Healing From Emotional Abuse: Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Healing From Emotional Abuse: Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

Welcome back toHealing From Emotional Abuse.  Today, I want to address the Cycle of Abuse, and the 6 types of abuse that are most prevalent.

There are three parts to the cycle of abuse.  There is the Honeymoon Phase, the Tension Building Phase, and the Explosion Phase.  This is often referred to as the power and control wheel.

Abusive Relationships, like every relationship, start off with the calm honeymoon phase.  The abuser is charming, and kind.  Makes you feel comfortable and loved. Mine would bring snacks to my desk at school and we would watch Glee, because he knew I love that show.  And he would send me cute messages and tell me how beautiful, smart and witty I was. 

Once he had me smitten, he began to make occasional, seemingly out of character remarks to me.  He started to push my boundaries with verbal abuse.  Telling me that things I was saying were stupid, or that I was stupid.  My opinions were invalid.  Or that the major I declared in college was dumb.  You name it, he said it. 

It made me feel really insecure.  I began carefully selecting things to tell him.  Things that wouldn’t make me look stupid to him.  Things that would avoid any conflict. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, and anything I said to him could be used against me, or used to make me feel bad.

Have you ever experienced a friend, partner or colleague that treated you like this?  It might have confused you, because once you were once so close, or they were so nice.  And all of a sudden, it started to creep in that they became a little hurtful. And then, very hurtful.  They would make little jabs that threw you off or confused you. And then you felt insecure or uneasy sharing things with them?    This is the tension building phase of abuse.

Finally, the last phase of the cycle is the Explosion phase.  The explosion phase is when the big blowout happens.  When the abuser snaps and creates a big act of control.  It could be causing a scene, or yelling.  It could be a blowout of verbal or emotional abuse.  It could be physical or sexual abuse.  The recent trend we’ve been seeing is strangulation, over the last couple of years.  The explosion phase is usually when friends or family will be called or asked for help, or when the police will be called.  Or when the survivor tries to leave.

The problem is, that brings us back to the beginning of the cycle.  The honeymoon/reconciliation phase. This is when the abuser comes back and apologizes.  Makes promises that they’re not going to keep. Like that they’re never going to hurt them again.  Or makes a million excuses for their behavior.  “Oh, but honey, I was just drunk, and I was angry.” Or, “I have so much stress at work, and there’s something going on with me.” And sometimes, they’ll bring gifts and chocolate, and are extra affectionate and attentive. 

And the cycle continues.  Everything is great for a short period of time, and then tension builds again until we hit another explosion.  And things don’t get better.  They will always continue to get worse and worse, because throughout the tension and explosion phase, the abuser is pushing boundaries.   Seeing how far they can push their control over the survivor. 

There are 6 major types of abuse.

Emotional abuse / Psychological abuse

Verbal abuse

Financial abuse

Spiritual abuse

Sexual abuse

Physical abuse

Verbal abuse is when someone says mean things to you in order to belittle you and make you feel insecure.  It’s a way to break your confidence down, so you’ll submit to what they say about you.  It can be cursing, yelling, calling mean or derogatory names.  Anything that is said with the intention to hurt someone else.

Emotional abuse and Psychological Abuse is used to break down your self-worth, and push boundaries.  For example, the emotional abuse that my abuser said to me was that I was lucky to have him because nobody else could ever love the damaged person that I am.  That I had no value and no worth, and I would never aspire to be anything.  I would always depend on him to take care of me.  He knew that was my biggest fear, because I grew up so independent, and being taught how I need to be an independent person and take care of myself. And he exploited that by trying to make me feel like I would never achieve that.

Financial Abuse is very common, but not often talked about.  There are a few scenarios that depict financial abuse.  Either the abuser does not allow the survivor to work, so they won’t have any access to money, and won’t have work experience, which impacts someone’s ability to leave their abuser.  And the other type is forcing the survivor to work, in order to sustain the household, while the abuser has full control over the finances, and often times stays at home.  They usually monitor the bank accounts to make sure that the survivor isn’t spending any money, or lying about where they are.  And also, not allowing the survivor any access to the money they’re bringing in, so they cannot leave. 

Spiritual abuse, also not commonly talked about, is refusing the survivor the right to their beliefs.  It can be the abuser forcing the survivor to believe in the abusers religion of choice, or just not allowing the survivor to practice the faith or religion that they want.  It cuts survivors off from their communities, and is also a method of control. 

Physical abuse is the most commonly talked about.  It’s actually what people usually envision when talking about domestic violence.  It’s the pictures of people with black eyes, making the excuse that they’ve walked into a doorknob, or tripped and fell down the stairs.  It’s any physical contact that is meant to hurt someone, or control someone, or have them submit to the abuser.  Like I mentioned before, choking and strangulation have been very common in the last few years.  I personally think it’s because cutting off someones air supply is horrendous, but it’s also complete control over their life.  And fingerprints are easier to hide behind hair.  Pushing people down stairs, biting, scratching, hitting are all different examples of physical abuse.

