I used to be verbally and emotionally abusive. I hated when my mother would say it that way, but as a child I was abusive to my siblings.
I made a huge leap away from this when I was no longer subjected to emotional and psychological abuse in my home, when I was 16 and my stepfather left.
But the pattern was still within me. It still came out when I was at my wits' ends, and I was also really likely to get to the ends of my wits. I was reactive and volatile and an absolute control freak. I would explode at others, blame, berate, and punish them anytime I wasn't having the experience I wanted to have. I was always stressed, always running late, and always ready to blame that on someone I loved.
This only changed because I made a commitment to myself about the standards I was going to hold myself to in relationships. I told myself that never again would I treat anyone I claimed to love in those ways. I would not blame them under any circumstances. I would not yell at them under any circumstances. I would not accuse them of creating any experience I was having, full stop.
This commitment narrowed and refined my choices from that moment forward. I could no longer engage with any situation that would bring me to my wits' end. I also needed to learn to keep my wits in any circumstance that would be out of my control.
I had to be careful about who I allowed in my life, because people close to me treating me in certain ways would still bring out my absolute worst. Like a werewolf hiding during the full moon, I kept people like that away because I didn't want to hurt ANYONE, not even people who were "asking for it" by treating me in those ways. It was a standard about who I want to be, so I needed to create the conditions where that would be possible.
I spent three years working in juvenile corrections, running CBT treatment groups and being faced with some of the most extreme behavior from other people that exists in our world these days. I eventually embodied the understanding that there were no circumstances that could "make me" act in certain ways, that my own internal beliefs, nourishment, regulation, and choices were always governing my actions.
Once I knew myself to be the person who could keep her cool in relationships, I dipped my toe back into relationships where I would be treated in ways that previously would have triggered me. I was able to keep my cool and hold to my standards, but the nervous system remembers. It also became clear that the fact that I *could* endure a behavior from someone else didn't mean that I should endure it. If I could do it, there had to be others out there who had high standards for their behavior in intimate relationships.
I honed my relational skills until I became the kind of person that kind of person would love to be around. People who are able to maintain high standards for their treatment of others aren't wasting their time with those who make excuses for shitty relational behavior.
Now I'm in a relationship that contains no blame, no conflict, no resentment. We simply remain connected and tune that connection every day. We do not get triggered. We do not lash out. We seek to understand each other and find easy solutions to any dilemmas. We own our own emotions and take responsibility for our nourishment.
Not only am I no longer abusive, I know I never will be again, and I know I will never be abused again. I reshaped every belief about what relationships would contain, rejected behavior from others I used to consider a "reasonable deviation" and now I get to live the truth of FULL safety in relationship.
It's certainly a process. But I believe it is a process that is available to anyone who commits to it.