Skip to main content

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Denise has struggled with mental illness most of her life. She also has family members with mental illness. She speaks from experience.


Abuse hurts, no matter the type or source. It damages the soul of the individual and leaves one feeling vulnerable, worthless, and hopeless. Mental health treatment is advised for anyone left in the wake of serious abuse. An understanding of the abuse cycle and its affects is necessary to break out of its chains.

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

Ongoing abuse is cyclical. It becomes a self-defeating mechanism whereby the abuser gains power and control over the victim, manipulating that person into thinking that they cannot change what is happening, and in fact may be destined to suffer.

At first, the victim is charmed by the kindness of the individual and feels love for that person. Protection is granted and accepted, as well as the provision of companionship and love. As time goes on, however, the protection turns into restrictive control of resources and social activities. The victim is not allowed certain privileges or amenities and contact with the outside world is limited.

The abuser becomes angry or uses physical harm, forcing the victim to keep in line with unrealistic expectations and demands. Any time there is an infraction, it is grounds for punishment, demeaning comments, and accusations. The victim is humiliated and made to feel they are at fault, and the action against them is warranted due to the nature of the wrongdoing.

Once the abusive incident has passed, it is as if it never happened. No mention is made of the incident and the victim is treated with love and gratitude. There is an outpouring of kindness and gentleness, to the point that the victim’s feelings of love for the abuser are reinforced, and they think that the incident was isolated and probably will not happen again.

The Problem of Vulnerability

Soul searching takes place within the victim in an effort to understand why the abuse happened. There is always something that “could” or “should” have or have not been done differently to keep the abuser from becoming angry. The victim vows to be a better person and do things differently the next time around.

What the victim doesn’t realize is that they cannot totally prevent another abusive incident. The big lie of abuse is that it is the fault of the victim, and they are made to feel that they are the one who is wrong. The abuser uses demeaning statements, innuendos, and accusations during the abusive episode. The victim feels a sense of worthlessness, that is until the abuser comes around and is kind once again.

A cycle is created in which the victim cannot leave the situation because they depend upon the approval and love of the abuser to make them feel worthwhile. Just when they get to the point that they feel good about themselves again, another abusive episode will occur. Once again, they are thrown into a state of feeling worthless and unworthy.

Changing the core beliefs allows the actions to be changed.

Changing the core beliefs allows the actions to be changed.

Rebuilding the Soul of the Victim

The victim’s view of self is turned inward toward self-depreciation. In order to break the abuse cycle, it is necessary to recognize what is happening. A move toward outward view first becomes one of anger toward the perpetrator of the abuse. Unfortunately, this is not a productive stance, and may solicite further abusive episodes. The next viewpoint is to feel sorry for the abuser, because they have been abused or neglected themselves. Perhaps they have come from difficult circumstances and are doing the best they can. The victim may try to help them change, but to no avail.

The victim eventually resorts to shutting off their heart toward the abuser, putting an emotional barrier around their soul to keep the abuse from doing further damage. This is the first step in breaking the abuse cycle. It allows the victim to refute the message of worthlessness and hopelessness, and to adopt a different core belief that allows for positive self-worth.

The victim is able to develop the courage needed to change the situation from the inside out. Rather than feeling less than the abuser, a realization is adopted that there is equality, and that the abuse need no longer be tolerated. Rather, the person develops the ability to speak up and define the emotions for what they are. Conflict is dealt with when it happens rather than waiting for emotions to get out of control.

Things do not change immediately. The abuser will not know what to expect. There may be emotional coolness, or even harassment about the victim trying to change. Each time this happens, the victim may need to visualize a mirror inside their mind, turning the words back to the abuser in a form of reflective communication. The mirror becomes a shield to the heart of the victim, keeping their self-esteem intact, and giving the abuser the tools needed to change.

As the would-be victim becomes stronger and develops a net-work of outside resources, the abuser looses power over them. Eventually, the relationship changes, or it simply dissolves, leaving the two individuals free to develop in other ways. The wounds of abuse are only healed, however, through forgiveness and the atoning power of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The memories may be vivid, but their affect is swallowed up in the joy of being surrounded by the ever-loving arms of the Father of all.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Denise W Anderson


Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on May 03, 2020:

I am grateful that you were there for her, Susan. You were in a key position to support and sustain her during a difficult moment, and most likely, your actions will have a profound impact on her life. Your willingness to step forward to help someone else will shed new light on your own past experience. Thank you for sharing!

Scroll to Continue

Susan Latimer-Kun on May 02, 2020:

I have shared this with a young woman who has been making plans to leave an abusive relationship. Yesterday she told me that her partner had been arrested after she called police following a violent episode. I am praying that this will not keep her in the relationship and that she will follow through with her plans to move in with us. She would not continue to communicate with me for the rest of yesterday, but she read my messages in between sleeping. I have sent her this blog this morning. I have been where she is and I know that she can do this. She just needed the support of one person to provide her with a place to go.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on January 08, 2017:

Thanks, Sabrina. Abuse affects every aspect of our lives. The effort it takes to overcome are ongoing throughout our lives. I hope that the things that I have written will be of benefit to you. More helps are available on my website

Sabrina Cameron from West Virginia on January 07, 2017:

I really enjoyed this hub. I have been abused on every level throughout my life so I understand how difficult it is to overcome the damage to your spirit. Thank you for sharing this and I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 06, 2016:

Rod, you have come to the right place. Emotional abuse can happen without us even realizing it. My profile page on Hub Pages contains over 100 articles directed at helping you understand and manage your emotions. Take the time to read and use the information they contain. There are also articles on marriage and family that may be helpful to you. My webpage is posted there as well. When you go to my webpage, sign up for the newsletter and you will have free access to The Emotional Survival Handbook. It contains a concrete step-by-step method for establishing and maintaining emotional health.

