She can be the woman in the market with the bruises on her face and you look at her with pity, wondering why she stays. Or she could be the woman at gatherings who goes off by herself, seldom speaking, quietly watching—a shell of a person. She could be your sister who never wants to come to the family events or if she does come with her partner, you question the relationship. She could be any of the nameless women moving through their lives carrying “the secret”.

Even though these women desperately want to leave the relationship, they feel powerless to completely remove themselves from their partner.

If they did manage to get away from him, it probably wouldn’t be long before they begin communicating with him, dating and in many cases, getting back together again.

Why? Why do smart, educated, empowered women in every other area of their lives but this one, continue to allow themselves to be abused?

Given the amount of resources we have at their disposal, it is obvious we need to approach this problem from something other than just removing a victim from the situation. Even if these women manage to get away and not involve themselves with another abuser, they often end up generating abuse in other ways: such as overeating, drinking, excessive exercising or diet, gambling, drugs….any type of addictive behavior.

They are seeking something that the Abuse Cycle of emotional addiction is giving them. We aren’t dealing with just the beliefs about self worth or the desire to be loved. We are addressing something that goes even deeper.

All behaviors are repetitive strategies encoded in our brains as neural pathways that run automatically at the unconscious level. Not only do we generate neurological pathways of behavior in our brain, we become addicted to our own brain chemicals. Just as an addict must get high off an external chemical, we too, can be addicted to a behavioral strategy which releases the sought after chemicals.

Let’s look at the Cycle and see what happens.

There are four phases to the Cycle:

1. The Abuse: the actual abuse takes place. It doesn't matter if it's physical, emotional or mental.

2. The Neglect: the abuser begins to apologize, take some blame and begins to back off the abuse.

3. The Honeymoon: the abuser acts as if everything is fine again. They usually respond to the victim with gifts, loving words and general, become the perfect partner.

4. The Tension: the abuser can't keep up the Honeymoon phase and begins to show signs of abuse again. The victim is aware that the abuse is about to start again.

The problem lies in the Honeymoon phase. During this stage of the Cycle, the victim begins to believe the abuser’s apologies, convinces themselves that this is the "true" person and "falls in love" all over again.

Unfortunately, the victim is also flooded with "feel good" neuro peptides during this phase of the Cycle. This flooding of “feel good” neuro peptides creates an emotional addiction similar to drug addiction. These neuro peptides sub-sensitize the receptor cells, causing the body to crave more of them, without the victim actually being aware of what is happening.

She will then, unconsciously, seek out people or situations, which will stimulate the release of the peptides of the emotional addiction. If in a relationship, she will unconsciously trigger the abuse to get to the Honeymoon phase in order to get the release of the “feel good” neuro peptides.

It’s important to remember here that this behavior is out of her awareness. No one “asks” to be abused.

In order to break out of this emotional and chemical addiction, the neurological pathway must be altered. Research has shown that we can actively affect how our brains can rewire themselves to create new neural networks and override pre-existing ones. As early as 1998, Merzenich and deCharms were saying that we actually choose how our minds will work, which then results in physical responses.

For anyone struggling with the Cycle of Abuse, there is a way out of repeating the behaviors. Remember, you cannot change your abuser; you can only change yourself. The first step is to become aware of the Cycle’s effects on yourself and begin taking the steps to get out of it.

You are not at fault…..your body is just addicted.

© 2012 Debra Fentress

Author's Bio: 

Debra Fentress is the founder and creator of Neural Pathway Restructuring™: Changing Your Past to Create Your Future. From her own experience of abuse, she spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours discovering the way out of the Cycle. She is best known as the Life Change Catalyst and has coached hundreds to get out of their “stuck” patterns of behavior and create the lives they desire. Learn more at:

If you or anyone you know is trapped in the Cycle please go to: