November 29, 2009

TSS: The Emotionally Abused Woman by Beverly Engel

BOOK #: 80
REASON READ: Reading Your Name Challenge
PUBLISHER: Random House
GENRE: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Psychology
FORMAT/PAGES: Paperback/234
RATING: 5 Stars

Dear Beverly Engel,

Thank you so much for your book The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself. As a woman who was in an emotionally abusive relationship from 2007-08, I found myself transformed from a vibrant, outgoing, passionate, happy individual into a deeply melancholy, nearly lifeless lump of flesh with little self-esteem. The worst part was I didn't have a clue it was happening until after it happened.

I recognized my ex-boyfriend as a possessor with an anti-social personality. I also recognized my "new personality" post-ex as co-dependent. I identified with the women who had been treated like goddesses only to be very, very slowly undermined by their abuser. I was treated so well in the beginning: calls just to say goodnight, interest in my interests, long conversations into the night, an ear to listen when I had a bad day, someone who accepted my health problems, someone who shared my interests and thoughts on life. Then, I still don't know when, the "honeymoon period" was over. He had me where he wanted me: I loved him. What I didn't know was that I was in love with someone who didn't exist. I was in love with a character; a role he played just for me.

I went through the checklist and paragraphs of abuse tactics and cried when I realized how much I had been duped. Though I was never openly threatened or coerced into something or called names outright, the tactics were more subtle. If I decided something was not for me anymore, he gave me hell for it; I was giving up. I was told I wasn't passionate about anything, even though there were plenty of other things I was passionate about. When I mentioned talking to another man (whomever it was, including my massage therapist for my fibromyalgia), the jealousy was overwhelming. I gave him leeway at first since he had been cheated on before (so he said), and did what I could to prove I wasn't that type of person. The jealousy never did stop. And the list goes on and on.

When I went through the various exercises in the book and when I read about how I was not the only intelligent, strong woman to have fallen "victim", if you will, to an abuser, I felt myself regaining my self-esteem. I found myself taking back control over my life, my choices. I discovered that the former "me" was still here, just lying dormant until I could kick the destructive patterns out and reclaim my sanity and my freedom and my happiness.

On page 125, you talk of "letting go of false hope." Even though I was out of the relationship (actually he broke it off because I stopped bowing to his whims,, including returning phone calls, telling white lies to keep him placated, and everything else. I was just burnt out.), I think that was the big turning point. I realized I couldn't go back and have a do-over. But I could start fresh, right now and not ever allow myself to be victimized again. Part 4 on taking time to heal was just what I needed to read. I have trouble allowing that for myself. In fact, this part not only helped me heal from this relationship, I was even able to use the advice to help me heal after my father's death (which occurred during the beginning of all of this transformation).

Your book has helped me so much. I am almost back to the woman I was prior to the abusive relationship, except for a couple of important things:
  • I am stronger now. When you break a bone, your bone heals stronger than it was before it broke. That is how I feel.
  • I am wiser now. I know the signs and patterns to look for. I may not see it coming, but I will be able to recognize it if it comes slithering around.
  • I am more outspoken now. I am not afraid or ashamed to say this happened to me and I want to use this negative circumstance to give power and voice to others, if only through my blog and the way I love my friends and family.
I am not through healing, for I think I will struggle somewhat with what happened to me for a time to come. And I think the death of my father, changing jobs, and moving have all slowed the process down. But I know now that I can take a bad situation and make it better by helping others. Your book was just the therapy I needed, so thank you. You have given me the stepping stone I needed to make the right changes in my life and the encouragement to keep my heart open.

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it.


  1. What an important review this is. Thanks for posting it. I don't think I know anyone in an abusive relationship, but it always worries me that some girls might get easily caught up in them...

  2. What an excellent review! You've made this book meaningful to me and much more personal. This is important information. Even if we are not in an abusive relationship, we need to know the signs for our sisters, daughters, and mothers.

  3. I had tears in my eyes reading your post. One of our nieces just got out of an emotionally abusive situation, so I'm going to send her this book. I'm so sorry anyone has to suffer like that. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. (((((Rebecca)))))

    I'm so happy you found the strength to get out of that relationship. You're a fighter!

  5. I'm so thankful that you got yourself out of that relationship and realized the patterns. I too had a history of these types of relationships and it took a long long long time to recognize the patterns and stop it. (Including a failed marriage.) It is worth doing the work to be a place where you can be a truly loving and nurturing relationship ... and you are right ... you do heal stronger after you've been broken. You are so brave for putting this out there... I admire you for it.


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