you,” or anything else. Again, this is the abuser’s attempt to continually destroy your sense of self and self-esteem.

3. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological technique of manipulation that makes someone question their own sanity. You are constantly second-guessing yourself. You frequently ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” and feel confused or even crazy.

You might even find yourself apologizing all the time even if you think you’re not really wrong. But the abuser makes you THINK you are wrong.

4. Jealous and Controlling Behavior

Unfortunately, most people think jealousy is a sign of love. But really, it is not. It is a sign of insecurity and anxiety.

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If someone is jealous, they will naturally try to control your actions, such as, “You can’t talk to that guy at work.” They will eventually try to control your whole life if you let them.

5. Isolation

In more extreme abusive relationships, the jealous and controlling behavior can lead to social isolation. In other words, the abuser won’t let you see your family or friends anymore. Because if they do let you, they might try to talk some sense into you and convince you to leave your abuser.

6. Blaming You for Everything

They never take personal responsibility for anything – because everything is “your fault.” This could also be a part of the gaslighting strategy as well. They think they can “do no wrong,” and therefore, YOU are the person who needs to change – not THEM.

7. Physical Violence – Even If Just Threats

Most people know that physical violence is a sign of an abusive relationship. However, perhaps you grew up in a family where you or someone else was physically abused, so you might think it’s a “normal” part of a relationship.

Let me assure you – it is NOT. Even mere threats of physical abuse is abusive behavior.

How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship

Now that you know some of the signs of an abusive relationship (although there are many more), let’s talk about how you can get out.

1. Document Everything

Write everything that happens to you down in a journal or diary. The reason for that is two-fold:

First, it will help you to NOT question your sanity. Documenting what you said and what they said (and did) really helps put things into perspective.

Second, it can serve as documentation if you need to file a restraining order or have to prosecute them in some way. There are apps out there that can help you. For example, if your abuser is degrading and threatening you, then you can hit a secret button on your phone and it will start recording them.

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2. Pack an Emergency Bag

You never know when you are going to have a chance to leave. Kind of like when you have a baby, you just don’t know when the moment is going to strike.

So, pack a bag and have it ready to run out the door when the time is right. And if you have children, have theirs packed too. If your abuser has kept you isolated, this is especially important because maybe they don’t even let you leave the house – and as a result, they keep a close eye on you.

3. Have a Plan

It’s one thing to leave, but it’s another thing to know where you are going. If you have supportive family and friends, then the most obvious choice would be to live with one of them.

However, if your abuser is really crazy and violent, that could also potentially put them in harm’s way. You could also go to a women’s shelter or any other place that helps abused women.

Wherever you go, you have to have a plan set in stone before you leave.

4. Save Money in a Secret and Accessible Place

This will be a lot easier if you have your own job. However, even if you don’t, you can try to find money around the house and slowly save enough until you have some to leave.

Perhaps get a secret job where your abuser won’t find out if possible. But obviously, you don’t want to have your abuser know. It’s best to keep it out of the house with a trusted family member or friend if possible. Or even open your own secret bank account at a different bank.

5. Alert Your Family and Friends

If you have supportive family and friends, you will need to alert them of your plan. Tell them exactly what is going on in the relationship so they know that you could be leaving at moment’s notice.

If you’ve been in an abusive relationship for a long time, they might not actually believe you are leaving “this time” (think “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”) But assure them that you are serious this time and have them help you follow through with your plan.

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6. Block and Disengage with your Abuser

Unfortunately, many people who are successful at leaving abusive relationships just sabotage themselves by going back. You can’t do that! I mean, what’s the point? In fact, your abuser will probably get worse because you had the courage to leave them, and that will make them angry!

So, STAY AWAY. Block their phone number. Block them on social media. Don’t post on social media so they can’t find you.

Completely disengage with them so you can move on with your life. That is the ONLY WAY. Because if you don’t, then they will make you think that they “changed” with their apologies and empty promise. I guarantee you that they won’t change – so don’t believe them!

Final Thoughts

While most people think of men as being the abusers in a relationship, it can also be the other way around. There are plenty of men in the world who are being abused by women, but they are probably too afraid/proud to admit it. It doesn’t matter your gender – abuse is abuse. And it needs to stop.

Remember this: You need to get some counseling or therapy before you enter into another relationship. You need to figure out what it is about you that allowed the other person to abuse you in the first place. There are many reasons, and many are unique to each individual. But you need to sort that out within yourself so you don’t attract another abuser the next time.

It might sound near impossible to leave an abusive relationship, but it’s not. Many people have done it before, and you can too.

More Relationships Advice

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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