Why it’s So Hard to Spot Abuse in Relationships and How To Heal

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Intimacy is what we most long for and what we most fear. -Erwin MacManus

The word intimate has its roots from the Latin word intimus, meaning “inmost, innermost, deepest.” Our intimate relationships draw us into the innermost depths of ourselves and often open our eyes to parts of us we’d rather not see. 

Relationships are doorways into uncharted territory within our own internal landscapes and within the emotional landscape of those with whom we are closest. 

It is an act of courage, responsibility, and compassion to be honest about what it is we uncover there. And it may be even more painful when what we see there is cycles of power abuse, manipulation, and control. 

It is painful, which is precisely why we must not look away. Awareness is a balm for pain. Consciousness heals. 

It can be difficult to identify abusive dynamics in a relationship because abuse is not always physical or overt. Like nearly everything, abuse lies on a spectrum and can sometimes be subtle to the point that we aren’t aware of it. 

At its core, abuse is about power––a felt need to control others in order to stave off one’s own emotional turbulence, anxiety, or lack of empowerment. 

Criticism, threat of abandonment, and other forms of emotional manipulation are examples of attempts to control others within a relationship. This is especially difficult to identify because, often, this kind of communication feels normal to us because we see it everywhere in our culture and those around us. 

The emotional violence found in our internal landscapes is often a reflection of our collective one. When we turn our awareness to these patterns and dynamics within ourselves and our relationships, we also shed light on our collective pain, which offers an invitation for healing and transformation. 

Healing requires that we look honestly. 

Often, when we are the recipient of abuse and are unconscious to the larger dynamics that are occurring, we begin to engage with our own versions of emotional manipulation in an attempt to protect ourselves and get our needs met. 

This can create codependency within a relationship and creates a repeating, cyclical pattern that alternates between honeymoon periods, escalating tension, and lashing out (this is called “the cycle of violence.”)

The landscapes of our intimate relationships should not feel like war zones. They do not need to be full of drama, manipulation, or battles of will. They are meant to be places where our souls can feel nourished, held, and seen. 

Sometimes we need reflection and guidance to help us get honest about abusive behaviors in our relationships. In today’s video, we talk about the roles that codependency, control, and criticism play in abusive power cycles.

Our intimate relationships grant us access to uncharted territories in our own inner landscapes. When we are honest about what we find there, we can allow our pain to be an opportunity for releasing pain—wounds can be a roadmap into what needs healing. 

When we look at ourselves with brutal honesty and endless compassion, our unhealthy relationships can become a source of personal transformation.

If you need help on your healing journey, hit reply or schedule a free consultation with a codependency and abuse expert here.


Writer Bio


Brooke Sprowl is the Founder of My LA Therapy, a concierge therapy practice, and My Truest North, a cross-disciplinary coaching and consultancy firm specializing in mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking greater integrity, spiritual awakening, and deeper ways to actualizing their higher purpose through collective service. With 15 years of clinical experience as an individual, couples, and family therapist, she is trained in a wide-range of approaches, from evidence-based therapy practices to peak performance and flow neuroscience techniques. Brooke is also the host of the podcast, On Living with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, cognitive science, philosophy, integrity, spirituality, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for people who are committed to self-discovery and using their unique gifts in service of the world.

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