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January 18, 2024

The Shame that comes from Toxic Relationships—& How we can Find Healing.

A couple of days ago, I read an article on the topic of abusive and toxic relationships from the perspective of a psychotherapist, and it stirred something inside of me.

I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

The article I read spoke of Tina Turner and asked if she would have married Ike if she knew he was a monster? And along the same lines, would any of us enter into these relationships if the person laid out who exactly they were.

I would say we cannot assume what Tina would of done had she known the future, but I do believe and I also think (after reading her book) that she believed everything happened exactly how it was supposed to. I don’t think the answer to ending the cycle of abuse is as straight forward as looking out for red flags and making different choices.

Of course, this can be helpful but from my own experience I know that I ignored a hundred red flags just to have the sweet feeling of love and home that I had been looking for my whole life.

Years ago, I met a man who would change the course of my life. There was no way I could have known just how bad things would get, however, I will say that I knew who he was to some degree and chose to carry on with the relationship anyway. I have often thought if I had known then what I know now, would I have made a different choice. And honestly, I don’t think I would have had the strength to.

I wrote in my journal once that I looked at the fire and chose to walk through it. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I was addicted to him and the chaos he brought. I had spent years in a reasonably healthy relationship prior to this, but I never felt as alive as I did when I was in this toxic relationship.

There is a certain amount of shame that comes with being attracted to the “wrong” kind of person, and I really want to lift the lid off this mindset. I cannot help that the only times I have felt that physical, need-to-be-with-you-right-now chemistry was with someone who was probably not good for me and most likely emotionally cut off with a side of anger issues. I cannot help that I often could not relate to someone who grew up in a healthy home and so, naturally, have more in common with someone from a similar background to me.

When you have felt lost and alone all of your life, and finally feel at home, chances are you will overlook many red flags to keep that feeling, and if this is you—I understand.

I believe that anyone can find themselves in a toxic or abusive relationship, regardless of upbringing, but most often, low self-worth is at the root of it, which usually stems from some kind of childhood trauma. I also believe that nobody else can do the difficult work of healing but yourself, and I only say that now after living through it.

Ultimately, I feel that every experience we have in this life and everything that happens to us is for our own greater good and spiritual growth and evolution. If we have gone so far off our path or abandoned ourselves, life will hit us hard—in what can feel like the worst way—but if we dare to dig a bit deeper, these moments can be our greatest blessings. It took me going to the lowest place and dragging myself out to see that. Now, I feel only gratitude for all of it as it brought me home to myself and gave me a new perspective and understanding of this human experience.

At the time, I blamed my partner for so many things going wrong in my life and for not giving me the love I longed for, and I blamed myself for being so blind. I felt immense shame at what others must have thought of me and why I couldn’t just be in a “normal” relationship. I blamed life for being unfair and I blamed my parents for every other bad thought or feeling I had. When I finally reached what I call my rock bottom, I saw that I couldn’t blame my way out of it.

So, aside from the obvious watching out for red flags in another, what can we do if we already find ourselves in an abusive or toxic relationship? What can we do if we keep attracting these kinds of relationships? And is healing possible?

Going back to Tina Turner, she spoke in her book about how chanting changed her life. After joining countless Al-Anon groups, reading books about co-dependency, addiction, and healing, listening to endless podcasts, and trying to find my own way, I have come to the conclusion that in order to change anything in our external lives, we need to change ourselves internally. It sounds straight forward but it is anything but. Changing conditioning and beliefs so deeply rooted that they have become the foundation of who we are is no easy task. Being radically honest, accepting, and compassionate with ourselves are great first steps to take.

Something as simple as chanting or meditation, tapping into this internal well of wisdom, raises our vibration, and if we are doing it from a place of complete openness and curiosity—with nothing to lose—I believe the healing possibilities are endless. Connecting with ourselves in this way if we are struggling, whether it’s for 10 minutes a day or 10 minutes a week, can have a profound impact on our life. While nothing had changed in Tina’s daily circumstances, over time her mindset and energy changed. Everything she had previously perceived as an obstacle suddenly dissipated and she jumped into the unknown without money or a plan, but with a faith that the universe would catch her.

During my toxic relationship, I sought a lot of outside help and eventually came to realize that there is a deep lack of real understanding around these issues from a spiritual perspective. The solution is always the same: leave the person. But if we cannot see a way out and it feels impossible for us to leave, then we are often left with nowhere else to turn.

The truth is that some of us find our own way, and some of us do not. And while in cases of violence it is absolutely necessary to get away, if we are not healed internally, we could end up repeating the same cycles externally. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I would love to see more open conversations and nuanced views on this topic, beyond the usual discussion of red flags to avoid and blaming others, leaving ourselves powerless to the circumstances of our own lives.

If you are or have been in a similar situation, I would love to hear your thoughts and views on this topic.

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