And sexual abuse.  This can range of making an off-putting sexual comment, or behavior – like touching someones leg, or butt or any part of their body that makes them uncomfortable, to full on rape and sexual assault.  Harvey Weinstein was just convicted on this. Two people came forward and said that he had forced himself on them, and that’s sexual abuse. It is any unwanted or unprompted sexual advance where no consent is given. 

Abuse doesn’t typically start out physical.  If you meet someone, you start to like them, and then they punch you in the head, chances are you’re going to leave, right?  What they’ll do is build trust and affection and love.  And in the midst of your relationship building, they’ll insert small jabs and boundary pushes to see what they can and can’t get away with. And like climbing a staircase, they’ll start with verbal or psychological abuse.  Push boundaries and see how much they can get away with. Then, they will move up to the next step.  They may touch on financial or spiritual abuse, and sometimes both. Then, when they have that full mind control over you, they’ll move up to the next step and may push to become physically and sexually abusive.    Not every abuser follows the exact same pattern, and not every relationship becomes physically abusive.  But it’s not as simple as, they punched me in the face, so I’ll leave. It’s little-by-little steps, building up the abuse as they go, after the survivor is already smitten.  Or after the survivor already feels trapped.  People would not stay in abusive relationships if there wasn’t some semblance of love.  If they didn’t see good in the abuser. Or if there weren’t times of beauty and kindness and love.  They wouldn’t stay. 

I mean, would you? If you were with somebody that you truly loved, and they started acting really bad towards you, you would wish for the good times back. That doesn’t mean you enjoy the abuse.  It just means that you know that they can be better, because they have been.  So survivors will hold out for that to come back.  Maybe they’ll justify it by saying their narcissist is just stressed at work or this is a phase. Or they’re going through a lot.  But at the end of the day, the bad habits and the bad traits and the bad actions don’t go away.  The bad behavior is what stays.  And it’s the good times that become fewer and farther between.

Have you ever heard the song Love the Way You Lie, by Eminem and Rhianna?  I really appreciate that song for how lyrically gifted Eminem is.  That song does a phenomenal job of depicting the cycle of abuse.  He highlights a few different types of abuse, and the lyrics are cyclical.  They take you on a journey around the cycle of abuse a few times. Rhianna depicts a survivor, who is conflicted because she loves her partner so much but doesn’t like the abuse, and Eminem depicts the abuser, and the cycle.

I’ve picked out a few excerpts from the song to break down, but I urge you to listen to the whole song and try and find the different parts of the cycle.  I’m not even going to try to rap, I’m just going to read the lyrics.  That is so not my forte.

This is the explosion.

Where you going, I’m leaving you

No you ain’t, come back

We’re running right back, here we go again

Honeymoon / Reconciliation

It’s so insane ’cause when it’s going good, it’s going great

I’m Superman, with the wind at his back, she’s Lois Lane


But when it’s bad, it’s awful

I feel so ashamed,


I snapped, who’s that dude

I don’t even know his name, I laid hands on her


I’ll never stoop so low again, I guess I don’t know my own strength


You ever love somebody so much

You can barely breathe, when you’re with them, you meet

And neither one of you, even know what hit ’em,

Got that warm fuzzy feeling, yeah them chills, used to get ‘em

Tension Building

Now you’re getting fucking sick, of looking at ‘em

You swore you’ve never hit ’em, never do nothing to hurt ’em,

Now you’re in each others face,

Spewing venom, and these words, when you spit ‘em


You push, pull each other’s hair, scratch, claw, bit ’em,

Throw ’em down, pin ’em, so lost in the moments, when you’re in ’em

It’s the rage that’s the culprit, it controls you both

If you listen to the whole song, it rounds the cycle a few times, like I said.  And there are a ton of other songs that reference abuse or the cycle of abuse. Wasted and Blown Away by Carrie Underwood, My Immortal by Evanessence, Better Man by Little Big Town (that’s a really good one) — because it references that want to go back from the survivors perspective, but having to fight yourself to recognize that going back is a mistake. 

I could do an entire podcast episode on just music about abuse and sexual assault.  If that is something you would want to hear, leave me a comment and I’ll absolutely do that!

In the meantime, I hope this helped you understand more about the cycle of abuse, and the types of abuse that are out there.  It’s way more than just hitting someone.  Abuse destroys you psychologically and emotionally until you feel completely trapped and isolated.  It’s a horrible place to be.  But we’ve built a community here that is in place to help support and empower survivors to leave, and feel confident growing into their strongest selves.

Hey! If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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