Do you ever feel angry, ashamed, broken or despairing? Do you ever look at other people feel worth less by comparison? If you do, then ( despite what you may be telling yourself) you are NOT in any way fatally flawed. However, you are highly likely to be an empath who is still paying the hidden costs of a toxic relationship. As part of rectifying a situation that is not working too well for you, we need to look at the hidden costs of toxic relationships.
The problem with empaths
But let’s start by putting this in context. Heart-centred people, aka empaths, are delightful human beings. We empaths have commendable intentions and aspirations. Nevertheless, we do tend to have one key design flaw.
The flip side to the empath’s great strengths is this: we tend to believe that other people are just like us really. At bottom. Even those who appear quite different and even decidedly less, well, heart-centred. Even – sometimes especially – those people who act in ways that are toxic, abusive and Narcissistic.
We empaths believe that all we have to do (notice the rush to responsibility, here) is clear the rubble of hurtfulness away from the lives of those apparently different people. When we do that, they will surface as lovely, shiny, new empaths. Just like us. Or better. (Because you know how self-effacing we empaths are.)
It takes us a long, traumatic time before the light finally dawns and we accept this simple truth: people who appear toxic, abusive, and Narcissistic, appear that way for a good reason. They are that way.
In other words, our empathy creates a kind of tunnel vision. That tunnel vision gets in the way of us,
- a) Seeing other people – especially abusive family and intimate partners – as they really are.
b) Understanding that even empaths need to have no-go zones.
c) Seeing – and honoring – ourselves as we are.
By the time that we finally bow out of a toxic relationship – or else are discarded – we are a M-E-S-S. Now, this is the point at which empaths tend to slide into despair mode. But it is, equally, the point where the story gets interesting.
All my years of working with women survivors of toxic relationships has shown me that we are all messes in much the same way.
Admittedly, not all of us empaths manifest the mess that we have become in the same way. Some of us may drink more than others, or rush headlong into the next relationship; we may comfort eat or misery starve ourselves. There are plenty of different ways that we can use to reduce our distress to manageable proportions.. However, do not let these different manifestations mislead you. At bottom we are all using the best coping mechanisms we can find to handle the same 7 costs of toxic relationships.
If I said to you that abuse leaves you with feelings of worthlessness, shame, despair, overwhelm and anxiety, you would, doubtless, nod sagely. I would not be telling you anything that you do not already know.
However, there is frequently a gulf between what your intellect knows and what your head and heart actually recognise. If I told you how all those toxic feelings affect your daily life – in practice – the chances are that you, just like my lovely clients, would look at me in amazement.
Who knew there could possibly be a link?
The link of cause and effect
In toxic relationships, your “loved ones” will tell you a lot of really horrible things about yourself and your – alleged – lack of human worth. This happens because toxic people live with chronic emotional acid reflux. Rather than attempting to resolve their own emotional acid reflux problem, they simply vomit that acid all over you.
Toxic people know that their acid will corrode your vision of yourself. That is what they want to happen. It’s called brain-washing, or programming.
My unlovely wasband ( a man who enjoyed the ultra-sturdy digestion of a vulture, so long as he vomited his bile all over me) did not believe anybody else should feel happier than he did. He employed his acid reflux to ensure that nobody near him ever did feel happier.
With an eye to future-proofing your misery – whether or not they are there to see it – abusive, Narcissists instil their acid reflux into “loved” ones. So, you end up suffering with their acid reflex. That is how you get left weighed down by the 7 hidden costs of toxic relationships, unawares.
#1 Erratophobia – the terror of making mistakes.
You learn, in an abusive relationship, that there is a very high price to be made for making mistakes. When you quit the relationship, your erratophobia does not just pack its bags and leave. Instead, it can come close to paralyzing you. When you are profoundly terrified of making wrong decisions, you are doomed to procrastinate and race around the circle of uncertainty, like a hamster on a wheel. This is, of course, the very last thing you need when you need to rebuild your life.
#2 Crippling anxiety.
