Ever since the 2021 Inauguration, I’ve noticed a common thread in social media postings. Some have described their feelings as an “emotional hangover,” “the country taking a big exhale,” “exhaustion,” or “confusion.” In many examples, people express surprise about their state of mental confusion. There should be joy now that the main problem is gone. They ask “Why?”
Unfortunately, I recognize one possible reason for this awareness, coming so soon after recent national events. The abusive behavior has left the relationship. The narcissistic control has lost his voice.
I’m familiar with some of the behaviors that abusers employ, as well the survival techniques utilized by their victims. I know the feelings of living in a state of heightened awareness, of practicing caution so as not to garner the abuser’s attention, of “walking on eggshells” and being careful what to say or how to behave. I became skilled at anticipating what was needed and how to resolve problems long before they materialized… albeit useful skills in the business world.
A person can survive in such unstable and hostile environments for years. I know. I did. One must, when this way of living is all that is familiar … until it ends. Then what?
When the abuser is no longer part of the victim’s life – e.g., either because the child leaves home or the wife divorces her husband – there’s a void that must be filled. Instead of the abusive behavior, what replaces the tension of living under those conditions? It’s a void that is first filled with feelings of abandonment and confusion, a sense of loss, direction and purpose, and exhaustion and emotional depletion.
Whether the abuser has been someone close or a national political figure, the behaviors exhibited can trigger former victims in numerous ways. However, if the victims have done responsible healing work to address their PTSD responses, they will quickly see through obnoxious or insulting behaviors. They will likely implement methods to protect themselves, such as avoidance or distraction, to sidestep engagement with the abuser. I would turn off a television program or delete videos and photos from my social media, so I didn’t have to hear or see a certain government official. These methods can help.
Still, the void remains for a short time. It’s up to the victim to find ways to move forward from the dazed and confused state. To feel comfortable without the chaos. To trust they are safe beyond the abuser’s controlling behavior. To focus on their own healing nature and positive ways of living. To find purpose again through what they choose to create.
It’s taken me a couple of days to move beyond the void and find that purpose again. I’m no longer worried about what is going on in the White House. The hate has been replaced with empathy, compassion, and kindness. The words are respectful. Ideas and plans are proposed for the good of many and not the favored few of the top 10%. I can listen and watch and be informed without the fear. I’ve been able to let go of the tension that grew within me during the past five years. I have filled the void with joy, hope, and creativity. I can breathe again.