To see or hear about someone who is being abused in a relationship and yet continues to stay in the relationship is hard to comprehend. Logically it makes no sense whatsoever and sounds completely dysfunctional.
The type of abuse can vary from what may seem to be fairly moderate, to extreme abuse. And no matter what kind of abuse it is, the result is the same – with one staying in a relationship that should have come to an end.
If one is in an abusive relationship and stays regardless of how they are being treated, it clearly shows that something is not right. For one to stay in a relationship that is affecting their wellbeing, it shows that there is conflict within.
On one side it is creating pain and causing them to suffer and on the other side, it is being put up with. And this means that the ego mind has to be looked at in order to understand this strange dynamic.
The Ego Mind
The mind can feel comfortable with anything that is classed as familiar. And whatever is interpreted as familiar is what is perceived as safe to the ego mind. This is not limited to what is functional, it can relate to what is dysfunctional.
It doesn’t judge whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, or anything else for that matter. It simply creates associations of familiarity around anything that it is exposed to.
Now, these experiences could be described as stress free and positive or they can be experiences that are traumatic and negative. Or it could be a one of experience that is extremely traumatic.
What these will often do is form what the ego mind will interpret as familiar and then what is safe. This process usually goes on unconsciously and out of conscious awareness.
These create what is often classed as normal and how life is. If these associations are functional it won’t be a problem; it will only be a problem if these are dysfunctional. So, unless one questions and changes what is familiar to the mind; one will end up being enslaved to the mind.
And when it comes to people who are in relationships that are abusive and don’t leave; it is a sign that on some level their ego mind has associated the experience as what is familiar and is therefore essential to their survival.
One will then be attracted to people, situations, and environments that are in sync with the associations that the mind has formed. And just like how one can crave certain foods; one can unconsciously crave abusive relationships and all that they bring to one’s life.
Similar to how a drug addict needs drugs or alcoholics need alcohol to feel alive; for the person who attracts and stays in abusive relationships, the dynamic is the same.
Their whole system, mind and body, have been conditioned to seek out and stay in this type of relationship.
And if they were to come across a person who treated them in a way that was functional or even got into a relationship with this person; it probably wouldn’t last long, with the way their ego mind has been programmed.
What Is love?
So to the person who is in an abusive relationship and cannot get out or who continually ends up in them; it is due to their ego mind associating love in a dysfunctional way. Love is a term that is often heard and thrown around in life. However, love can mean one thing for one person and another for someone else.
Love does not have one meaning; it has numerous meanings. And in addition to this, love can mean one thing to the conscious mind and another to the unconscious mind. This is what creates the challenges,
For some it can have positive meanings, these can be: appreciation, respect, kindness and care among others. And for others it can have negative meanings, such as: disrespect, control and being taken advantage off for example.
It is what is going on in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind that is the strongest influence and not what one desires at a conscious level. Often what one wants consciously is often nothing more than a dream or a good idea. What primarily shows up in one’s life is what is going on unconsciously.
In order for one to stay in and attract abusive relationships, it is a clear sign that what is going on unconsciously is dysfunctional and unhealthy. And this is what is creating the conflict that I mentioned above.
One of the biggest factors in defining whether one will end up in an abusive relationship or not - is their childhood. During this time ones meaning of love will be formed. It can also be that one experiences trauma in later life and this can create the vulnerability needed for one to attract and stay in an abusive relationship.
And once this meaning has been formed, it will be what the ego mind will crave and look for in others. But through repression and many years having past since those early years, it can seem as though one is a victim or is simply unlucky.
The kind of caregiver that one had will make a big difference. If one had a caregiver that was generally empathic, the chances of being abused are going to be a lot lower than if one had a caregiver that was unempathic.
While the empathic caregiver is generally attuned and aware of the Childs needs and wants. And the unempathic caregiver is generally unaware and out of tune with the Childs needs and wants. At the extreme, the caregiver is always out of tune and unaware.
And when the caregiver is unempathic, there is not much chance of the child having a good model to internalise. What the child will be left up with is a negative version of love for one thing.
However at such a young age, this meaning won’t be questioned. And this will then become what the ego mind associates as love; with the rest of one’s life spent repeating the same pattern.
In the beginning this involved the caregiver, but as an adult if will involve another human being. This will result in the same emotional experience and as it is unlikely that any other way has been experienced; it will be seen as the truth and how life is.
Another aspect to being in abusive relationships is that through a lack of boundaries and becoming enmeshed to the abuser; ones survival can become associated to being with them. And were one to leave, the feeling of abandonment would likely arise.
This is likely to result from a lack of emotional development as a child, where ones personal power was never allowed to develop. Co-dependency is another word often used for this dynamic. And if one had an unempathic caregiver who ignored ones needs, it is not much of a surprise.
Through having ones needs met, one learns that it is separate from the caregiver. And by the caregiver responding to these needs, a sense of personal power is formed. If the caregiver doesn’t encourage the child to separate, as a result of using the child for their needs; the separation process is going to be hampered.
This means that ones survival will be associated as something that is only possible through depending on others. And then through the caregiver not respecting the Childs personal space, boundaries won’t be able to form.
To break out of these patterns and to do what will lead to functional relationships, one has to change the minds associations. And then the types of people that one attracts will be different and the need to be around people who are abusive will start to diminish.
For some people therapy will be needed and for others reading may be enough. As we are different, it is best to find an approach that works best for oneself.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.