There are many articles, camps, videos, podcasts and resources for abuse recovery out there. One thing they all say is that you need to learn to love yourself, you need to fulfill your own needs.
But one thing they forget to tell you is how that looks like. ‘
I am sure many of you have felt guilty missing your abuser, or heck, felt guilty for wanting love or feeling lonely.
‘If I truly loved myself, I wouldn’t feel lonely, I wouldn’t need love’.
And I can’t express how destructive that is to someone whose default habit to reflect on themselves and find room for improvement.
So I am here to tell you that, your loneliness, your desire for love, for validation, for comfort, for connection.
They’re all NORMAL and HEALTHY.
Just like we have physical needs, for water, food and sleep, we have emotional needs for love, connection, companionship, and more.
Hunger is our body signalling us that we need food. Thirst is the need for water. Tiredness is the need for rest.
All the ‘negative’ (I prefer the term unpleasant or uncomfortable) things we feel serve the same purpose. Loneliness is your mind signalling you that you lack companionship and should get some.
Now, I just want to take this time to make another thing clear, being surrounded by people does not equal to companionship. Bad company also doesn’t not equal to companionship. Companionship is being in the company of people who make you feel safe, understood, welcomed, wanted and loved. So naturally you can still feel lonely in a group where you don’t belong.
So it’s pretty important to identify what makes you feel loved, what type of company makes you feel companionship etc. But more on that later.
Hating yourself or blaming yourself for feeling lonely or missing someone (which really is just a more targeted form of loneliness) is about as sensible as hating yourself for feeling hungry or thirsty (in which if you do have such hatred or guilt…you probably have some kind of disorder and should get that checked.)
So having the such needs, needing love, company, approval etc. Is all normal and healthy. What makes it unhealthy is how long you’ve been deprived of your need.
Why abuse is so terrible is because someone intentionally deprived you of your NEEDS, things you need to SURVIVE, repeatedly, until you are in a frenzied state where you will do anything to have that need fulfilled.
To continue drawing parallels with physical needs. Abuse is like someone tying you to a chair, depriving you of food and water for DAYS, and coming in with water and:
- Drinking it in front of you (torture)
- Telling you the reason why you can’t have this water is because you don’t deserve it and you aren’t worthy (gaslighting and blame-shifting)
- Only giving it to you if you fulfill their request (manipulation)
- Feeding water to someone else tied in a chair in front of you (triangulation)
If that sounds like a torture scene from some war movie, that’s because that’s exactly what abuse is. Torture.
So yea, a regular person will probably just ask for water. But a person who was held captive, tortured and starved will probably rob a shop, mug a person or even kill for food and water.
If you’ve done some pretty dramatic things to get attention, approval or love..well, it’s not your fault. And also not the fault of your need for attention or love or approval. Just like it wasn’t that torture victim’s fault or the fault of their thirst.
Abusers exploit our natural needs and wants for their own gain, driving us into a frenzied state to fulfill what we rightfully deserve.
So it’s the frenzied state that’s the problem, not the need or want.
It becomes a disorder when you can’t regulate HOW you meet that need.
Or even sadder, it becomes a disorder when that need cannot be met.
Imagine starving, but having no stomach, so it doesn’t matter how much food you eat, your hunger won’t be satisfied.
I hope that at this point you realize that you are entirely justified to feel a deep deep need, a huge huge hole for all things positive, like love, validation, approval, care, connection, esteem, companionship, happiness..and the list goes on.
Because those needs of yours have gone unmet for far far too long, you have been deprived for far too long, and it is NOT your fault. And the only way to soothe those upset feelings within you IS to reach out for love, for connection for care etc.
Breaking out of abuse is like untying yourself from that chair.
You regain your ability to get food and water yourself, you’re no longer dependent on your captor to feed you.
And that’s the general idea of self-love, to enable yourself to get those needs met without being dependent on someone else.
And here is the thing they don’t tell you in all those recovery articles.
Yes you can love yourself, validate yourself, even keep yourself company. But humans are wired to connect, we cannot live in isolation. So we DO need external love, company, validation and approval. There’s nothing wrong with seeking them, nothing wrong at all.
What is wrong is if you seek them endlessly, and you go to extremes to seek them.
But do you want to know a secret?
The reason why a person would seek love, validation and approval endlessly is because those needs were never fulfilled. The love they received, the compliment they were paid…all of it went in one side and went out the other. The need was never met, not truly. It’s like drinking water with no stomach, there’s that initial satisfaction of water hitting your tongue but your body never truly absorbs it and the thirst is never really abated. And that’s why they keep going to more and more extreme lengths to satisfy those needs, and possibly going insane in the process.
Imagine eating nonstop but forever feeling not full, of course you’d go insane. You’d wonder what the hell is wrong, is the food even real? WHY won’t you feel full? That need consumes you, with good reason too.
Emotional needs function a little differently from physical needs. See our body is smart, or dumb. It loves itself, it loves us. When you are thirsty and you drink water, your body absorbs it. When a person who doesn’t love themselves receives love, it’s like a thirsty person drinking water and their body rejects said water, refuses to absorb it.
This is why self-love is so important. Self-love is what allows the figurative food and water to stay in our body and be absorbed.
