Q: After 23 years of marriage, I simply cannot take the physical and emotional abuse any longer and have decided to give up. Part of me looks forward to being on my own, in a healthier environment with our 13-year-old-daughter, and part of me feels ashamed that I am “giving up.” Is there anything I can do to help my brain feel better?
A: What can you do? Change the way you think, of course, because feelings always follow thoughts. You can only have a feeling if a thought preceded it. Therefore, to change the way you feel you must change the way you think.
You can also do some reframing. If that is a new term for you, think about literally putting a picture or a painting in a new frame. The new frame can absolutely alter the way you perceive the picture. In a similar way, I suggest you reframe your comment about 'giving up.' Instead, look at the situation as your brain deciding to select the best possible course for you and your daughter with what you know at this time. To me, giving up would be staying in a relationship and environment that isn't working well, and continuing to role-model for your daughter the type of dysfunctional relationship you likely hope she never has. My brain’s opinion is that it is never okay to remain in an abusive environment. It take courage to leave, however. Some give up, believing it is easier in some ways than stepping out in faith to craft a better lifestyle. In the long run, however, remaining can be lethal for your brain and body. Talk to your brain affirmingly: “You are making a safe and healthy decision. It is your job to protect your brain and body and that of your daughter. Yes, it’s difficult, and thank you for helping me do it.”