It’s not your fault that a difficult, abusive person came into your life. Abusive people happen. It’s unfortunate, but they do. Why abusive people came to be and what makes them behave so badly is a topic for another blog! Compassion for them is for another day as well.
Today, my interest is in helping you accept what has happened. You can move on from the experience, into a new chapter that is about you and your happiness. You need this for your sanity and health! You can move beyond defining yourself by what this person did, into a definition of you that is empowered and whole despite the pain you have been through.
In this blog I’ll use the terms “toxic person” and “abusive person.” For our purposes here, I won’t go into deep diagnosis of what that means, other than to know that this is someone whose impact on you was confusing, abusive, demeaning, painful, or degrading. Perhaps they are someone with narcissism or just someone who blames others for their issues. Often this type of person’s awareness of themselves is skewed to the point where they may not take any responsibility for the pain they have caused, or be aware that they’ve caused it. This does not make your experience any less real.
If you’ve been burned in this way, you know how disorienting and frustrating it can be after the fact. There is a need to pick up the pieces of yourself, and start rebuilding your life, yet the brokenness and confusion can be profound. “Was it my fault? Did I bring this upon myself? Am I a bad person for attracting this into my life?” These questions are very common and natural.
The answer is no, it is not your fault. (Please take a moment to take that in.) You are not a bad person, or deserving of this type of treatment in any way. From the perspective of karma, or law of attraction; yes, you did on some level attract this person to you, and this is part of your life story. However, that does not mean that you need to take responsibility for their actions or explain your pain away altruistically. What happened, happened. Its impact on you need not be denied. Facing the pain, anger, and frustration head-on so that you can move on is what matters now.
To heal, there are practical steps and emotional steps to take. I recommend getting support during the whole process, until you really feel yourself re-emerging into the light of your own happiness again.
Here are the steps I’ve found that work:
1. Accept your losses on inner and outer levels.
You may have lost time, money, self esteem, a sense of direction, self respect, or all of the above! The most important part is to just accept. “I’ve been burned.” “I drank the cool aid.” “I feel lost now.” “I have been taken advantage of.” “I said yes when I really wanted to say no.” “My savings are gone.” Whatever little mantra of accepting what happened. Try practicing it without the heaviness of self-critisizm.
Acceptance will pave the way for healing to take place. Let it land in your system. Many new-age philosophies will emphasize focusing on what you learned, why what happened was perfect in some grand scheme…and some of those perspectives may come in handy later, but for the immediate, they are unhelpful. What is needed is to ground into the fact of loss. To be with it, mourn it, and let the pain move through you. Allow your anger, your frustration, and your sadness. If you make friends with it now, it won’t have to define you going forward.
2. Sift Through What Needs Your Attention and What Doesn’t
One important skill you will learn during this time is grounding into what is real. This means separating yourself from the confusing reality and mixed messages of the abusive person. Most likely, you were swept up into their perspective, and started to lose track of yourself and what is real for you.
When you connect with a person who has negative intentions (whether they are aware of their intentions or not), it can profoundly throw you off from your sense of self. The orbit of a strong narcissistic person can be hypnotic, seductive, ungrounding, and can start to pull you away from who you are. This is particularly true if you are a type that is naturally open, willing, gentle, and empathic or intuitive.
While you were around this person who was toxic for you, their belief systems, judgments, and ideas can start to permeate you. Now that you are free or becoming free from their influence in your life, begin to question the heavy thoughts that you picked up. Ask, “is this true?” “Do I really believe _______?” “Is this the whole picture of what is going on?”
If you do find you believe the negatives, it’s beneficial to look at those feelings, beliefs, and ideas and process them. If you have underlying low self-esteem, and the abusive person in your life simply exacerbated that, for example, then by all means, focus on self-esteem in your personal work.
If however you find that you ultimately don’t agree with this person’s perspective, you don’t need to process it in a deep way, you can just let it go!
One exercises I love for people who are freshly out of abusive relationships is to start to feel your body and consciousness moving freely again, like a healthy tree in the wind, without the heaviness of outside perspectives weighing it down. Free to move and breathe and feel connected again.
This is also a good moment to look at and get advice about whether any legal or public action needs to be taken to bring consequence for the other person/people involved. This depends on the situation of course, the level of transgression, and on you and what feels right to you.
3. Reconnect With You, Gently
Begin to bring to mind what brings you joy. Sit with the feeling that you will feel good again. Reconnect with loved ones. Start to form new bridges with life, through meditation, walks in the woods, phone calls with the people who care about you, healing sessions, etc.
You can re-center into your life with these kinds of questions: What am I most interested in? What am I here on earth to do? What are my gifts & talents? What do I really care about? What do I like to do on a day to myself?
The more you can focus on these positive attributes, the better your life will become.
The feeling of empowerment will return as you move forward in a healthy direction in your life. Once you start to create new momentum for yourself in a direction that means something to you, the toxic person’s opinions and lingering impact on you will start to fade. They will become a memory.
4. Compassion, Compassion, Compassion
When the pain of what happened does return, which it may many, many times, you may have to re-engage with your inner work around it again. That is perfectly ok and natural. The impact of abuse is deep, and doesn’t clear overnight. Don’t take the fact that it has resurfaced to mean that you are somehow a failure at healing.
And a little way’s down the road…
5. Integration, Integration, Integration
Integrating the experience you’ve been through in a deeper way is, I find, the most empowering step of all. There will come a time when you will understand something from the circumstance you’ve been in. I don’t know what that is for you because it is yours to know, to integrate, and to share as you deem appropriate.
Integration can happen naturally, with time, as new insights arise about who you are becoming. Integration tends not to happen if you don’t address what has happened with some form of therapy or healing, or if you cut that process short due to the deep discomfort it can bring up.
The kind of ‘being burned’ I’m talking about in this blog did happen to me, and it changed me. I was hurt, oh yes. I know the pain of it. Yet I now see it as a turning point for me. I came to see that my life was going in a direction that I wasn’t really on board with. I had been burned enough to feel motivated to change. I finally wanted to stop listening to others over myself, to find my authentic needs and to start caring more about myself and less about other’s opinions of me and desires for me. I needed to find my “fuck no.” It is now a good friend, that helps me navigate the bullshit better than I could before.
What this experience you’ve been through means for you, will be revealed in time. The important part is to keep working with it…and don’t give up because of setbacks or resurfacing frustration. The other side, where life is about you and your happiness again, is worth the steep climb.
I believe in you!
For more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.