Many of us have experienced trauma and hurt from abusive, harmful or dysfunctional relationships of all descriptions and types in our lives. I bow at your courage to try and move beyond it and heal. Equally if you’re not quite there in your journey that’s okay, I honor that too. I feel conversations about this topic are so vital so that we can explore these sorts of things together, both individually and in a broader sense within our communities and society at large. This is where I think healing happens, through open dialogue and exploration and I believe a lot of healing needs to happen overall as the world seems to have a lot of traumatised people who in turn perpetuate and carry on this cycle. Shutting the conversation down isn’t the answer, opening it up is, even though it opens up those wounds. Those wounds need to be seen and given some TLC to be healed so that the cycle can finally come to an end.
But it doesn’t mean it’s an easy topic to talk on, the courage and vulnerability it takes to even go into this subject from any angle (and as reader or writer) is not to be underestimated. We each have our own unique path through the hurt and healing that life shows us and I just want to encourage each of you to listen to yourself as far as what to take or leave in my words. I only aim to speak from my own perspective and experience here, which I’ll try to keep as broad as possible, but it doesn’t mean this is (or should be) YOUR experience. Honor your own journey and path.
Where To Start
I’ve had first hand experience of being in relationships where there’s a harmful or dysfunctional dynamic, the damaging effects of this had a deep effect, effects I’m still healing from. That healing has gone through many cycles and in some ways I was reluctant to put this out into the public domain because while this is certainly a part of my past, it’s not necessarily where I am today. Nevertheless, it does provide some context to my journey and possible a different perspective for yours…
So how did I broadly go about healing from this type of dynamic?
Well firstly recognition was key for me. Seeing it. That Ah-ha moment came quite late on for me after an off-hand joke someone made about abusive dynamics and suddenly it was like someone had turned a light on and the room that I was standing in lit up completely. Up until that point I had been so ‘in it’ that while I knew there were some major issues, I had tended to blame myself as the relationship itself offered no validation to what I was feeling. So this was the first thing for me, acknowledging and see that it was a dynamic, both an external and internal (conditioned super-ego) dynamic that had come about through that person’s wounds and their own conditioning.
[I just want to interject here and say I believe we all have wounds and conditioning that we can quite easily lay down on another, it’s for each of us to break and heal from this cycle. So in this way, I don’t blame this person now, although at the time of this Ah-ha I very much did. I actually believe that’s was a healthy thing for me at the time: “It’s you not me,” as this was part of the problem, them always blaming the other and never taking any responsibility.]
Initially it was impossible to get the kind of closure, validation and accountability I sought, and that I felt I deserved from them. I had to actually walk away, unhook and focus on myself and my own healing in the broader sense. So sometimes the most closure, and therefore the peace is in the realisation and acceptance that you can’t get closure, and then in time this becomes all the closure you need.
How I came to this is I asked myself is who is this need for closure and resolution really hurting, them or me? The answer was ME and ultimately what I wanted was not to hurt anymore. I had tried going down the route of reasoning, explaining how I felt and trying to ‘fix’ them, showing them their wrongness of their actions & ways many times, but the first real step of healing for me was disconnecting. Physically disconnecting but also very importantly, mentally and emotionally.
I was perpetuating the hurt within myself by having my attention on them and their wrongs rather than my emotions, feelings and thought patterns in their own right. The only thing in this equation that I really could and should be focusing on was ME.
Focusing on how to stand in my truth and not give into the conditioning that I had taken on in life that was so destructive. For me it really meant learning to not be afraid of my emotions or the physical sensations and thoughts that came with them. Learning to life fully, even if it meant falling flat on my face. Learning to stand in my own emotions, not suck them up in favour of someone else’s needs.
This mean also learning to give space to the parts of me that I hated, ignored or felt shouldn’t be there, even embrace them like I would a small child – this was a big part of that, learning to be tender and forgiving of myself. This helped me to learn that whatever reared its head, that was okay, I was a big enough space to let it pass through me. In this way I found acceptance and love of myself and all that I had gone through in life. I stopped making any affliction or troublesome thoughts and emotions that I was going through wrong, even the meta feeling of wrongness. I had to learn to love myself and recognise that I was important, deserved to be seen and loveable, even though I wasn’t ‘perfect’ and I made mistakes. This wasn’t a quick or easy processes by any means.
