Emotional abuse, a type of relationship trauma, happens little by little, bit by bit, so slowly that you may not even recognize it until you are out of it. This type of abuse eats away at a person’s soul and attacks the very core of one’s being. It is subtle and while leaving no physical wounds does leave a devastating impact on the person as a whole. The trauma impact from emotional abuse can be just as severe as physical abuse. Many who suffer from emotional abuse describe a feeling of being “crazy.” Most feel they are to blame and most have lost connection to that deep voice within that is meant to guide and protect us throughout life.

In this blog post, I’ll delve into cognitive dissonance, a psychological term describing the discomfort that arises when an individual holds conflicting beliefs or attitudes they cannot make any sense of. This internal conflict can lead to a fog of confusion, significant self-doubt, and a profound sense of emotional turmoil. The cognitive dissonance experienced by individuals subjected to emotional abuse can be particularly challenging to understand and overcome. We will look at how cognitive dissonance impacts one’s ability to trust their intuition and shed some light on how to tap back into that wise voice within – the voice that can help you trust yourself again. Relationship trauma goes deep but with deep work, you can undo the confusion of cognitive dissonance, integrate your experiences, and feel whole.

What is this Fog of Confusion? Where does it come from?

Idealization and Devaluation

Emotional abusers often employ a cyclical pattern of idealization and devaluation. The cycle flips between idealized loving moments to shattering moments of devaluation which may include verbal attacks, belittlement, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional cruelty. The constant highs and lows can leave you feeling unbalanced, ungrounded, and permanently confused. In this state, it can be very hard to understand what is happening. Many feel they live in a fog of confusion. The stark contrast between these phases intensifies cognitive dissonance, as you struggle to reconcile the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the abuser and your own felt fog of confusion.

A woman stands behind distorted glass. Feeling like the emotional abuse you have suffered through is too much to handle? It may be time to speak with a trauma therapist in Austin, TX and start trauma therapy.


One of the primary contributors to relationship trauma and cognitive dissonance in particular is the manipulative tactics employed by the abuser. Gaslighting, a common form of emotional manipulation, involves distorting or denying your reality to the extent that you question your perceptions and memories. As a result, you may find yourself oscillating between self-blame and a desire to please your abuser, creating a mental tug-of-war that perpetuates cognitive dissonance. Gaslighting is insidious, meaning it is subtle and it slowly chips away at your confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately your ability to navigate life effectively. Here are some examples of gaslighting and common phrases to look out for:

Examples & Common Phrases of Gaslighting

  • Paranoia Accusations: You’re being crazy.
  • Constant Criticism: You’re overreacting. Too sensitive.
  • Disapproval: You’re taking things too seriously.
  • Denial of Truth: You’re imagining things.
  • Shifting Blame: Everyone agrees with me -you’re difficult
  • Invalidating Emotions: You don’t really feel that way
  • Dismissing Needs: You are so needy

Gaslighting at its core is about power and control over another person. It’s a dismissal of your reality to make you question yourself. It often occurs in the realm of relational trauma.

Self-Blame and Justification

You might find yourself caught between trying to appease the abuser and staying true to yourself. You may grapple with an overwhelming sense of self-blame, convinced that you are somehow responsible for the mistreatment you endure. This self-blame can act as a defense mechanism, allowing you to preserve a semblance of control in a situation where you feel powerless. Justifying the abuser’s behavior or convincing yourself that they can change alleviates the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. There is a sense of appeasing and pleasing that overrides your intuition in effort to control the situation and get back to what feels like a safer space, the idealization phase. At some point, you may feel a complete loss of connection to your intuition – this is a common result of any type of relationship trauma.

The cognitive dissonance experienced in the context of emotional abuse is a formidable challenge, but it is not insurmountable. By understanding the origins of this internal conflict and taking proactive steps towards healing you can gradually break free from the grip of emotional abuse and reclaim your sense of self. The fog of confusion can lift. It’s essential to remember that no one deserves to endure mistreatment in a relationship. Seeking support is a courageous step towards a healthier and more empowered future.

