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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Own It

recovering from emotional abuse
It's not fair.
They target people like us.

People who are kind and well-meaning, who want to care for the needs of others, who want nothing more than to bring some happiness in to the world.
Are we really too nice
I don't think so!
I think that they are too duplicitous and too good at using our kindness against us.

Most of us have seen the lives that people live and we want to see them change, we want to help them to feel better.

That's the rub, though. In pursuit of a better life for those we care for, we tend to overdo it. We tend to give too much. We tend to overcompensate for what they cannot do.  We have to own this because that's the only way for us to move beyond it.

Let's admit that we were too willing to do almost anything to please them. Until they mistreated our intentions and took advantage of us, we really meant well.  For reasons of our own we were willing to let go of our own needs in order to please someone else.  But what were those reasons? We must ask ourselves this question. We must acknowledge our part in the relationship for one reason:  so that we never, ever allow ourselves to get there again.

It is perfectly normal and admirable to want to help people.  It is perfectly normal to look for a relationship that meets one's needs. It is perfectly normal to long to feel special to someone. It is perfectly normal to show one's love by putting another person's needs before ourselves at times. It is perfectly normal to seek to alleviate pain in another person.  The problem comes when one goes over the line again and again, when one ignores the warning signs, when one allows one's self to disappear into the background, self chipping away piece by piece, when one ignores or denies the warning signs of a highly dysfunctional relationship, when one covers for other adults who need to face natural and necessary consequences for their actions, when one stays so long in an abusive or unhealthy relationship that they feel powerless and crazy, and when one ignores their own needs for safety and good health.

Let's explore healthy boundaries.
We owe that to ourselves.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Chapters

My recovery process was long and arduous, probably most are. As I moved forward into learning a healthier way of living I realized how much false knowledge I had in my head. So many of the things that I thought I knew turned out to be false, skewed, twisted, or misleading. It was weird. 

Eventually my motto became Question Everything. That was how I approached almost everything, from memories I had to so-called common knowledge to rituals to reasons why to motivations. I questioned all of it.

Excessive? Maybe.

But, today, I'm proud of that journey.

That motto Question Everything took me a long way into becoming a healthier person. One day I read another thing that absolutely changed my life. Something simple yet profound. I remember the moment I first read Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson. I think of the content of this writing as being seminal to almost all recovery.

Anyway, as I was reading it for the first time I realized that I was almost up to IV, and I was feeling great that I could recognize my own recovery journey in the poem, when a question entered my head as I was reading. I thought, WAIT, I can see my journey up to here but I have no idea what comes next. I can't predict what the final, healthy step is; what is V? What is the final chapter? 

 It was a really weird moment to realize that I still wasn't where I wanted to be and I still didn't know how to get there. So I kept reading...X is so obvious to me now.

I am sharing it here with you because this writing, so popular in recovery circles back in the day, is very important to me.

Can you relate?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's Not Fair

recovery from emotional abuse
Life can throw some pretty huge curve balls at perfectly nice people. 
It is really not fair.  
No kidding, it is not fair.

Why do some wonderful human beings develop or carry schizophrenia or Bi Polar Affective Disorder? Why might a hopeful, bright-eyed young couple discover that one or both of them has a serious illness? Why does severe and devastating loss crash down on undeserving people? Is it fair that tiny children are raised by abusive, angry, absent, incapable mentally ill, alcoholic, or neglectful parents?

Each of these annihilating events can start a chain reaction of confusion, crisis, addiction, maladaptive or unique and unhealthy patterns that are passed from one generation to the next to the next to the next...

Catastrophic events can tear at the very fiber of good relationships and can be destructive to fully-functioning human beings, all resulting in people who might describe themselves as broken. Broken-feeling people who may become abusers themselves, deeply depressed, suicidal, carriers of poor parenting skills, substance abusers, chronically unsettled travelers through life, participants in incredibly unhealthy relationships, emotional abusers, none of these, or other forms of hurtful or aberrant behavior and thought patterns. Patterns that further add to the generational patterns resulting in unhappy and disconsolate people.

It isn't fair.

What is a person to do?

Always and in all ways, seek help.
Don't stay stuck.

  • Become a researcher on what is healthy.
  • What do good communication patterns look like?
  • How do we talk about our feelings and needs and fears?
  • What can I do to help others; what can I not do?
  • How can I figure out if I am in an unhealthy relationship?
  • What are healthy boundaries between myself and unhealthy others?
  • What can I do to best care for myself and my self?
  • What are the qualities of really good therapy?
  • What books will start me on a journey towards good self care?
  • What are my goals along a journey of self care?
  • Do I have to leave loved ones in some way?
  • Where can I find help, support, and connection?

If the process of recovery seems expensive, too out of your control, too far away, or difficult at this time may I recommend you begin with something very simple and completely free.

Start by talking to yourself kindly, powerfully, and regularly.
Be your own best friend.  You know what you need to hear so say those things to yourself, or create a journal and write them, or both. 

