Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, offers suggestions on breaking toxic relationship patterns by looking closely at your beliefs — especially those that do not support you. Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
Have you found yourself getting into relationships with sociopaths or others who are toxic or unhealthy in some way?
If so, you are so not alone. It’s human nature to repeat patterns of behaviour, especially when it involves an unresolved emotional issue that’s lying there for us to trip over again and again.
It’s not even a conscious choice. It’s like we’re on auto-pilot with old tapes playing in our subconscious minds, driving us to try again, to fix it this time, to make it work, get it right, correct the mistake, and playing not-so-quietly in the background is a constant loop of “Maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this time.”
Whether that unresolved issue has its roots in childhood or a more recent experience, unless and until there is real healing and resolution of it, or until we learn how to create more powerful, positive and supportive beliefs that will override the toxic hidden ones, we continue to play out the original trauma, the painful incidents or circumstances that have left us feeling wounded or broken.
We cannot escape the inherent need to put it right. This is why we keep finding ourselves in the same kinds of toxic relationship patterns, and facing the same problems again and again. They might wear different clothes, or come in a different shape or size, but whatever the mask or disguise might be, what lies underneath is always the same. And there we are…”in it” yet again.
It’s like being one of those tiny plastic wind-up toys that walks. You fish him out of the cereal box, wind him up and set him on the kitchen table. Staring straight ahead, he walks, walks, walks, oblivious to the box in his path until he smacks right into it. His little arms and legs are still moving but he’s not going anywhere. You pick him up, wind him up again, put him back at his “start” position, and he walks, walks, walks, still not seeing the box that is directly in his path…and then he slams into it yet again…arms and legs still moving, and nope, still not getting anywhere.
Yes, There Is Another Option!
As long as you keep winding him up, moving him back to his “start” position, and setting him in the same direction, this will happen over and over again. Only when you remove the cereal box, or when you set him down in a new direction will you get a different result.
If you keep finding yourself in situations that don’t feel good and with people who treat you with disrespect or any sort of toxic or crazy-making behaviour, it is essential to discover the triggers that keep landing you there. You don’t have to live like this. It is possible to recover from the damage caused by sociopaths. And it is possible to have a happier, healthier relationship—whether in your personal or professional life. The first step is to believe that you deserve it!
The next step is to take a close look at your patterns. Meditation and journalling are two excellent tools to help you recognise them and to begin understanding them. They will differ from one person to the next so it’s difficult to address such a deep topic here but I can offer an example or two that could get you started on thinking about your own patterns.
Let’s say you had a mother who told you with some frequency that you would never amount to anything. She told you that you were stupid or that no one would be interested in anything you have to offer. You grow up and somewhere along the way, you start hearing that this isn’t very nice and it’s no way to talk to a child. You know in your head that she was wrong.
But deep down in your subconscious, you believe that she was right. Those beliefs are going to sabotage your efforts to be successful. You’ll quit before you start. You’ll give up when it gets a little difficult or just before you reach the finish line. You’ll settle for mediocre jobs or partners. You’ll feel grateful for any scraps of attention or what you see as love—which is all too likely to be a toxic situation with someone who validates those not-very-nice beliefs about yourself.
Where Do You Begin?
At the beginning. As I mentioned, try meditation and/or journalling. Look at the places in your life where you’re stuck. Look at the toxic relationship patterns in your life. Find the common themes in the dynamics between you and the partner or partners you’ve had in relationships that haven’t been good. Look at what felt great in the beginning, and why it felt so good. And it’s most important to look at the patterns between you when things fell apart.
How did you view yourself in the relationship? How did you view your partner, and how did that person view you in return? Can you see any similarities from one relationship to the next? Or between that relationship and your childhood or how you felt in your family as a kid (or even now)?
It’s important to start examining what you believe about yourself in general. That’s a huge statement, I know. You’re probably asking, “Believe in what ways?” Well, anything. And everything. Give yourself a block of time, a few hours perhaps, so you can do some work and the process it. Just start writing what you believe about yourself, your place in the world, how you fit with others, what you believe about other people. Anything. There are no rules.
If you allow yourself to commit to this process, you could be astonished at what comes up.
Once you’ve unearthed a lengthy list of beliefs, see if you can spot patterns. You might need to group together similar beliefs to make that easier. Perhaps share your list with a trusted friend or mentor to see if you can brainstorm some themes and patterns.
How you break those patterns will depend on what they are and what your situation is but I can promise you, if you’re willing to make the effort, you can break old patterns and it is so worth doing. Your future happiness depends on it.
It takes a fair bit of excavating to uncover the toxic relationship patterns and it can also require a lot of conversation with a qualified counselor or psychologist to help you unravel the deepest parts of yourself in relation to these patterns. Sometimes a few really good self-help books can work miracles, such as Dr. Phil McGraw’s book, “Self Matters.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been that little plastic wind-up toy way too many times. Thank heaven for a deep healing journey of self-awareness, discovery and insights. I will never smack into that cereal box ever again.
This article was originally published at LibertyForrest.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.