How Can You Break the Cycle?

Breaking free from the cycle of emotional abuse requires a multifaceted approach. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse is a crucial first step. Many don’t even realize they are in an emotionally abusive relationship until they are out of it. One thing I like to say is that if it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. This is your intuition speaking, this is your wise voice within. This is the voice within, your intuition, that you may have lost touch with, but you can tap into it once again.

Just knowing how you feel, whether fearful, scared, crazy, or confused can be empowering. Listening to your body can be telling. Do you feel dysregulated, ungrounded, or out of balance? These are signs that something is not right. Seeking support upon your first noticing is key. Friends, family, or professionals can provide validation and a reality check outside the distorted dynamics of the abusive relationship. Trauma therapy, individual, online, and group, can be instrumental in untangling the fog of conflicting emotions and rebuilding your sense of self.

A woman tries to reach to a man's hand who does not want to touch hands. Has your previous relationship left you with trauma from emotional abuse? It might be time to begin trauma therapy in Austin, TX and speak with a trauma therapist.

Depth Work for Emotional Abuse and the Impact of Cognitive Dissonance

My approach to healing from emotional abuse and addressing the state of cognitive dissonance centers around helping you tap back into that wisdom with you, that wise wisdom we all have within us. We will tap into your deepest self and help you break the cycle. We will address the impact of emotional abuse. Whether you are deep into a fog of confusion or just have an inkling something is not right, we will work together to address your relationship trauma.

Our work will be grounded in Jung-oriented depth psychology, an approach that explores the unconscious while at the same time addresses what is conscious and present in your life. Depth psychotherapy addresses unresolved internal conflicts (cognitive dissonance) that inhibit a life of congruency. This type of depth work helps you tap into your inner wisdom and gain a deeper understanding of yourself; it prepares you to heal beyond your trauma. The goal is to seek long-lasting change that can only come from taking a deep look inside ourselves. While we cannot take away your trauma we can work together to help you outgrow the wounds of your past so you can live in the present.

Shifting Hopelessness to Hope

I do not consider trauma a disease or disorder. I view the impact of trauma as your system’s capacity to adapt, cope, and survive until you find a safe space to go deep and process your trauma. Neuroscience helps us understand how trauma affects every part of the brain. When you can understand what happened to your brain and learn that reshaping and rewiring is possible, you can begin to shift hopelessness to hope.

When you can understand what happened to you, we can address the shame and self-blame that is almost always a result of emotional abuse. From there we can do the deep work to integrate your experience and move past the trauma. Why depth work? Depth work gets to the root of the trauma. It is essential for lasting change. Combined with some key and simple knowledge of neuroscience and other modalities as needed, it is the core of the healing process.

Break Free from Emotional Abuse with Trauma Therapy in Austin, Houston, and throughout Texas

A woman attends therapy with a female therapist. Feeling like you want to move past your emotional abuse? A trauma therapist in Austin, TX can help you through trauma therapy today!

If you’ve experienced emotional abuse, taking the step to seek support is a courageous and empowering choice. I provide online trauma therapy in Texas and offer a safe and confidential space for you to explore and heal from the impact of emotional abuse. As a trauma therapist, I specialize in guiding individuals through the process of recovery, fostering resilience and growth. Reclaim control over your emotional well-being and begin the journey toward healing by reaching out today. You deserve the support and understanding necessary to thrive beyond emotional abuse. I would be honored to work with you.

Other Therapy Services Offered at Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy in Austin, Houston, and throughout Texas

At Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy, I offer a diverse range of therapeutic services that extend beyond trauma therapy. My therapy sessions provide a convenient and accessible platform for you to explore your inner self, navigate life’s challenges, and embark on a transformative journey. In addition to trauma therapy, I also provide walk and talk therapy, online therapy, individual therapy for relationship issues, and Jungian dreamwork. Take the first step toward a happier life free of trauma by reaching out today. Your path to growth and healing begins here.

A woman cries into her hands. Trying to move forward from emotional abuse in Austin, TX? It might be time to speak with a trauma therapist in Texas today.

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