Here are a few ideas for affirmations to beginning the road to self care:

  • I deserve kindness.
  • I am an important and unique person.
  • I am confident and capable.
  • I can choose my own belief system based on what makes the most sense to me
  • I see good qualities in myself and in other people.
  • I am letting go of negative thoughts of myself.
  • I am growing and learning.
  • I have many good qualities.
  • I have good things to offer the world.
  • I like myself.
  • I feel good about myself.
  • Each day I trust in myself more and more.
  • I have much to offer.
  • Liking and respecting myself gets easier each day.
- See more at:
- See more at:

Go ahead and get started today. 
You can do it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is a Toxic Person?

toxic person, emotional abuse
On this blog I have purposefully not used terms like narcissist, manipulator, codependent, alcoholic, sociopath, etc for a reason. Unhealthy relationships and people can take many forms and can follow many different patterns and I want this blog to be useful to many readers. I'm pretty sure that most people who read here aren't a child of highly-toxic parents, that is my issue, but I know that my experiences can be universal in some ways. This post is about one of those universal things that we are all fighting:  Toxicity. 

What do I mean by toxic? I have given this some thought and I offer these descriptors as ways that a person or a relationship can be toxic. It's not a race. It's not a rule. If you can relate, you can relate.

A toxic relationship can be one with an employer, a friend, a partner or spouse, a parent, a child, church leaders, a teacher or group leader, a psychiatrist, even a culture.

  •  At first things will seem golden, perfect. You will feel as though you are being swept off of your feet, rescued.
  • Toxic people treat you like you are worthless, secondary to their own issues.
  • Conversations and interactions with toxic people leave you feeling more confused, not less, more alone, less supported or understood.
  • Toxic people often brag and boast in a grandiose manner about their own value, generally exaggerating accomplishments or successes.
  • A toxic person will not address issues that you bring up in the relationship.
  • A toxic person will blame you for issues that you bring up to them and will not accept responsibility for their own words or actions.
  • A toxic person does not respect boundaries or privacy. Your car will be searched, your phone calls questioned, texts read, your visit to doctors, laundromats, nights out with friends, even time spent at work will find the toxic person accompanying you.
  • Toxic people are often involved in some type of addiction:  power, pornography or sex, alcohol, food, competitive activities, gambling, exercise, drugs...
  • A toxic person or relationship will undervalue your input.
  • This person tends to tell you (with words and actions) that they value and need you while also telling you that you are worthless, lazy, crazy, wrong, delusional, ugly, and many other negatives and insults and labels that attack who you are.

    And there is more...
  • Secrets, lies, hiding things, changing stories about reality, false flattery to others.  These are hallmarks of a toxic person or system.
  • This person will belittle you, tease you, point out any small error.
  • They will work less while you work more, and it is never enough. More and more you feel like you can't keep up with the demands of the relationship or system.
  • This person or system will actively seek out praise and esteem from those around you. This need for praise seems insatiable.
  • These people can not identify a single weakness or error in themselves.
  • This person will talk negatively about you behind your back, tell stories about you, falsify stories, generally create a public smear of you, in spite of your efforts to please him or her. They will tell stories about you to your friends, co workers, family, and others. These stories are attempts to separate you from your support system. They appear to know you better than you know yourself.
  • Shame and guilt are used to control you.
  • This person will belittle your friends, your job, your interests, your accomplishments, your plans, your successes, your ambitions, your goals, your family, your children, your appearance, your clothing, your reactions, your questions, your concerns...
  • A toxic person will tell you how you feel, what you think, what has happened to you, and who you are. They may even speak for you, so much so that people start wondering if the words are yours or not.
  • You view of reality is invalidated, belittled, and condescended.
  • They expect total loyalty to who they are, what they believe, their choices, and their public persona.
  • Important and supportive messages are withheld, horded, kept from you. They believe that any positive messages that you receive removes power from them.
  • This person demands sex from you without offering any sort of emotional connection or as payment for anything.

    Can you relate to any of this?
  • Toxic people do not apologize or acknowledge pain they have caused. At first they might but as time goes on more and more apologies will be turned around to blame the other person.
  • They seem to have no compassion whatsoever.
  • This person criticizes, belittles, is cruel, vindictive, withholds affection or approval, or adds more pain when you are hurting or struggling.
  • This person's integrity is questionable or absent.
  • Your healthy boundaries are not respected, are overrun, are disrespected. You have no private places, thoughts, time.
  • This person or system will knowingly say things that belittle your belief system, your ideals, your personality, your past.
  • Event recounting will change events, stories will alter reality, conversations will be recalled erroneously. History will be treated as malleable and arbitrary. Reality will be skewed.
  • Moods will be hard to predict and impossible to calm.
  • You will be blamed for the moods and behavior of others.
  • You are being sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused, spiritually abused, or abused in any other way.

If you are feeling depressed, low self-esteem, confusion about who you are, disconnected, broken, or worthless consider the possibility that you are in a toxic relationship that has brought confusion to your mind... I have known toxic employers, toxic parents, toxic partners, toxic clergy, toxic friends, toxic teachers, toxic family members, toxic group leaders, toxic children...

