When you are in the addictive grip of a toxic relationship you may feel as if you are spiraling down in a cycle of painful emotions.
When this happening with your intimate partner the feeling of being trapped and lost can be overwhelming. The fear and confusion can lead to crippling depression and anxiety.
Toxic relationships can womb your soul. But rest assured. Your soul is still there. Just like the sun on a rainy day is covered by the clouds.
At this point you are at a crossroads:
Continue living life like the walking dead
Break the pattern and walk a and more life-affirming path
Realizing you are being emotionally abused can be painful. The feelings of shame and self-blame that emerge can temporarily make the experience even worse than when you were in denial.
I know, I’ve been there.
This is one of the aims of the narcissistic emotional abuser — to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and gain control over you. To make you feel you can no longer be independent, healthy and whole.
But this realization can also wake you up to new possibilities.
By breaking free from the abusive cycle, you are beginning a new chapter.
This call to heal is akin to the call to adventure in the classic hero or heroine’s journey. Joseph Campbell identified this monomyth in the mid-20th century as a classic model of personal growth that existed across all ancient cultures and remains just as relevant today.
It’s a journey that starts with dedicating yourself to self-care practices. It ends with embracing new adventures that feed your soul and bringing home the gifts of wisdom, wholeness, and joy.
On this adventure, the heroine/hero may accept the challenge or not.
If they do so, they face a series of challenges, meet allies who assist, face adversaries, meet trials, receive gifts.
Ultimately there is a lasting transformation, a blessing to be enjoyed and shared with others.
So it is in our healing journey from narcissistic abuse.
The first task is clear: reverse the damage the toxic cycle has caused to your body and brain. Set boundaries to prevent more poison from entering your system.
It’s scientifically proven by neuro-psychological studies that being the target of narcissistic abuse brings on self-defeating patterns of anxiety, self-doubt, and depression even if you never exhibited these before.
The old childhood nursery rhyme that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is simply false for folks who’ve become entangled with narcissistic partners. The hamster wheel of pleasing them can rob you of your emotional and physical health.
Following this journey starts with simple steps but it can lead you to beautiful and unexpected places.
It literally can get you in touch with the wisdom of your soul. With your true gifts.
It can create a foundation of courage, insight, and habits that pave the way for a new life story.
Once you have healed your body and mind, you can embark upon the adventure of trying new things.
Why is this important? By creating new fulfilling experiences, you distance yourself from the rut you were in while living with an emotionally abusive narcissist partner. The new experiences create new neural pathways.
I remember the moment I realized that I needed to make a big change…
Looking out at the majestic redwoods home I realized I was like a caged bird. I loved where I live, but something was very wrong. My partner’s rages were terrifying to me. He’d learned just where to push on my fear buttons, sending me into a spiral where I hardly recognized myself.
For years pressures of living in the Bay Area had led me on a downward spiral where I lived in survival mode and had accepted a relationship that was toxic and impacting my health but offered me a measure of security.
I needed to find a new vision for my life. My guidance was telling me that if I made a big change and followed my longtime dream of living again in South America that I could be happy again and connect with the things that make my soul sing.
The idea of living abroad again had been banging around in my head for years. But it seemed so unrealistic. I’d pushed it out of my head. With thoughts such as:
Just focus on your practical career.
You’re too old for that.
Make this relationship work.
Who else will be there for me if I break up with this guy?
Maybe this is as good as it gets.
As I made these rationalizations, I felt I was dying inside.
I’d lost all hope in having a better future.
I wanted to hide so no one could see me.
This bonded me even further to my partner. The trauma of the ugly scenes we’d shared worked like a type of glue. It was only later that I understood the addictive cycle that wreaks havoc with your hormones.
As anyone who has been the target of narcissistic abuse knows, these folks can seem initially to provide you with exactly what you need, coming across as incredibly charming and loving. The cutting remarks, control, threats, manipulation, and character defamation start to come up later.
Any vulnerabilities you may have let them see become points of attack.
Meanwhile, you may not feel much support from friends and family — as was my case. The person is so charming in public.
Some of your friends may see what’s going on clearly and urge you to leave. But if you’re living together or married, this brings up a new set of challenges. Who will be with you now that you feel diminished? Where will you go?
But the truth is the situation is far from hopeless. There are specific practices and support systems that can counteract the effects of the damage. From there you can springboard into a much better place.
By following your heroine or hero’s journey you can not only recover the healthier person you were before this toxic relationship, but you can also live with far greater wisdom and joy.
I now live the life of a digital nomad. In each country where I spend 3–6 months, I make new, soul-aligned friends and live adventures in nature, music, dance, and culture.
This life brings synchronicity and blessings. Heart connections and stimulation. Are there huge challenges to living in a new place every few months? Of course. But overcoming these hurdles builds my self- esteem rather than tearing it down.
Even on the most difficult day, this life is infinitely more satisfying than the life of a caged bird in a toxic relationship.
Each person’s soul path is unique. Finding it often requires a journey that takes us to unusual places.
Every day I feel thankful for the healing tools and the courage I learned recovering from a toxic relationship. This brought me to the path of joy.