December 07, 2021
A toxic relationship is highly destructive. It creates a loss of sense of self through verbal and emotional abuse that tears down the person at a very basic level. Toxic relationships are often hard to see for the individual, as the toxicity or the negativity and abuse builds slowly. Even when there is no physical abuse, the constant degrading comments, the control over every aspect of your life, the gaslighting and blame associated with these types of relationships causes damage that is hard to see but highly devastating to experience.
The good news is that people can leave toxic relationships. Taking the time to work with a therapist or a counselor or joining a supportive community like my Inner Circle helps to identify the key signs of a toxic relationship and to rebuild your sense of self-worth, self-compassion, and self-love.
Tapping Into Your Resilience
Some people are not as impacted by traumatic relationships as others. These people have a quality that is known as resilience. Resilience is not just pretending everything is OK or putting on a brave smile and going forward. It is an ability to accept a difficult situation and to adapt to the stressful event. It is more simply described as the ability to go through something that is difficult or traumatic and bounce back.
People that have natural resilience still experience trauma, sadness, loss, grief, stress, and distress, but they also have coping mechanisms to manage these issues. It is possible to build your resilience through these experiences. Research shows that building resilience includes:
· Increasing connections – people who have significant connections with others in their life have higher levels of resilience. Through therapy, a supportive community and rebuilding relationships with friends and family, you can become stronger and more resilient after a toxic relationship.
· Wellbeing – focusing on your mental health and wellbeing is critical to becoming more resilient. Learning to identify stress and use effective relaxation, mindfulness, and self-care strategies is essential.
· Focus on healthy thinking – dwelling on past mistakes and bad relationships is harmful, looking at change, growth, and the future is optimistic and positive.
· Set goals – goals can include having a purpose and a passion in your life. When people have this internal sense of who they are and what they want to do in the world, they look for ways to be successful, even in challenging times.
Post Traumatic Growth
One thing that can happen after trauma is something now recognized as post traumatic growth or PTG. Post traumatic growth is not the same as resilience. Resilience helps you to bounce back after the event and to avoid a lengthy mental recovery period. You already have a process in place to move you from the stressful situation to the positive future.
For those with limited resilience, the time of struggle of dealing with the challenge opens up the door to growth. This is almost like reinventing your way of looking at life given what happened to you during the toxic relationship.
Personal growth prevents the solution of just eliminating all relationships in your life as a self-defense mechanism. Instead, it allows you to evaluate yourself and to make significant, positive changes, including in your belief system around relationships and your worthiness in the world.
Research finds there are different aspects of post traumatic growth. These include:
· Creating positive relationships with others – this is not just intimate or partner relationships, but reconnecting and building relationships with a support network like my Inner Circle.
· Appreciation – appreciating who you are and what you bring to the world and to a relationship is important.
· Potential – for many people, growth around their potential or possibilities in all aspects of their life is a critical aspect of growth.
· Stronger sense of self – becoming clear on who you are as a person is a significant area of growth.
Working with a therapist familiar with post traumatic growth helps you to develop a new perspective and outlook on yourself and your life. It allows you to stop defining your life as that toxic relationship and look towards the future with a positive, proactive, and confident sense of who you are in the world.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked:How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love