Rod Hitchenson on March 05, 2016:

I am accused of being an Emotional Abuser.....39 years into a marriage and she has left me. I have searched and searched and all I find is the examples of Abuse and Narcissistic Behavior etc. If I have done these horrible things then I want to fix it but I just can't find any reports or self help "templates" to follow. Anger Management is one thing and I am getting help for that but thats not the end of it.......When I read some of the implications of "control freak abuser" and such it makes me hate myself. There are plenty of "how to make your marriage work" items all making a quick $ but I want something meaningful and real that I can use as a guide to get back on track with my wife and also show her what I am doing about it. Help!!!!!!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on October 21, 2015:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Summer. I appreciate knowing that you found help and comfort in the words written. Our relationship with God is the only sure thing in this life of difficulty and change. As we allow our souls to rest in Him, we find peace. My best to you!

Summer on October 20, 2015:

This article has helped me tremendously. Thank you. The ending was my favorite part, because that's what it boils down too. You cannot rely on others for love, protection and healing. Thats a job for God. What a beautiful and freeing reminder.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on June 03, 2013:

Thank you for your positive feedback, livelifeworryfree. Abuse is a sore spot in our society that needs more understanding. It happens far more often than we realize, and it can happen to anyone, in any relationship. The more we understand it, the less likely we are to be a victim. Those who are currently victimized can get away from it by taking assertive action. It is difficult, but it is possible. I appreciate your desire to help increase awareness. Also see my hub titled "How Do I Stop the Abuse?"

Princess Clark from The DMV on May 31, 2013:

Denise love this hub. It is a must read for everyone. Through my travels I found that far too many of us linger way to long in abuse. Abuse can happen anywhere, at anytime to anyone. The obvious abusers are clear to see, lover-to-love, spouse-to-spouse, etc. The not-so-obvious is not as clear. Who would think that a parent might abuse a child, a child a parent, a neighbor another neighbor, a mentor his/her mentee, coach-athlete, pastor-congregation member? The not so obvious tend to linger the longer. As you write, abuse destroys the soul and the most vulnerable are often the targets. The good news is that with people like you in the world we all can rebuild and begin again.

I will definitely shine a light on your hub in one of my hubs, blog post or article.

Great stuff!

www.lookseenow on April 20, 2012:

Thanks, Denise:

The ministry is my safeguard even when I don’t feel like it if I still do it against my will still necessity is laid upon me. Woe is me if I did not declare the good news.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 19, 2012:

Thanks for commenting, Lookseenow. It is difficult to change our personal way of doing things. Realizing there is a reason for our words and actions is only the first step. Learning to deal with what we experience takes the rest of life. Thank heaven for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and its saving grace!

www.lookseenow on April 19, 2012:

I didn’t know of your credentials until I read your hub breaking the Cycle of Abuse. I sometimes label myself as insecure, unsettled, and introverted. When someone at our meetings asks, “how’ you doing?” I answered the latter. She laughed thought I was joking.

I must say you don’t have to look far for terrorism, they’re right their in our homes.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 16, 2012:

I appreciate your comments, MsDora and Eliza. Pain and suffering are not easy things to measure, and because they are so much a part of living in this world, we do not always realize where they are coming from. The way people treat each other makes such a difference.

Eliza Anderson on April 16, 2012:

I do not believe I have been abused very harshly that I remember, but abuse is all over the place. Your article is very informative to what happens during abuse and how it can be overcome.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 16, 2012:

Denise, thanks for this article. To think that some victims are not even aware of the seriousness of the abuse. We can never get too much help on this issue. I recently mentioned abuse in "Hagar: What She Lost and What She Found. My conclusion was similar to yours.

ekstrom002 on April 15, 2012:

You're welcome, good hub

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 15, 2012:

Thanks for your comments jirel and edstrom002. Unfortunately, abuse happens everywhere and the affects cost our society millions each year. As a School Psychologist, I witnessed firsthand how actions in the home had a dramatic affect on the capacity of children to learn and be appropriate in the public school setting. There is much educating that needs to be done.

ekstrom002 on April 14, 2012:

I have known individuals who have gone though abuse, and the residual mental damage is irreversible.

jirel from Philippines on April 14, 2012:

It's very interesting.You described all the levels from how a person gets abused and how to rebuild the person's soul.I pray to God that there will be no cases on abuse.But,its a sad fact that abuse takes place everywhere.That was very nice of you to focus on these matters.God bless!

Related Articles