ESCONDIDO — At age 37, Esther Adler has been through more than most people face in a lifetime. She was physically abused as a child, married to a verbally abusive man and was alienated from her four children after a messy divorce.Despite her hardships, she delivers a positive message about taking control of your life in her workshops and book, “Breaking the Chains to Freedom.”
“Physical, emotional and sexual abuse are all horrible in different ways,” Adler said. “When you keep it inward, it’s like being in a prison. You feel you can’t trust anyone and think there’s something wrong with you.”
Adler said abuse victims often blame themselves and think their actions are causing the abuse. She added that it takes a mind shift for victims to understand they can take a stand and not allow themselves to remain in an abusive situation.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize and prove.
“I was physically abused by my father,” Adler said. “With my husband I couldn’t understand I was being abused. I didn’t understand why I was hurt and in pain. I couldn’t pinpoint it.”
Emotional abusers are often liked by others and are sometimes loners, Adler said. It is often a case of “he said, she said” to prove emotional abuse took place.
“For the victim, abuse almost becomes a cult scenario,” Adler said. “You lose the ability to express yourself.”
For Adler the turning point came when her cleaning lady asked Adler why she let her husband treat her so badly. Adler said she realized that she was giving her power away to her abusive husband.
It took Adler two more years before she left her husband.
Adler said people often do not understand the difficulty victims have leaving an abusive situation they have grown to tolerate. Fear of violence and the inability to support themselves and their children often cause women to stay or leave and return to their abuser, she added.
“It’s a physiological trauma women are going through,” Adler said.
The change needs to come from within, Adler said.
“I started to take steps to change my life,” Adler said. “For many years I was too scared. I didn’t know I had a choice.”
Once Adler filed for divorce she began to work on strengthening her self-confidence through yoga, meditation and self-help books.
Adler said the process was painful at times. Things got worse when her husband alienated her from her children following the divorce.
“When you make a really big decision chaos is going to happen,” Adler said. “A tornado is part of the weather. You need to pick up the pieces and anchor yourself in people who can support you.”
Adler said she hopes that her book and workshops can help others change their outlook on life and realize they have choices.
“When I changed my perception, my life literally started to change,” Adler said. “The unknown is scary. We manipulate our lives so we don’t experience too much change.
“It’s easy to judge, but victims are so scared they don’t realize they can have something better.”
In her book and workshops Adler shares exercises to stay present in chaotic situations, helps participants realize they cannot change others and encourages participants to live a life in the synergy of love.
“You have the ability to take control and change your life,” Adler said. “What I’ve learned in my experiences is, the strongest thing is love.”
Adler will present her workshops at Corinne’s Cottage Interfaith Service in Escondido Feb. 17.
For more information on her workshops and book visit estheradler.com.