Many of us have had the wretched experience of being in a relationship that, instead of adding happiness to our lives, brought us a lot of abuse, misery, and pain.
It’s that one relationship, which we can never forget, as much for the lessons learned as for the scars on our soul.
Even after years pass by, sometimes on a rainy day and sometimes after listening to an old and familiar song on the radio, we find ourselves dwelling on the hurt.
Our memories are bitter and full of imaginary recriminations; directed as much towards the ex-lover as it is towards our own selves. On good days, we are able to pull ourselves out of this cycle quickly. But on bad days, our mind starts falling into a loop of self-directed incredulity, harshness, and negative talk. As thoughts start to spiral out of control, we begin to question our judgments about people, our self-worth and even our identity. A question that we often find ourselves asking is, how did we let the abuse repeatedly destroy our entire self-worth for months and years.
We struggle to find the closure that we could never get in the real world, in the realm of our thoughts. But this pattern of self-blame and being hard on ourselves can be extremely debilitating for our mental health. In this article, I am going to share eight valuable learnings, that will help you transform the self-blame of being in an abusive relationship into self-empowerment.
1. Accept that Childhood Trauma Impacts Your Adult Relationships
Childhood upbringing directly affects our mental health and the quality of relationships throughout our lives. Those of us who grew up with abusive parents often end up suffering from trauma, even beyond our young years. The interactions that we had with our parents, who were our primary caregivers and the first significant relationships in our lives, also informed what we learned as ‘normal’ interaction and behavior.
2. Recognize that Your Perception of ‘Normal’ May Not Be Healthy Patterns of Behaviour
If you were brought up in a chaotic environment, filled with physical and/or verbal abuse, you started accepting abusive treatment as something that is ‘normal’. Because you hadn’t seen any better, you didn’t know any better way to live. You were not used to being treated with respect and kindness. This made you more vulnerable to toxic people and relationships, because you didn’t have the proper tools to identify behavioral red flags.
For instance, if you only saw older male figures being authoritarian and demanding during your childhood, being overly-submissive and dismissive of your partner’s aggression may come naturally to you.
3. Having Been in an Abusive Relationship Doesn’t Make You Any Less Worthy of Love, Kindness and Respect
Every person deserves to be treated with love, kindness and respected by the very virtue of their humanity, and you are no less. Just because you have been in an abusive relationship, that doesn’t make you any less worthy of the good things that life, and people have to offer. So keep that chin up, and always believe that positive times are just around the corner. Light must always follow darkness, and balance and equilibrium are the laws of nature. So, therefore your personal season of despair will also transform into a cheery spring, full of hope and new life. Give yourself the time and love you need to heal.
4. It is a Great Idea to Seek Help for Your Mental Health
As much as tips and suggestions are helpful, and they do set us on the right track, sometimes we need much more involved levels of help. This is where professional mental health care comes into the picture. A good Psychologist or Counsellor can participate in active listening, and help you uncover past traumas and heal from them. If your life and health quality are being affected due to recurrent bouts of depression, then do be proactive about visiting a mental healthcare professional.
5. Take Time Out to Fully Explore and Enjoy Yourself
Solitude can turn into soul-itude if you take time out to enjoy your life. Cultivate a unique, individual identity for yourself, which is separate from the toxic relationship. Discover your own authentic preferences, likes and dislikes, and hobbies. Enjoy life in the day to day and the present moments. Don’t rush into getting into a new relationship.
6. You May Become More Cautious as a Person & That’s Okay
Whenever we go through trauma, such as that of a toxic relationship, we become more cautious in the future. That is perfectly fine, and in fact, it is even healthy. So don’t be harsh on yourself for having become more cautious. It’s a natural process and is a part of the evolutionary process towards achieving better mental health.
7. Practice Creating Healthy and Enforceable Boundaries with People in the Future
One of the best ways to heal from the trauma of toxic relationships is to affirm yourself and your boundaries over and over again. This is something that you will have to learn through practice, as your boundaries may have been permeable in the past; and you did not learn to reinforce them. A great by-product of having healthy boundaries is that you can also be aware of people not respecting them. This will help you filter out the wrong people from your life.
8. Prioritize Your Own Well-Being First
As someone who has been a victim of abuse, you will be more sensitive to triggering situations and people. Therefore, while building your strength from within; you should also take care to prioritize your own well-being. Have the courage to say ‘no’ to people or situations that make you feel threatened. Be confident and state your preferences clearly. Develop good posture and body language. Fill yourself with self-love, self-acceptance and strength first; only then will you be able to have mutually fulfilling and meaningful relationships with other people.
Always remember, that being in a toxic relationship, was just one part of the journey of your life. This experience doesn’t define you or your life choices. It should, by no means, have the power to influence your entire self-worth.
Think of it as an opportunity to come closer to understanding your own self; your preferences, your likes and your dislikes. I know it feels debilitating at times, especially when past memories come back to haunt you. But you can heal the wounds of your psyche and your soul with time and with mercy towards your own self. As I always like to remind the readers of any of my articles, mental health is as important as physical health. Start taking care of yourself, today.
- Eight ways to stop blaming yourself for past toxic relationship that keeps haunting you - November 11, 2019
- The psychological consequences of growing-up as an undesired girl child in India - September 17, 2019