Imagine your emotional need as a sink, or a bathtub (unromantic, I know, but bear with me), and you, or rather your self-love is the plug. Now, if the plug isn’t plugged in, no matter how long you leave the tap on, the tub is never going to fill up, ever. It doesn’t matter how much water you put in it, it’s never going to fill up. Except maybe when you dump more water than that tub can handle, then for a period, yes that tub will be full, but the instant that copious amount of water stops being dumped inside, the water will run and the tub will be empty again. In order to hold any water, that plug needs to be plugged in, you need to love yourself first.
They keep telling us, ‘love yourself’.
But what does that really mean? What does loving yourself look like?
Self-love is believing that you are entitled to, worthy, deserving of being loved no matter your state or condition. You deserve to be loved just for existing, for being you.
Self-love doesn’t always look like looking yourself in the mirror and saying how beautiful or awesome you think you are. Because there will be times where we aren’t happy with ourselves, there’ll be times where we want to change about ourselves, to improve, or times where we genuinely fucked up, or times where we genuinely look like crap. And at those times, we aren’t going to think that we are the bestest person on earth, or worst, pretend that we are. That’s not self-love, that’s narcissism.
Self-love is believing that even in our worst possible state, we CAN be loved, that someone will WANT to love you. Self-love is believing that you are lovable no matter what.
You want to know another secret?
Narcissistic Abusers don’t love themselves. They don’t believe they are lovable. They are the tubs that has gallons of water being gushed in every second to maintain the illusion of it being filled. That’s why they are endlessly seeking supply, aka people, to pour unsustainable amounts of water into their tub.
This is why they say that you can’t love someone who don’t love themselves.
The love never gets absorbed, so the person just keeps asking and asking, because they never feel loved.
Once you are able to believe that you don’t need to be worthy or deserving of love, that having your emotional needs met is a universal right of all humans, just like being having air, food and water (I mean I hope you don’t feel like you don’t deserve the air you breathe…) then you can finally be healed.
All those needs that your abuser deprived you have can finally be met, be fulfilled.
Because once you plug in that hole in your sink/tub, you’ll realize that all along, there’s been a lot of water trickling in from so many different sources. You’ll realize that there’s been plenty of love and care and validation around you all along, and you’re finally able to feel them to absorb them. Your mother who cuts fruit for you without being asked, that friend who calls you out for coffee, your colleague who paid you a compliment about your dress, that one person who clicked like on your post…
Or maybe, right after an abuse, you’ve been isolated, and there is no water around. But now that you believe that you should have those needs met and can have those needs met, you can reach out to people. Tell your friends and family you miss them and would like their company, or you need a hug, or you don’t feel beautiful. And for the first time ever, what they give you is going to be enough. Isn’t that amazing?
Now that you know that having your emotional needs fulfilled is just as much a basic right has having food and water, you’ll be able to communicate clearly (and hopefully politely) to people how you’d like that need fulfilled.
You can tell that friend of yours whose company never feels satisfying because they’re always looking at their phone when you talk to them that them looking at their phone while you talk makes you feel disregarded and you’d enjoy the company more if they could not do that.
While romantic love may be hard to come by, it’s also not a NEED. It’s a want. Your romantic partner(s) (sorry, polyamorous person here) is/are meant to help you flourish. It’s the cherry on the cake, not the cake itself. The cake comes in the form of self-love and all the love we have around us. We need to build the cake first, or we’ll have nothing to frost and put cherries on.
We don’t need romantic relationships to live a happy and fulfilling life, but a healthy and fulfilling relationship can make a happy and fulfilling life even MORE amazing. That’s what it’s meant to be, not the vortex of destruction you have been in.
Abuse is insidious because it makes you doubt your senses, it pulls out the figurative plug from you tub, and worse, puts a netting over the hole to prevent you from plugging it back in. That net is doubt, all the gaslighting makes you doubt your feelings, can you trust that feeling that’s telling you you’re being hurt, that you need love? And worse, can you trust the love you’re being given right now, is it genuine, is it here to stay?
Even after you leave your abuser, the torture you’ve endured makes you doubt if the compliments people paid you were genuine. Makes you wonder if the people being nice to you now are like your abuser, someone who is going to lure you to a cabin and tie you up and torture you…. it makes you hate yourself for wanting the emotional equivalent of food and water. That’s why emotional abuse is so insidious.
But do not falter, this is what self-love is for. As long as you know that having your needs met (as long as you’re not having them met in a way that hurts others) is your basic human right, and you know that feeling corresponding aches is your body or mind telling you those needs aren’t being met, then you’ll be protected. Because you’ll know that whenever someone is trying to deprive of fulfilling your need, intentionally or not, they’re bad news and you need to get the hell away from them. You’ll know that someone who genuinely loves you will NEVER deprive you of your need. Never.
So don’t beat yourself up for feeling starved for love, affection, companionship and any of the other things you’re feeling right now. You’re supposed to, it means you’re still functioning normally.
Believe, or practice believing that meeting those needs are your god given right, and let the love heal you.
An emotional wound caused by a person can only be healed by another person.
You were never meant to heal or soldier through this alone.
You have nothing to prove, you’ve fought all by yourself against your abuser, your captor and torturer, and got out. You held on because you were strong, not because you were weak. You’ve proven enough.
Now it’s time for you to rest, to heal and be taken care of.
You’ll come out an even more amazing and beautiful soul than you were.
I believe in you.