Have you ever felt “broken”? If so, how much have your feelings of brokenness related to the breakdown of a toxic relationship? In this article, I want to look at what those feelings of brokenness are really trying to tell you.
“I feel broken” is something that I hear a lot, from survivors of emotional and narcissistic abuse. Plus, I’ll admit to having said and thought it myself, rather a lot, as my toxic marriage imploded. To me, it meant that I had shattered, or fallen apart. Rather like Humpty Dumpty, only more tragically, the pieces of Annie could never be put back together again.
What feeling broken actually means
It all felt incredibly meaningful – and true – at the time. Although now, when I try to convey the idea in words, I have to admit it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Even to me. When I consulted Mr Google and the undoubted wisdom of Quora, I learned that
“It can mean anything, but generally it probably means the person was hurt & just can’t get over it. They might feel emotionally crippled which makes them emotionally unavailable, so they think something inside them must be broken.”
Good to know that “it can mean anything”.
What I understand, when survivors of narcissistic abuse say that they feel broken, is that they are stating that they are existing with a life sentence. They are doomed to spend the rest of their days locked in the prison of brokenness. That is a powerful feeling – but certainly not a helpful one.
Now, people have a habit of believing anything that they tell themselves – or other people tell them – provided it gets repeated often enough, with enough conviction. Like most things, that can be both a bad thing and a good thing. It all depends on how you use it.
Your worst enemy
Your self-talk is, most commonly, your worse enemy – once you have dispensed with “your” toxic partner. Before that, your toxic partner obviously holds first place.
However, your self-talk can, also, be transformed into a trusty friend. All that it takes is a little detective work.
So, in the case of feeling broken, you have to explore a little why you are feeling broken. The answer, surely, lies in the fact that your relationship, hopes, dreams, security and more besides have been broken into tiny pieces. That is a lot of brokenness around you.
But is that brokenness who you are?
You are not the brokenness that you feel
Having worked with many hundreds of abuse survivors, I would say, “definitely NOT”. You are not the brokenness that you feel. What has happened is that you have been submerged by a vast pile of rubble. Unpleasant and messy as that is, you need to look to the true message that that rubble is giving you.
The entire, ramshackle, condemned edifice of an abusive relationship has come crashing down around your ears. That is traumatic, right enough. However, it means that you now have to do the thing that you have needed to do for at least as long as that toxic relationship was in place: you need to clear away that rubble and rebuild.
The temptation, when you are in any kind of abusive relationship, is just to shore up that condemned edifice, for as long as you possibly can. Still, you can’t escape the inevitable. That edifice was always going to collapse.
You can rebuild, bigger and better
Now, as you start to clear away the rubble, you get a glimpse of the size of the plot on which that rickety edifice stood. It is more than big enough to build something worthwhile on.
Admittedly, unless you are one of those people who actually like living on a building site, you have a lot of short-term inconvenience to look forward to. However, the end point is that you are the proud possessor of a space custom-built for you – most likely for the first time in your life.
So, I would advise you to be very careful with the word “broken”.
Ideally, we would – routinely – all be very careful with our choice of words, since our words can magically shrink or grow our reality. Words carry a lot of power. So I urge you to see the word “broken” in a new light. What it is telling you is that the toxic edifice of a miserable past has now fallen apart. That leaves you with a load of mess, a short term emergency, and a load of medium term inconveniences to confront. However, it is also an opening up to something far bigger and better.
Brokenness is about new beginnings
Sure, when you feel broken, your life will look like a building site for a while, and that is not the most inspiring location. However, something good will gradually take form, from the bottom up.
Brokenness is actually about new beginnings – which rarely come without old endings. You can’t even be born, in the first place, without waters breaking . (It’s rumoured that birth can be quite a shock for babies, as well as their parents) So, I would urge you to look on feelings of brokenness with curiosity rather than despair. You can get through hard things and you will find joy at the end of the brokenness.
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.