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Abuse Amnesia

Dissociative Amnesia, or Abuse Amnesia, is when a person "forgets" or represses specific incidents surrounding a traumatic event or events—in this case, abusive behavior. Abuse amnesia can range from forgetting whole episodes to certain things that are said. The result is that the sufferer may tend to remember the abusive person in a positive light. Abuse amnesia is not normal forgetfulness, as the person is only unable to recall events surrounding the specific traumatic event. Many people who continue to go back to an abusive partner report feeling frustrated and crazy because they forget about much of the abuse and hold onto the good times, only to be abused again.
This level of forgetting can make a person question their sanity, as frequently they forget or not easily remember pretty essential things.


Abuse amnesia is a critical concept of which to be aware. Prepare yourself for it, as it happens to many people who have been in an abusive relationship.

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What I Encourage You to Do

And What's Worked for Me...


What I encourage you to do, is to write out a "for when you miss him (or her) list" stating all the hurtful or hateful things they've done, and then go back and read this list when you are missing them or if they try and reopen contact and you are feeling tempted to respond. Make this list in a bullet-point format so it's quick and easy to read because when that abuse amnesia sets in, it can set in like an intense craving. Coupled with nostalgia, it can be tough to resist. Reading your list can help keep you grounded and on track by keeping yourself away from abusive people.

Examples of Abuse Amnesia

Example #1:


Kalle broke up with Derek a month ago due to his controlling behavior and over-the-top rage directed at her. The first few weeks, she was more angry than sad and vowed never to have anything to do with him again. However, by the end of the month, she found herself missing all the good times they had and his company. She found herself thinking that maybe they could be friends, and then sent him a text saying, "hi." She felt terrible about her decision to text him, and part of her hoped he would text back and part of her hoped that he wouldn't.

Example #2:


Travis walked out on Sarah several months ago out of the blue. Their relationship had always been full of highs and lows, with her finding out about something Travis was up to—whether it was his ongoing cheating, lying, or racking up debt she wasn't aware of. Whenever Sarah mentioned any of this to him, he'd either give her the silent treatment, begin yelling at her and spin things to where it was all her fault. Sarah didn't expect Travis to leave, as things between them were seemingly fine. Still, she knew from experience whenever he broke up with her out of the blue, that meant he was cheating on her and that it was his way of justifying his behavior by telling himself (and her) that they weren't in a relationship. Sarah was hurt and angry and vowed to herself that she wasn't going back to him. She was doing fine until he sent her a text telling her how much he messed up and how he wanted them to go to counseling. Sarah felt herself being pulled back into the fantasy of this time things would be different and then pulled out her "for when you miss him" list and began reading through all the deception, hurt, heartache, and false promises of change she'd heard from Travis before. She reminded herself that she'd been down this road with him before and that her experience with him had been that he didn't change. Travis got better at hiding what he was up to, so she decided to block his number and block him on all of her social media accounts.

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