Why did you stay?
Why did I, and why did the rest of us? If you’re still involved, why can’t you leave? Find out below. In the process, free yourself from needless self-blame and shame.
“I just can’t get over why I did not leave. Why I stayed. That is what scares me the most. How much I betrayed myself. Embarrassed myself in front of my family.”
The reader who wrote those words speaks for many others who were involved in an abusive relationship and wonder why they stayed as long as they did, after it seemed obvious that things had gone very wrong.
Another reader asked, “Why is it that it takes so long for the crying to stop when the brain clearly knows that leaving was a good thing?… I wonder if there is some psychological or chemical explanation for that.”
Yes, there is a chemical and psychological explanation. It is tremendously powerful to understand the neurobiological underpinning of your experience. It can help you heal.
If you still wonder why you stayed, you can free yourself from your ongoing confusion and self-reproach. Find the answers within one very helpful article by Rhonda Freeman, PhD, a neuropsychologist who helps survivors of psychopathic and narcissistic abuse to understand, and heal from, their trauma:
In her article, Dr. Freeman tackles the complex reasons we stay entangled in a harmful relationship. She writes, “Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ‘Your behavior is unacceptable. I’m leaving.’ Some people have real struggles with this for legitimate reasons.” She explains the reasons we stay in a way that makes them clear and understandable, as well as to give us legitimate reasons for it (In other words, it wasn’t because you betrayed yourself or that you were “stupid”).
Dr. Freeman’s article covers the following:
- Given the choice of emotion or logic, which will the brain follow?
- Intermittent reinforcement
- Power differentials
- Trauma bonding
- The neuroscience underlying our gripping bonds to pathological individuals
- Addiction to the abusive partner (actual addiction, just like to a drug)
Dr. Freeman also has a website for survivors, NEUROINSTINCTS, that explores “relationships with partners devoid of morals, empathy, honesty and a conscience.” The goal of the site is “to empower victims of emotional and physical abuse and to expand their understanding of the dynamics behind these toxic relationships, often from a neuropsychological angle.”
Understanding the dynamics is a powerful part of the healing process. It’s not only powerful, it’s necessary. If you don’t understand what happened, how can you heal from it? As I’ve written here many times, if you still blame yourself, there is some knowledge/understanding you still need in order to move forward.
You might even choose to send the article featured in this post to friends or family who can’t understand why you stayed. It was not due to a character defect or a lack of common sense. It could happen to anyone.
A blog post you may have missed, one that helped many people and that I wrote with input from Dr. Freeman, is Genuine Attraction, Manipulation or Something More? Dr. Rhonda Freeman Explains. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.
♥ Harness the power of neuroscience to help yourself heal
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