Book Review: Healing from Hidden Abuse, by Shannon Thomas, LCSW
Review by Donna Andersen
Mind games — everyone who has tangled with a sociopath, psychopath, narcissist or other exploiter knows them. The sociopath makes a statement, and then denies ever saying the words. You call out the sociopath’s bad behavior, and it’s all turned around on you. And the lies — well, the objective of lies is to poison your perceptions.
The more formal term for this destructive behavior is psychological abuse. And now there’s a book that explains exactly what psychological abuse is, why perpetrators engage in it, and the steps of recovery.
Healing from Hidden Abuse —A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse, was written by Shannon Thomas, LCSW. It’s the first book I’ve seen that specifically addresses the mind games played by disordered individuals.
Why do these people engage in psychological abuse? Because they want to. Shannon writes:
“Psychological abusers damage others — not out of impaired judgment — but because they enjoy the control they gain from abusing people … Psychological abusers play games with their targets and know precisely what they are doing. Some will even admit they enjoy being the puppet master and keeping people off balance for their entertainment. Others don’t outwardly disclose it, but their enjoyment comes bleeding through with a casual smirk or hateful chuckle.”
Types of abuse
Shannon describes how psychological abuse plays out in different types of relationships, and typical tactics. For example:
- With romantic partners, the abuser frequently engages in a “come close, then disappear” act.
- Toxic friends violate boundaries.
- Psychologically abusive families divide and conquer.
- Toxic employers yell at and publicly mock their targets.
- Abusive religious leaders misapply Scripture, especially regarding forgiveness, divorce, and accepting intolerable behaviors.
How do the abusers do this and get away with it? Essentially, they are great actors, and will use whatever tools will help to accomplish their objectives, like fake emotions. Shannon writes:
“Most outwardly expressed emotions of psychological abusers are for a distinct purpose; that is usually to harm others in some way. Their actions cannot be trusted nor can they be taken at face value.”
Stages of recovery
The bulk of Shannon’s book describes what she has identified as six stages of recovery from psychological abuse. They are:
Stage 1 – Despair
You’ve reached the point of, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Stage 2 – Education
You finally get an inkling that it’s not you, it’s them, and there’s a name for what you are experiencing. You obsessively seek out information.
Stage 3 – Awakening
You start feeling clarity and empowerment to make a change. But it’s not steady journey; you may slip back and forth between despair and awakening.
Stage 4 – Boundaries
You decide to implement No Contact, or what Shannon describes as Detached Contact. Sometimes you can’t get a person out of your life, such as when you share children. In those cases, you need physical and emotional boundaries.
Stage 5 – Restoration
You replace what was broken or stolen, and choose to live again.
Stage 6 – Maintenance
You continue your personal healing. With your hard-won wisdom, you become selective about whom you allow into your life.
Psychological abusers, by definition, mess with your mind, so the recovery process is primarily psychological and emotional. A great tool to use is journaling. Writing about your experiences and how you feel about them helps to clear up your confusion. With greater clarity, you can make decisions and move forward.
Shannon has included a “Personal Reflections Journal” at the end of her book. For each section of the book, Shannon includes questions and prompts so you can apply the concepts she writes about to your own experience. This brings the ideas to life, so true healing can begin.
If you’re still not sure what happened in your involvement with a particular individual, Healing from Hidden Abuse may help you figure out if you were psychologically abused.
If the answer is yes, you were abused, then Shannon Thomas’ book is an excellent tool to guide you to recovery.
Healing from Hidden Abuse — A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse is available on Amazon.com.