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What does the violence do to you?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

When a person is in an abusive relationship, the effect of that relationship is extensive. Experiencing continual abuse affects a person’s brain, body, emotions, and soul.

The Brain

It has been proven that when a person is living with continual abuse, the damage done to their brain is comparable to what happens to POW and Holocaust victims. The trauma is continual, so their nervous system is also vigilant. This results in the animal brain, or limbic system, constantly firing. The Amygdala, which operates our emotional responses, can increase in size, and the person can have trouble regulating their emotion, resulting in violent outbursts. The Hippocampus, which moves short-term memory to long-term memory, can shrink in size. This is why many trauma survivors struggle with memory loss, especially when remembering events surrounding their trauma. Trauma memories are also stored differently than regular memories. Trauma memories are often fragmented. A person brings them forward in bits, and it is hard to remember things in a “straight line” from beginning to end.

The human brain is resilient, and its main task is to keep us alive, so when something out of the ordinary happens, it will try to process it and make it “normal.” Much of this process occurs when a person is sleeping. This is why many trauma survivors will suffer from nightmares or night terrors. Their brain is trying to defragment the trauma memories, process them, and move them into long-term memory. The problem is that the brain cannot defragment these memories without extra therapeutic support, and the night terrors continue to haunt the survivor.

The Body

Living under extreme stress will have long-lasting effects on a person's body. Since the person is stuck on high alert or operating from their sympathetic nervous system, extra adrenaline, increased blood flow, and a quickened heart rate are common. This excess adrenaline can cause extreme exhaustion in the victim. You feel tired because your heart has pumped hard to cope with the traumatic stress. After the stressful time is over, there will be a decline in your adrenaline which can result in increased sweating and an overall feeling of tiredness.

Some people will experience weight loss; others will gain weight.

If the weight loss is extreme, you can struggle to regulate your body heat and may suffer hair loss due to a lack of nutrition. Many abuse survivors suffer sleep disturbances such as sleeping too much or struggling to fall or stay asleep. Abuse can also change a person’s cellular level, as it has been proven that the trauma can be stored in a person’s DNA and passed down to future generations. A known example of this is the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors experiencing flashbacks of being in the gas chambers when they are in a hot steamy shower. They did not experience the Holocaust, but the traumatic memory of their grandparent’s experience is within them and is coming forward wanting to be healed.

The Soul

What is the human soul? The human soul is the part of a person that is not physical. It is the part of every human being that lasts eternally after the body experiences death. It is the deepest part of you. It’s your youness. Your soul is precious to who you are; after living with abuse, it is most at risk of damage. When your soul is broken, this will affect your feelings of self-worth and your self-esteem. There will be parts of yourself that you will close off because it is too painful to acknowledge them. Your soul is the part of you that an abusive person wants to destroy. They do not want the light you shine to continue. You will have to dig deep and fight for this light. Rest assured; it can be done.

How healing begins

Healing from abuse is a journey that can last years. I don’t say this to make the task daunting but to be realistic so that you know this will take commitment. The dark days will happen less and less as you heal. Know that it will get easier.

Healing begins by acknowledging the pain you have endured. Give yourself the loving care you would give a loved one who has been hurt. Cook some of your favourite foods, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, rest, cry, or write about your experience. This step is essential to start getting your pain out of you. When a person carries the pain without release, they can develop depression, anxiety, addiction, and other health problems like a weakened immune system, digestive issues, and anti-inflammatory diseases.

Getting out into nature can be very helpful on your healing journey. Walking in nature is a natural way to regulate your nervous system. Putting your hands into soil and gardening slows your nervous system down. Spending time with animals can lower your heart rate. Walking barefoot on the grass can ground you in the present rather than your memories pulling you into the past. Confiding in someone who has earned your trust is also essential. Build your tribe and lean on them as you need them.

There will also come a time when a person needs to acknowledge those parts of themselves that they closed off. Those parts were too painful to accept, and splitting and ignoring them felt more manageable and was a part of survival. Perhaps they were pushed away through anger, drugs, sex, food, or self-harm. There comes a time when to live your best life, a person needs to welcome those parts back. Yes, I know this step can feel scary, but with the proper support, it can be done.

Embodied Processing

According to The Centre for Healing, where I trained, “The Embodied Process is the bottom-up approach to working with trauma, low self-esteem, anxiety, addiction, depression, and other stress-related issues. This process was created based on years of experience, research, training, and client sessions.”

In the Western world, we often live in our intellect. Our treatment of mental health has followed this way of thinking. Mental health has often been treated from a top-down approach, meaning focusing on our thinking patterns and the functions within our brain, ignoring how trauma affects our body. With Embodied Processing, there is a bottom-up approach that brings a client back to their body. The focus shifts to the sensations within the body and welcoming back those parts of you that were split off. As those parts are welcomed, a person’s physical and mental health improves. With Embodied Processing, we can safely meet and digest unprocessed life experiences, which can regulate your nervous system and lift you to live your best life.

A final quote from The Centre for Healing is, “Without treating the cause, we are destined to continue to trim the branches of a tree and watch them grow back sometimes worse, or unrecognizable behaviours/experiences.”

We have to treat the cause to heal. You CAN do this. You CAN recover from your trauma. As a Practitioner, I would be honoured to guide you on this part of your journey. I BELIEVE in you. If you want to discuss this further, please book a free Discovery Call at

I look forward to connecting with you.


Janet Rhodes


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