Relationships: Where We Are Wounded & Where We Heal

Oh…man… There are a lot of complicated subjects on the planet, among them relationships. How can some relationships be SO wonderful - satisfying, easy, and safe - while others are SO difficult, fraught with turmoil, angst, and strife? It’s a wonder humanity exists in relative harmony.

One of the hardest parts of recovering ourselves from painful relationships is learning to discern what safe behavior looks and feels like to us. I heard something a long time ago from Marshall Sylver that I remember as this…When you’ve been doing wrong for so long, right feels wrong. In other words, doing something new never feels quite right at first. It’s often uncomfortable and uncertain territory to enact change. And yet…without the ability to withstand this discomfort of going from practiced to new, most of us will fall back into our old behavior patterns.

Since we were so deeply wounded in very close relationships, many of us will choose instead to isolate ourselves from others. Some of us were wounded in ways that left us fragmented from ourselves. This is entirely expected, and it’s entirely possible to re-integrate as a whole person. But here’s the catch: the isolation is effective to a point…until it keeps us away from others who are healthy for us to be around. We can’t heal in isolation.

Not allowing someone to be close who has a pattern of behaving in wounding ways in relationship is beneficial self-care.

If someone comes to my home and tosses around their excrement, they would not be a welcome guest in the future. It’s good self-care for me not to invite that person to my home again or to let them in if they show up without an invitation. However, not allowing ANYONE to come over eventually could keep me from having fun during game night or dinner parties with people who don’t toss about their sh*t.

Does that make sense?

Disclaimer: isolation and solitude, in my way of seeing things, are different. Isolation can be corrosive. Solitude can be restorative. Maybe more on this another time.

And so we reach a crucial point in recovering ourselves when we realize that we simply cannot heal any more on our own; that we need other people and human connection in order to truly heal and for most of us, that is a terrifying discovery. That’s what often keeps us stuck in relationships that are wounding.

But at a deep level we realize the value of human connection. The people in our lives who’ve shown up and reminded us of our value and our worth appeared as if by magic. Just when we needed a kind word or smile, even if we couldn’t fully take it in, it was there. We know that in order to move forward we want to learn how to be healthy in all of our relationships, including the one we have with ourselves, health, money, our careers, and others.

It’s in knowing the love of others that we are lifted out of the quagmire of toxic relationships.

If you’ve experienced a toxic relationship and you’re not quite sure how to trust your own judgment but you deeply want to, know that there is a way forward. Restoring body, mind, spirit, and social connections will help you do so.

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