There are two cycles of abuse that can linger in us survivors. We can continue abusive behaviors towards ourselves—harming ourselves even after we’ve escaped those who abused us.
Or, much more rarely, survivors can go on to abuse others. (This isn’t common, as survivors are for more likely to be repeat victims than they are to perpetrate abuse.)
Codependency and poor communication are more common—but can be deeply damaging.
In any of these cases, harm and hurt continues.
This blog focuses on the first kind, the abusive behavior we continue towards ourselves even after we’re free from the people who traumatized us.
Understandably, it can be hard to admit and even notice this internal cycle of abuse. We want to be free. We want our pain to be over. And we don’t want to think of lingering abusive behaviors within us.
I totally understand that fear. Once you can see the cycle, you can break it, though. This will open a door to peace and joy. It will take some honest, vulnerable self-examination—but it will be worth it.
Why This Cycle of Abuse Exists in Many of Us Survivors (Me Included!)
Abuse is a learned behavior. We design ourselves and base our actions on the world we experience. So, when abuse is present (especially if it was in childhood), we naturally connect to and adopt behaviors from it.
We usually turn this harm towards ourselves—since that’s what our abusers taught us to do.
We had to believe we deserved the abuse in order to survive the trauma as it was happening. It was too challenging to see our parent or mentor or friend or partner as the one in the wrong.
By believing the abuse was our fault, we also believed we could change ourselves and stop the abuse. That’s how this cycle of abuse once protected us.
We often don’t know how to live without abuse in our life (particularly if the abuse happened when we were younger), so we stick with what we know. What we learned.
We continue to hurt ourselves because we believe it was the right thing to do. That’s what we were taught, after all. No one taught us anything different.
That’s what causes this cycle of abuse. The lack of knowledge that we can act differently—mixed with a lack of information on how to change things.
This blog will teach you how to break it down and replace the cycle with self-love.
How to Begin Changing a Cycle of Abuse
The first and most important thing to do is recognize the behaviors happening within you. This is also the most challenging aspect of healing—because it forces us to hold ourselves accountable for how we treat ourselves.
Once you’re aware of the fact this exists, it becomes your responsibility and that can be scary. We’re now in charge of changing or keeping the cycle of abuse within us.
So, I want to encourage you to be lenient towards yourself here.
Having a lingering “cycle of abuse” doesn’t make you the same as your abuser.
You are facing something that’s been with you for years—maybe even decades. It’s not going to change overnight and that’s perfectly okay. The attempt to change this cycle, even if it happens super slowly, is all you need to focus on.
One little step at a time makes a huge difference.
So, do your best to be self-forgiving. You needed to believe abuse was the “right” thing in the past. You had to adopt certain ways of treating yourself to survive.
Understanding the wounded child within yourself will help you be more gentle as you work to remedy this.
Getting to Know Your Cycle of Abuse
Ask yourself a few questions and journal your answers to them to begin escaping your personal cycle of abuse. You’ll be amazed at the insights (and self-forgiveness) that will come up here.
Here are a few prompts to begin with:
What ways do I continue to treat myself in an unkind or abusive way?
Who taught me those behaviors? Why was it necessary to believe they were right (or even helping me) at the time?
Why do I believe this cycle is the right way to treat myself still today?
If I break this cycle, what am I afraid will happen? What do I feel I’m doing wrong by ending this?
These are tough questions, but it’s important you know the answers. The insights they provide can be incredibly healing, so take a moment to think them through.
Escaping the Lingering Effects of this Cycle of Abuse
Now that you understand why you had to believe this cycle was right, you can choose to replace that definition of what is right with something new and helpful.
Starting now, you can rewrite the thoughts you have about what you do or do not deserve.
Here’s what you’ll want to realize:
“I can choose to create a new belief about what I deserve.” Your abuser convinced you that you deserved to be hurt for a long time. Now, you can choose to believe something different. It takes time to rewrite your subconscious, but this is the first step.
“I can shape myself into the person I want to be. My past is influential, but it doesn’t totally define me or my actions.”
Think of how many books you’ve read with characters who went through hardship and rose again. It’s because they realized they weren’t defined by what happened to them—they were defined by the choices they made about the situations and how it affected them each day.
Essentially, what you need to do is realize you have the ability to make choices about what cycles are within you. You alone have the power to change them.
Conquer the Cycle of Abuse, Once and for All
This blog has covered the basics of breaking any cycle of abuse. You’ll acknowledge its presence within you, get to know its impact, and realize you can make choices about the cycle’s role in your future (like working on erasing or replacing it).
But, the exact steps within this process might still be a bit of a mystery, so here are some more resources to help you out.
You’ll build unconditional self-forgiveness in the first two modules of this eCourse. Then you’ll unearth all the strength you have to design a future you love. In as quickly as a few weeks, you’ll likely find the power to change any cycles you’re stuck with. Learn more about the program here!
Take this quiz to discover where you’re stuck on your journey to joy (essentially, how the cycle of abuse still has a grasp on you). If you enter your name and email after you get your result, I’ll send you additional healing resources and worksheets! (You can get your results even without an email, too!)
This blog shows you directly how to solve harmful internal cycles. You’ll see how to break apart limiting beliefs, which is the key way to solve them.
This blog is all about accepting yourself after the abuse you faced. If you struggle with self-forgiveness, it’s a must read!
Emotions can be overwhelming, and they often contribute to cycles of abuse. This blog will show you how to accept your emotions in a way that tames them and prevents them from forcing you to take actions you’ll come to regret.
I’d love to hear from you in a comment below! What is one way a cycle of abuse shows up within you? How will you begin to change it?