In my last post, I shared some of what writer and life coach Natalie Hoffman had to say about warning signs of emotional abuse in her interview with Stacy Brookman, who put together the Emotional Abuse Recovery and Resilience Summit. In part 2, I’ll share Natalie’s thoughts on what to do if you’re already in an emotionally abusive relationship, and what a healthy relationship looks like (hint: it’s very different!)

So what to do if you are already involved in an emotionally abusive relationship? Hoffman has come up with an excellent metaphor of a ladder with red hot rungs coming out of a huge pit of fire. It is not easy and it’s very painful, but necessary to hang in there to get to the top. She listed what each of the rungs symbolizes and goes into more detail on her own website, FlyingFreeNow.com:

1. Fear
2. Trying to get your partner to change
3. Grief
4. Not being taken seriously
5. Separation
6. Filing for divorce
7. Being kicked out of certain social circles
8. Children suffering
9. Suffering alone
10. Having health problems

Bear in mind that it can take years to get out of a toxic relationship!

Another question many people have is, “How does an abuser find or set up a potential target?”

Hoffman claims that we so much want to believe something, especially that a person loves us, that we only choose to see what fits with that belief, and we conveniently ignore what doesn’t.

Abusers thrive on creating a reality which matches what we are looking for. They will first look for someone who is a people pleaser, specifically someone very caring and empathic who will cater to their needs. Many targets also tend to feel guilty when standing up for their own needs.

The abuser will then look for what a target is insecure about and what she is most invested in, and then will use this against her. Once