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September Book Review: Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity by Marie-France Hirigoyen

“The goal of abusive conduct is to destabilize the other person and make them doubt themselves and others.” – Marie-France Hirigoyen

Stalking the Soul

The (destructive) art of making someone doubt themselves is only the beginning of emotional abuse. If a person is able to make another doubt what they just witnessed, heard, or felt, then that person has just gained control over the other, and thus, committed the very misunderstood but definitely widespread and deliberate act of emotional abuse. Often, emotional abuse builds over a long period of time until it becomes so unbearable that victims lash out in frustration and anger, only to appear unstable and aggressive themselves. The intent of many abusers is to systematically confuse their victims with irrational, threatening behavior that preys on the victim’s fears and self-doubts. The end result is an erosion of the soul or spirit.

Marie-France Hirigoyen in Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity brilliantly and clearly demonstrates the dynamics of emotional abuse. Her book identifies emotional abuse in couples, in families, and in the workplace. She explains thoroughly what emotional abuse is, what an abusive relationship is, the consequences of living with abuse, and ends her book with practical advice on how to handle this type of abuse. What I especially found fascinating about Hirigoyen’s book are the several dialogues she included between partners in an emotionally abusive relationship. I found this part of her book very poignant.  I recognized my past abusive relationship in these dialogues and realized how damaging the process of control is and how it almost destroyed me.

As one the best books I have read on the subject of abuse, I highly recommend Dr. Hirigoyen’s, Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity to anyone who seeks to learn what emotional abuse is, or anyone who wants to identify if their current relationships are abusive. You will not be disappointed!

A bit about the author, Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen:

Ms. Hirigoyen is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and psychotherapist specializing in mobbing, a form of bullying. Marie-France Hirigoyen does research on psychological violence and has published several books since 1998. In 1999, she participated in creating a law against workplace harassment, which led to a debate about workplace abuse in France. To learn more about Marie-France Hirigoyen, visit her website: Marie-France Hirigoyen (Please note it is in French).

To purchase a copy of Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity by Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen, please visit Amazon.

Lastly and most importantly, if you think you are in an abusive relationship, or you feel that something is not quite right in your relationship, the chances are high that you are being abused. Seek help. It is there and free for you. Contact The Crisis Center or call 888-247-7472. Stop the slow and poisonous erosion of your identity now.

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.com, Inspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2014, Vilma Reynoso


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The Turning Point

It’s funny how memories come to mind. At one moment, we are thinking about one thing and in the next split second, we are taken back to the not-so-wonderful past.  This happened to me yesterday as I was driving. I passed by a familiar restaurant and memories flooded my mind. What is particularly funny is that I had driven past this restaurant probably dozens of times this year alone, but it was yesterday’s drive that spurred the memories.

Five years ago.

It was five years ago today that my fourteen year marriage ended, legally. After the judge declared the marriage “dissolved,” I remember my ex-husband stating, “Well, that was that.” I thought to myself, “That IS that; it’s over. Finally OVER.”  As we walked out of that emotionless, cold courtroom, it was apparent that now we both had to “move on.” There were to be so many changes ahead for me. And, even though I was the one who instigated the breakup of a very troubled marriage, at that moment, I knew another level of healing (and suffering) had just commenced for me. I wish I could write that I was brave through all of it, that I handled every crying session, every sad day, every angry moment with dignity and grace, but that is not true. I would love to say that every thought I had back then as I was healing was inspired by love, peace, joy and ultimate good (for myself and for everyone involved) but they were not. I would love to say that it was an easy road to travel, but it was not. My days and healing time were a mix of almost complete bliss and sometimes utter despair.

On one particularly sad day five years ago, I ventured into the same restaurant that I drove by yesterday to order some take-out food. As I was ready to pay for my meal, the clerk gazed at me, and with a Spanish accent, said, “It’s okay; you don’t pay – my gift to you.”  I remember the look of bewilderment on his face as he slowly and compassionately mouthed these words to me, and quite frankly, I was shocked not only by the generosity of this man but by the way he looked at me. I can only surmise that the look of astonishment on his face was because my spirit and my appearance must have looked and felt like I had just been hit by a truck running amuck. This kind gesture from this man was perhaps something he did regularly, but his actions touched me and snapped me into reality! That moment was my turning point. It was the moment when I said to myself, “It is time.” It was time to stop wallowing; it was time to start trusting, to release my pain, to forgive, to allow goodness to come to my life. It was time to allow my spirit within that was squelched by all the years of an abusive marriage to now live.  It was time to let go and let God flow. It was time.

From that moment forward, as each day passed, I became closer and closer to discovering who I really was and what truly made my spirit come alive. I allowed healing to take place by allowing the tears to flow, by choosing to forgive, by letting go of the anger, and by embracing the changes (all good) that would come. I learned to love myself holistically – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I learned to be brave. I learned to let go of fear. I learned to step out in faith.  I learned to make decisions that were in line with who I was and what I wanted in my life. I would eventually forget the man at the restaurant – the catalyst that begun my journey into complete healing. As days turned to months, and the months turned to years, I was to discover all the beauty and healing that life has to offer!  I learned that all things can be changed and healed with hope and courage.

