“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chödrön
Each of us has our own path in life, and those paths aren’t neatly paved nor are they perfectly constructed. Instead, they’re rough at times and uneven — requiring us to use all of the strength that lies within us to continue moving forward.
Along the way, we face the mirage of countless challenges and obstacles, but really, what we’re actually facing are our teachers. They come to us in many forms — as people, relationships, experiences, diseases and so on.
And with them, they carry lessons specifically meant for us, that we need to learn. However, if we ignore what they’re trying to teach us, or don’t pay attention, these lessons will repeat insidiously in our lives.
We see this repetition often, especially when it comes to toxic relationships, that’s why so many people stay with or run back to partners that are physically or emotionally abusive. And that’s also why so many people tolerate degrading behavior from family members and co-workers.
In my own life, this is something I know intimately — especially when it comes to toxic relationships. Growing up, my mom was always coupled up with some man who didn’t value her and had an ulterior motive. She never realized how worthy or powerful she was — if she had, the structure of her relationships would have been healthy and fulfilling.
And as I look back at my own life, I see a similar pattern outlining one toxic relationship after another. It wasn’t until I woke up and realized it was just as much me as the other person that things began to shift because it was then I learned what I needed to learn.
If you can relate and are tired of bouncing from one toxic relationship to the next, then this article is for you. Here’s the 5-step process you need to follow to recover from toxic relationships so you can break the cycle for good:
Step 1: Recognize The Toxicity
To begin the healing process, you need to first recognize your relationship is or was toxic. Doing this will allow you to exit the denial phase and look for patterns in your past and present to better understand what to avoid in the future when it comes to relationships.
Here are some questions that will help guide you through the realization process:
- In your relationship(s), were there more good days than bad days?
- In your relationship(s), did you often find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid tension and fights?
- In your relationship(s) did you experience physical/emotional abuse? If yes, how often?
- In your relationship(s) did the other person try to cut you off from your family
Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions.
Step 2: Admit to Yourself You’re Addicted to Toxic Behavior
This step might feel controversial because it involves you admitting to yourself that you have an addiction, but hear me out:
The brain releases dopamine (aka the “feel good hormone”) when we’re doing something that we receive a reward from. Those “rewards” can be positive OR negative (love, sex, drugs, fighting etc.), and are often the source of addictive behaviors.
That’s why toxic relationships become so addictive — our brains begin to crave more dopamine, and we go back to the experiences and people that allow us to release it fully.
Step 3: Embrace Your Emotions
Most of us have no problem embracing our positive emotions, but when it comes to our negative emotions, we repress them.
We deny ourselves the right to feel angry, upset, frustrated, furious, resentful etc. But, when we do this, we aren’t doing ourselves or anyone around us any favors. Instead, by repressing our truth, we end up blowing anger into a bubble that will eventually pop.
Rather than lying to yourself and those around you, embrace your emotions — all of them. Allow yourself to FEEL what you’re FEELING! The purpose of having emotions is so we can better understand how certain experiences impact us. By denying them, we can never truly understand.
If you’re angry be angry.
If you’re frustrated be frustrated.
If you’re resentful be resentful.
And then…ask yourself why. Why are you feeling the way you’re feeling? This question will lead you to the source of your emotions, and what they’re trying to teach you.
Step 4: Let Go of the Victim Mindset; Empower Yourself
Ah, step 4. It’s a tricky one. This step requires you to shift your perspective entirely, and take yourself out of the “victim” mindset, and place yourself back in the drivers seat of your life.
You see, here’s the thing: it’s easy to point out someone else’s errors, but it’s really difficult to admit your own. This is especially true in toxic relationships when you’re being emotionally and/or physically abused because everyone around you will reaffirm to you that it’s not you — it’s the other person (and they’re partially right!). But, I’m here to tell you, it’s not just the other person, it’s you too.
Before you chase me with torches hear me out because I speak from personal experience. When I first realized ALL of my relationships with men had been toxic, I initially thought it wasn’t my fault. After all, I wasn’t the one controlling their emotions or behaviors — instead, I was on the receiving end. But then, when I realized I kept going back to these men (same man, different face) and that I was addicted to the negative treatment because my brain had been wired via experience to extract a painful-pleasure release from those relationships I was able to understand my role and regain control.
The thing is, almost all of these cases are unconscious that’s why we don’t see our role. But, once we’re able to identify it the game changes entirely because we no longer desire nor accept abusive behavior in our relationships.
Step 5: Extract the Lesson and Move On
Life is cyclical, and so are its lessons…until we learn them.
When we fail to learn a lesson life wants to teach us, we’re presented with a similar situation over and over again until we eventually choose again.
Once we learn what we’re meant to learn, life will move forward. So in the case of toxic relationships, here are some questions you can ask yourself to extract the lesson life wants to teach you:
- What is life trying to teach me about this situation?
- What is my role in this situation (why is it ongoing if I’m unhappy with it)?
- How can I make better decisions in the future?
By using this 5-step process, you’ll be able to release yourself from the unconscious grip of toxic relationships and make better decisions in the future.
About Antasha Durbin: Antasha is a spiritual writer, life-long student of the universe, and psychic tarot card reader. Her website, cajspirituality.com, is dedicated to casualizing the spiritual experience and making it attainable for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Follow her for free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living.