The Road of Forgiveness
Later down the road forgiveness was also necessary for me to fully be free and ultimately be at peace. And for that I need to come to a deeper level of understanding, which is partly what that ‘Being Human‘ piece was talking to, that we ALL have deep and dark areas of ourselves, we are ALL capable of deep and destructive hurt whether it’s on purpose or not. That goes for hurt of ourselves AND others as the way I see it our hurt to others is often (but not always) a reflection of our own inner world and vice versa.
Damaged people (can) cause damage to others. So from the tender shoots of this recognition I believe forgiveness and ultimate healing can come about. As difficult to accept as this might be, I feel every person is doing their very very very cutting edge best in any given moment. And sometimes that best is just not good enough, but it’s still their best. Their actions may be coming from their own deep wounds and trauma, leading to the inability to act from anywhere else. To leave room for this possibility is to leave room for that possibility in ourselves too.
You might be thinking, “Well for some it comes out of a conscious ‘choice’ to act in a harmful way,” but even in this I feel we always have to eventually go deeper. What made them feel that they needed to act in this abhorrent way? Defensiveness, fear, lack of love, low self-esteem so that hurting another made them feel bigger, better? The list goes on and on. For me these dynamics seem to come from a deep seated sense of lack, lack of love, lack of security, lack of control and if you’ve been badly conditioned and taught to look to fill and fix this sense of lack in destructive ways… well we see what happens all over the place.
I want to be VERY clear. I am NOT talking about letting someone off the hook and saying “Oh they were hurt or damaged, that means I have to forgive them and excuse them.” I’m also NOT saying that you have to be physically or emotionally in relation to them. NO!! I’m saying that it is possible to hold the seeming paradoxes inside of you – The acknowledgement and self validation that “Yes what happened happened and it was destructive and horrible.” But ALSO that we are all human and we all make mistakes and act in ways that are less than. This understanding helped me to realise those final hooks of hurt and move into a new era of healing.
We all have to have accountability to ourselves and others but also forgiveness. We need to be able to acknowledge wrongdoing but also move on – in others and also ourselves. Without both of these aspects healing is difficult.
Like I said in that ‘Being Human’ article, we all have a darkness and a light inside of us. It’s part of the lived experience of being human. No one is exempt. Those who show most compassions to others often have accepted this in themselves. When we hide from our darkness we put it in shadow, we make it unconscious. When it’s unconscious it pops up in the most unexpected and often violent ways, like a hole in a cracked bucket. You plug the hole but then the water bursted and breaks through the cracks anyway.
At least if we can see our darkness, we’re aware of it, awake to it, then we can know it’s shape, it’s boundaries, we can work with it, not against it – we can accept it. Which is why I encourage others to see this in themselves, to not be blind, afraid or ashamed of these darker aspects of our human experience.
Root Out Any Conditioning
I do also have one practical thing that was of help to me and may be of help to you, but always measure any advice (mine absolutely included) against what feels right for you – stand in YOUR TRUTH, listen to yourself.
So my ‘advice’ as it were: Root out any implanted conditioning or views that this person or persons has laid on you. Those doubts, those fears, those uncertainties of who you are or what is right or wrong. Root them out, question if they’re true. Question if they’re your actual views or something that you’ve taken on without question, taken on as an assumption of Truth. Was it their projection and their own wounds being laid on you, or were they pointing out something in you that is actually true and that you feel yourself? Being able to tell the difference and throw out those untruths can be very healing and I believe totally necessary.
I still on occasion have that little voice of the super-ego that was actually just their conditioning implanted in me, telling me I am this or that, I should behave and do this or that in x,y or z way. Without identifying and rooting those out you can find yourself still stuck in a cycle of self abuse, even though the ‘abuser’ is long gone.
Healing is possible, but it’s YOUR healing, not theirs. Take care of yourself, learn to love yourself, learn to accept yourself.
This is part of your story, it’s part of what makes you you right here, right now. You can’t cut it out, but you don’t need to wear it like a badge of honour for the rest of your life either. Can you forgive and accept yourself for falling for it, for letting yourself be in that situation? Can you grow and move beyond it, free from it but still grateful for the lessons it taught you?
I know this is a difficult and painful processes. I’ve been through it intimately and am still learning and growing from it. Today I find myself with gratitude to all my life lessons. Would I like to go through them again? Hell no! But I also see that they made me into who I am, warts and all. They made me seek freedom and peace, they helped me to find true happiness, they brought me to a clarity that wasn’t there before.
Like I said earlier, please do only take what feels true to you. I offer no advice here, just a perspective on part of my journey and how it unfolded. None of this is easy, it’s messy, there are no right answers.