We’ve all stayed in toxic relationships far longer than we should’ve. We make excuses for why we stay and attempt to justify it in every way imaginable. Our friends and family all look at us like we’ve finally fallen down and hit our head one too many times. They can see how futile any attempt at reconciliation is but we don’t. We keep working through our list of things we can change about ourselves to make it work. Surely such a noble aim is worthwhile. I mean, we could all use a little change in our lives. We all have habits and beliefs that are harmful to others right? Of course, but there’s a dark side to that logic.
How much self-sacrifice do we attempt before we can admit that what we are actually saying is we value ourselves less than we value others? Here lies the futility. Any good salesman will tell you how impossible it is to sell a product you don’t believe in. Whether we like it or not we are a brand. We have likes and dislikes, core values, and things we find unacceptable. When we start to compromise and allow ourselves to be horribly mistreated we are telling the other person our self-esteem is non-existent. Beyond the fact that it’s hard convincing anyone to like us if we don’t like ourselves we are really putting ourselves in a bad place when we play the victim. It’s the narcissist that seeks the perfect victim.
Gas-lighting has received a great deal of attention from writers as of late and I don’t feel the need to expound upon a growing body of collected works; we all know what it is. Some of us have literally been pushed to the brink of insanity by some twisted individual who had undoubtedly been a victim themselves. While it’s easy to place blame on the other person we often forget that we are also in said relationship. Making excuses. Justifying to our friends and family why we stay knowing they are a poison to us.
We human beings are social creatures. “We are a community people,” as my mentor Pam is so fond of saying. We crave interaction and we live for intimacy. It’s a part of our psychological makeup. Quite a bit of research has been done mapping out why we social butterflies get stuck in these destructive patterns of behavior. Researchers are fond of pointing out how dopamine spikes in the brain when we receive something we crave. So if we’re craving consolation from our friends and family after a nasty bout in our relationship we’re going to keep creating that scenario to get what we want. That doesn’t make us bad people any more than it makes us victims.
All understanding how these thought patterns form does is show us how we can break them. Awareness gives us the opportunity to break up the habit of reacting and decide on a better way to respond. By pausing and making a new decision we are choosing a new freedom. Why stop there? This line of thinking clearly offers us a way to transform ourselves and become more compassionate people.
No. We cannot change how other people are. We cannot make them see value in us. However, we can find value in ourselves and look beyond the suffering we feel. We can accept their nature and decide to do better. Most toxic people are all too glad to tell you of the tragedies they’ve endured that made them monsters. Garnering sympathy for the devil is one of the first steps in psychologically disarming an opponent. Accept their misery is the starting point from which they inflict misery on others. Accept that they will probably stay in that place long after you’re gone. Now ask yourself, do I deserve to live in misery for something that I didn’t create? Take it a step further, am I actually helping them heal?
Understanding what motivates us is important. The why behind our actions is what guides our steps. If we truly love someone we will vow to keep from harming them. Love lets go. Sometimes the only thing we can do is walk away. Sometimes people, no matter how vindictive, have to lose everything they have before they realize what they need to work out. For a lover of things their prized possession is more than likely the person they’ve been manipulating. Walking away could speed that process up a bit.
Moreover, love yourself. Don’t play a part in your own destruction to save someone who never skips out on an opportunity to remind you of how unimportant you are. You deserve better than that. Look within and find what emotional response you’ve been craving and uproot it. If you’re looking for comfort go volunteer at a battered women’s shelter or help out at an orphanage. By giving yourself over to someone else in need you’ll realize the obviousness of the truth. You are not alone in your plight. All human beings endure hardships and suffer at the hands of others.
We are not the bright centers the universe revolves around. We are part of a much larger story and the victim is but a part we’ve played. Sometimes the best thing we can do is walk away. In doing so we find we are able to help others do the same or avoid our mistakes altogether. There’s purpose in that. So. Turn the page.