Real Life Resilience: Recognizing and Recovering From Emotional Abuse with Stacy Brookman
Meet today's guest:
is a Resilience and Life Storytelling Expert and produces the Real Life Resilience podcast. She helps smart, outwardly confident women who secretly have low self-esteem issues due to an emotionally abusive partner to take back control and begin to develop the resilience they need to be themselves again. www.stacybrookman.com
My guest this week, Stacy Brookman, learned about resiliency through the school of hard knocks.
I was married to a sociopath. I thought it was a hard marriage… but I grew up thinking you tough it out, you do it for the kids, nothing is so bad that you can't reconcile. I had no idea that this person was a sociopath – I just thought it was a real difficult relationship.
A sociopath is someone who has no conscience – and does not truly love, feel for or care for another human being.
She explained to us that these people can mimic human behaviours very well although they are not truly feeling them. They often share a sad story when you first meet them to open up your nurturing self and make you feel sorry for them.
Then, they start doing things that fly under the radar – like mine claimed he was a medical doctor when he'd never even been to college. A lot of times you'll think, maybe I misheard, or poor thing, maybe he's just bragging a little bit. People excuse what they do because they feel sorry for them, think they misheard or don't want to call them out on it. They play on that and will hook you in and get you dependent on them.
Sociopaths are scary to live with and even scarier to leave. Stacy shared some of the unbelievable things her ex did after she discovered he was advertising himself on Craig's List as a sex toy for other couples and decided she had to leave (for her kids sake if nothing else). The divorce was ugly, scary and quite surreal, which is often what people who've never been in an abusive relationships will say when they hear about this kind of situation.
I couldn't believe – I was a professional woman going to a grocery store to wash my hair in the morning, because I was unable to stop my husband from turning off the water supply. I was in this situation and felt bad and embarrassed about it.
Stacy's circumstances are, unfortunately, all too common for so many women, which I bore witness to in my first social work role as a Follow-Up Worker for a women's shelter.
The mind-games, the fear, the self-doubt, the isolation from their safety net (family, friends, etc) are all common themes in the lives of these women and Stacy's story was no exception.
Listen to the podcast for more about what she endured, but before you do, let me highlight what she did that saved her from the insanity she was living in.
The Turning Point
While going through this nasty divorce, Stacy received some money from her parents as a birthday present and rather than put it towards expenses she decided to spend it on herself. She enrolled in a Memoir and Life story class which changed her life forever!
I would write all these crazy stories about what was going on in my life and it was such a catharsis. Every Friday we would all bring our stories and read them aloud and they [the others in the class] were fascinated.
To have someone else hold your story and not be critical about why didn't you get out earlier… not be shaming, but be supportive …oh my goodness that is such an amazing gift. And so I did that every Friday and they actually loved my stories so much they gave me a scholarship to come back the next semester.
Over time, this course helped Stacy come to terms with her role in this relationship which allowed her to heal the part of herself that simply couldn't understand how she would stay with him for ten years. This kind of negative self-judgment is not easy to overcome, yet writing about it and really allowing herself to feel all that this brought up helped her achieve this. It also allowed her to get clear about what she wanted to do from here on out.
…when you find the words for what's going on in your head and you put them down in black and white that's where the transformation happens.
…since then I've done a lot of research on the art, science and psychology of life storytelling and writing about the tough times and there is a lot of science behind this. When you experience these things like I did it's traumatic – they are actually stored in a different part of your brain than regular memories and when you write them out and you find those words, you are able to put them in the regular place where memories can just fade like normal. It can't come back to hurt you.
I actually learned that my life theme up to that date was not raising my hand….in kindergarten, grade school, high school… I didn't say that's not right and so now I had to own up to that and think about what I could have said. Once I did, I was able to change my life theme. That was incredibly powerful.
Stacy discovered this naturally and then did the research to find out why it worked. She was pleasantly surprised at what she discovered. Besides boosting your immune system, helping you gain clarity about your life, and learning to look back with compassion, Stacy also highlighted how difficult it can be to be honest with yourself and how important it is that you 'go there' in order to really begin to heal.
I've had lots of people that have listened to my podcasts and gone through the exercises that I take them through, who have said, oh my goodness the clarity that I gained about myself was invaluable.
Listen to the podcast to hear Stacy's moving and inspiring story. Then be sure to go to her website at stacybrookman.com/webinar and sign up for her complimentary webinar.
"I encourage everyone just to get started. You might not have the tragic story that I have, but everyone has a story. Hop on the webinar – it's free and you can just get started with the first chapter. You don't ever have to publish – this is for you."