Perhaps yesterday’s drive was a sober reminder of what I experienced years ago for the sole purpose of reminding me of how incredible the journey of life truly is when we allow healing to take place. It was a reminder to never fear change but to embrace all its gifts. Whenever I am tempted to lose hope, I look back to five years ago. Whenever, I think about giving up on myself, I think about what happened five years ago. Whenever, I am tempted to think that I can’t, I remember how far I have come. Whenever I falsely think, “Give it up, Vilma; you can’t do it,” I think about that moment in that restaurant.

What is the turning point in your life? Everyone has one (or two). Have you allowed healing to take place in your life, or are you still wrapped up in fear, anger, pain and self-inflicted misery? Why not point yourself towards the ever-present love that, if you allow it, will change you from the inside out and propel you into the confident, healthy and vibrant person you are meant to be?  The choice is yours. Choose to turn and point yourself in the direction of abundant life.

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.comInspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2013, Vilma Reynoso


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Not in a Relationship? Six Healthy Ways to Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day‏

It is that time again. It is that day we celebrate love and romance with chocolate, roses and commercialized, elaborate gifts to show our love and appreciation for that special person in our lives. For some of us, Valentine’s Day is a dreadful reminder of what we perceive we lack or what we desire and do not have. If you are one of those people who is not involved in a romantic relationship or are recovering from a recent break up on this special day, before you throw away the towel, grab that third glass of wine, or head to the nearest movie theater alone with mounds of candy and popcorn to pass the inevitable Valentine’s Day blues, here are some healthy tips and truths about how to love yourself on this special day:

1.  Realize and accept that you are unique and whole.

You are a special and unique human being who is loveable and whole. You are a combination of all your past experiences, your beliefs, your personality, and your thoughts. Having a special person in your life is an added benefit to your existence as a human being on this planet. Although humans long companionship with other humans, having that special someone is not a necessity to feel loving and secure or to enjoy your life with fervor and gratitude. If you are feeling lonely or sad from a recent break up, that is a normal response. You are feeling this way because you miss the familiarity of that relationship. However, it is possible you have not learned to love yourself first. How do you love yourself first? See below.

2. Do not worry about finding the love of your life.

The best way to find that special person or soul mate is to stop looking for him or her. Instead, focus on what you love to do and do it! Focus on being who you are. Focus on you. When you express yourself to the world through your work and your hobbies, it is inevitable that you will inadvertently attract that special love that you seek. For some of us, this happens quickly. For others, it might take some time. The point is to stop chasing after love because when we do that, it eludes us. When we stop trying to control love, it comes to us.

3. Take up a new hobby.

There is nothing more satisfying than discovering a new endeavor to get lost in! Do you feel bored or lonely after your heartbreak? The reason you feel lonely could be because you are missing the companionship of the relationship that just ended. Why not try something new? Is it time to take up golf lessons that you have been wanting to learn for the last decade? Is it time to learn how to crochet? It might be time to step out of your comfort zone. Try it. You will steer your mind towards something expressive, creative, new, and stimulating. Learning a new craft, hobby or activity will help you feel alive and change your thoughts to healthier and happier ones.

4. Make time to help others.

The old saying that giving is better than receiving is true! Have you ever donated your time to a charity or an organization you feel passionate about? Have you ever spent time with someone who is less fortunate who might need some simple help? There are plenty of nonprofit organizations who could use your help. You do not need to “have it together” to donate your time and love. No one does. You do not have to be an expert to volunteer your time with love. What do you like to do? Do you like horses or animals? How about volunteering to help groom horses or walk dogs in shelters. Do you enjoy office work? Volunteer to organize office paperwork or answer phones for your local food bank. There are endless possibilities! Helping others helps you connect with your community and not feel so lonely or isolated. When you donate your time and talents to help others, you cannot help but feel good. Volunteering might also lead you to something that might change your life. For a list of places who need your help, visit: http://www.volunteermatch.org/

5. Spend time getting to know yourself. 

How many of us spend all our waking hours in service to others? Although I am a proponent of being in service to others daily, I also believe it is just as important for our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health to spend time with ourselves, especially after the recent ending of a special relationship. Have you taken the time to know who you really are? Do you know what makes you come alive or what makes you smile? The only way to discover this is to spend time alone (yes, as scary as that sounds for some of us!) nourishing your spirit, mind and emotions. Take long walks. Read or listen to a book on tape that stimulates your mind or your emotions. Feel your pain and cry. Listen to music you love. Play the piano. Spend time trying new hobbies and new activities. Spend time with people who love you unconditionally. Every day, be thankful for how far you have come, and with joyful anticipation, imagine your life as you want it to be. You will then start to heal your heart, your mind, your emotions and your spirit.

6. Love the people in your life right now.

Love is not only for those who are in a relationship. Love should be celebrated every day, every moment. You are a loving being who when expresses love will invite more love into your life.  You do not have to buy an elaborate gift to show someone you love them. Believe it or not, you still can give love even with a broken heart! When is the last time you told your children you love them, your mother, or your niece? Why not call an old friend and shoot the breeze? How about spending twenty minutes playing with your dog? Love can and should be expressed daily, and when it is expressed, it brings us much needed joy. Valentine’s Day is only a reminder of the love all around us. It is a reminder to love ourselves first so we could then love others abundantly!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.comInspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2013, Vilma Reynoso