Toxic people teach you never, ever to feel safe. Between the crippling fear of making mistakes and the horrific sense of always walking on the thinnest of thin ice, how could you not suffer with crippling anxiety? Then, just to add insult to injury, you end up feeling acutely anxious about feeling acutely anxious. I have never met a recovering abuse survivor who did not have mountains of anxiety to shed.
#3 Lack of motivation and staying power.
Comparisonitis will tell you that other people are better at following through on what they want or need to do. There is an element of truth in that. Here is how it works.
Because you have to fight so hard at keeping your own fear at bay, you don’t have a great deal of energy left. That leaves you under resourced as regards the things that you would like to do, or the things that will really make the difference to your quality of life and, quite possibly, your earning power, also. It is not that you start out with less motivation and staying power than anyone else. It’s just that most of it gets consumed before you can turn your focus to the task in hand.
#4 Overwhelm. Toxic people go to great lengths to infantilize you. Actually, they play it both ways. On the one hand, they tell you that you need to stand on your own feet. On the other, they do their best to demonstrate your incompetence to function as an adult. Anything you can do, they tell you that,
- a) you don’t do very well at all and
- b) they do much better.
“It” can be anything from your professional skills to changing a toilet-roll. Their acid reflux means that, even after they have gone, anything that you need to do assumes life-threating proportions which then overwhelm you and lead to melt-down.
All that acid reflux coursing through your veins comes out as self-sabotage. When you have been told that you are incompetent so many times, you come to believe it. That can leave you terrified of getting back into the job market –at least, at a level consistent with your ability. It means that, in every aspect of your life, you may well write yourself off ahead of time. That old riff, “Why would anyone be interested in me?” is actually pre-emptive self-sabotage. It can easily become a self-fulfilling prophesy. That is the last thing you need when you are trying to piece your life back together.
#6 Allodoxophobia – aka the fear of what other people will think of you.
If a “loved one” can judge you so harshly, that must mean something right?
The toxic training teaches you to interpret that as meaning that there is something horribly, horribly wrong with you. (For myself, I’ve been there, done that and it taught me that EVERYTHING was horribly wrong with me.)
It’s true that the harsh judgement of toxic people does mean something. But you need to be very careful what you make it mean. N.B. The correct meaning is that they are jerks.
Plus, you need to remember that the actual numbers involved are immaterial. If your entire toxic family decided that you were Spawn of Satan that would simply mean that they were all toxic.
However, for as long as you go through life with Alloxodophobia sitting on your shoulder, shrieking in your ear, you will have to shy away from people. The cost of not being able to connect with and trust decent people is cruelly high. It can only make the task of rebuilding a meaningful life more difficult. Nobody can do life without a bit of help, support and trust.
7) Unhappiness (and depression).
In a toxic relationship, you learn that bad things land on you, out of the blue. Abusers and Narcissists are cunning little snits (no typo) who know that cutting the connection between cause and effect – when it suits them – serves them well. So, they deny all connection between how they behave towards you and how you feel.
“What! I just told you that I would I would sooner remain celibate for the rest of my life than touch you with a bargepole and you tell me that you are feeling bad and unattractive. What is wrong with you? You are always depressed? You are so weird and crazy and unworthy of me. Your mental health problems are NOTHING to do with me.”
Manifestly, there is a clear link between cause and effect. An awful lot of depression stems from learned unworthiness. I’ve found – both in my own life and with clients – that the more you unlearn the depression programming, the happier you can be most of the time.
As you can see, toxic relationships can generate, massive, long-term costs. Equally, it is never too late to learn how to cancel those costs. Whatever you have been through, and however bad you may be feeling, you can always, ALWAYS learn how to rebuild a life with having. But you have to do it from the inside out – which works amazingly well. If you would like to learn how you, too, can do it, you might like to take a sneak preview at my forthcoming program: New Resolution for Old Hurts. This is the one program that I know of that has been specifically designed to teach you how you can cancel those hidden costs.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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