If you can identify that a person or system or culture or employment is toxic in your life, find out more information and figure out how to get away. If you think someone in your life is toxic, you are probably right. No more ignoring, no more guilt, no shame, no blind eyes. Even small steps to health and safety are better than no steps at all.  So consider this a baby step.

In every case of this type of toxic person I recommend getting to safety immediately.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Physical Symptoms of Stress

emotional abuse recovery
There is one thing that will never lie to you and that is your own body. If you are living deep inside of a toxic system, experiencing emotional trauma, or using abusing behaviors to cope you can count on one thing that will always tell the absolute truth.

Your body will clearly shout out for help.  Ulcers, headaches, general malaise, diarrhea, heart palpitations, poor memory, stomach aches, shakiness, anxiety or anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, choking, shortness of breath, loss of appetite or food cravings, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, dry mouth, or general pains. Your body will not be silent. It is resilient, but it is not silent.

Bodies do not deny. Bodies are predictable. Bodies are truthful. Bodies respond with natural consequences. People who experience trauma or abuse almost always experience physical illness that can be traced back to stress. The problem is that many people who are living inside of toxic relationships have disconnected from their bodies, or have stopped paying attention to physical cues that their bodies provide. 

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, these conditions both have an array of physical symptoms that are difficult to ignore; from headaches and stomach aches, your body is communicating with you, asking you to pay attention. If your method of survival has been to ignore or to deny abuse, your body will not allow you to ignore for very long. It will begin to telegraph messages to you through physical discomfort.

A good physician will recognize the body's physical manifestations of painful, abusive, unhealthy, and hidden toxic patterns and relationships. See a good physician and let them know exactly how your emotional struggle is being displayed through these body cues.

Pay attention. If you're not sure of the realities of your life, listen to what your body is telling you. It is resilient, trustworthy, and honest. What is your body telling you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sarcasm: I Was Only Joking!

emotional abuse, getting healthy
I have lost friends over this one.

The simple fact is, people who love one another do not make fun of each other unless they both agree to the rules. I had a friend who simply could not appreciate the fact that adults and other healthy people do not feel the need to grind another person under their heel for a laugh and then claim I was only joking!

If one human being says to another I don't find that funny, please stop, then the second human being needs to respect that.

Oftentimes disrespect, anger, dishonesty, and other painful or negative emotions are often hidden in jokes. Why?  The person who cannot speak honestly and respectfully about issues that bother them will hide their true thoughts in jokes. Sarcasm is the weapon of a truly illiterate, damaging, and obtuse adult.

The barbs are hidden, but every one of us can feel them anyway. The fact is, a person who manipulates or tears down a person often uses sarcasm to hide what is, essentially, open season on teasing and shaming.  Their trick is that it makes you look petty to confront that which they are calling humor.  It makes you doubt yourself, question yourself, wonder if you really are too sensitive.  YOU are the strong one for recognizing the truth.

YOU are the strong one.

Make no mistake, they know they are sending you mixed messages, they know that their jokes are aimed at your insecurities...their jokes are the poison that you think that they are.

TRUST YOURSELF. Trust that you know exactly what is happening.  Recognizing the hidden truth of their joking is the same thing as recognizing their infidelity while they call you jealous, recognizing their abuse while they call you sensitive or bitter, and recognizing that they are truly lying to you while they call you crazy. Unhealthy, crumbling people hide behind humor. They will never admit this, acknowledge it, or claim it. Don't waste your time in getting them to see what they are doing.

You have caught them in their not-so-subtle trick of using humor to be rude, cruel, shallow, undercutting, or just plain hurtful.

It's not funny.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Key to the Cage: Knowledge

emotional abuse and recovery

I'm sorry!
I misunderstood!
You are right.
I didn't know what I was doing.

They expect you to collect all of the blame and pain and to keep quiet with it. 
They expect you to put it into your rucksack and carry it with you.
They expect you to claim the crazy.

When you are immersed in a toxic system or with a toxic person, you can count on a few things:
  1. The person or system will never, ever accept responsibility unless to do so manipulates you to stay.
  2. If it is possible to confuse you more with lies, misdirection, or projection they will do it.
  3. They count on you accepting the confusion.
  4. Their long-held beliefs make clear thought very difficult.
If you are looking for the one secret to recovery it is this:  knowledge. Inform yourself. Know the facts. Research. Read. Discuss. Learn the options. Never be fooled by unconvincing stories.

Every time you know the facts over the claims you regain a part of yourself. Every time you recognize the falsehood and the deceit you strengthen yourself. Every single time you trust your own memory, instincts, and senses you make it harder for someone else to confuse you and to ensnare you in their psychological traps.

If something is quietly causing you to question, welcome that. Embrace it.

Breath and know that you know reality.
Quietly recognize that you have clearer eyes.
Protectively celebrate this quiet success.

No need to confront anyone. No need to convince anyone. There is absolutely no need to let everyone know that you are one step closer to health, freedom, and reclaiming yourself.

For now it is good enough that you know it.

Just knowing that you have clearer eyes and mind puts you one step closer to good health.

As always, if you are in danger, find shelter immediately.