Freedom from Toxic Relationships
by John De Freitas.
Daring to Share Social Justice.
February 2020 Edition
Welcome to the Monthly Perceptions of John De Freitas!!
John plays a dynamic role on the Executive Team at Daring to Share Global™ advocating for the ways in which we provide gifts of authenticity, vulnerability, and connection to the world. As a fellow humanitarian, John explores the Daring to Share vision as it impacts the personal and the political, and the power of social justice and Inclusion.
John's career history spans employment counseling, family support, and mental health and addiction counseling. Some of his most meaningful work encompassed supporting a rich diversity of clients including the Aboriginal community and facilitating men's groups struggling with violence and trauma. As a counsellor, John is our only blog member providing life-choice solutions for our readers to consider while supporting them with his pieces of his personal story. We strongly advocate seeking support and solutions that resonate with you.
John is also a 35+ year Tarot Reader and Intuitive counsellor in metaphysical traditions and the founder of Van Isle Mystic. As the author of Chapter 3, From There to Here: Belonging in Daring to Share, Volume 1, John is passionate about inspiring others towards a world of amplified inclusion and belonging.
Following is John's February 2020 Blog Post Edition of
Daring to Share Social Justice - Freedom From Toxic Relationships
Toxic relationships. Even naming them carries a sense of shame, as if we have not done enough to clean out our closets. How did we wind up in this situation? We give all we have for some modicum of approval from a loved one and yet we only hear how much we failed. We are keenly made aware of our imperfections. Who is this person? In many cases, it surprises us; it is our spouse or parent or family member, or lover. Sometimes it is a particular friend.
I grew up with the master of all Narcissists. He was my father. An angry, violent man who held our family hostage with domestic violence and psychological manipulation for many years. I knew how to read his moods and rages, but I wasn’t always prepared for subtle ways of eroding my self-esteem. Often, he would challenge my masculinity. I wasn’t smart enough or man enough to know how to handle tools around the house. I was being emotional because men don’t cry over a dead bird. I was nine. It was my mother’s tears that made me cry, but it wouldn’t have mattered. My father couldn’t feel good about himself unless he was tearing us down, abusing his power and feeding off the helplessness within our victimization.
Eventually, I crafted my self-esteem against him with psychic titanium. I was able to see the insanity of his behaviour and realize I needed to elevate my personal worthiness beyond his constant barrage of degradation. But in my early years, I could not avoid friendships and relationships that mirrored this pattern. Somehow, I unconsciously sought out and found these dysfunctional relationships to remind me of how much I was less than. I now know that life was facilitating a great teaching for me - to resolve the issue of my own self-perceptions and the self-loathing I still contained because of everything I experienced with my father.
The Narcissist, bully, or whatever name we come up with is someone who acts from his or her toxic worldview of relationships. Our social media stories are in vast abundance around the Narcissist, who they are, gaslighting us and love bombing us and somehow managing to control the vulnerable places within us. They seek power over us. They must establish and parade this power to meet their exhaustive needs for attention and power validation. All of us are being called to heal these wounded places within us.
How did we wind up in this situation? Based on psychological models of Attachment Theory, we understand how infants and children are wired and what they need for healthy development. We also know that most of us did not have perfect parents. We may have been neglected or diminished due to our parents’ preoccupation with their own lives or friends and family who have extreme needs. Yet we are the strong ones. We hold up the fortress for the family. We hold everything together. How many times have we told ourselves this? What happens to us when we do not receive unconditional love and support which is our birthright?
We spend our lives sorting out the emotional baggage that came to us with other human beings. And our truest friends and relationships provide the mirror to reflect all of our selves, bright and dark. We need this process as part of our evolution. We may do everything we can to support someone in a Narcissistic Relationship but generally, we fall short. If we’re lucky, we understand we are human, but the other person may not be able to see us as we truly are. We are faced with choices as to whether or not we can continue these relationships or hope to demand a change in mutual understanding. Only we can decide the relationship’s ultimate fate, but deep down we know it is essential for living to feel good about ourselves, whole, and not marred by the shadow of someone else’s perceptions of who we are. In my situation with my father, I have chosen not to engage or maintain any kind of relationship over many years. For some, this may seem very sad. But for me, it is not because I am incapable of or unwilling to forgive the past, it is because my father remains highly toxic and my mental health and well-being are more important at this stage of my life.
We all have personal choices. Most of us will have to deal with conflict within complex relationships and some of these individuals will be Narcissistic in nature. They are our greatest teachers. What is the most important? Following are some of the principles that most helped me in my personal recovery, as well as, with the clients I worked with in my counselling practice:
1. Set boundaries. You have a sovereign right to set physical and emotional boundaries around your personal space. You should also be prepared to speak up and defend these boundaries as others do not necessarily have your needs in mind. Speak your truth. Honor your emotions. You do not have to agree to be respected in your own right. You have a right to feel emotionally and physically safe at all times;
2. Recognize your own baggage and need for perfection. You might have an idealized and unrealistic perception of yourself based on the narcissist’s needs. Likely, this stems from early childhood patterns evolving from dysfunctional relationships. Check-in with yourself and redeem your self-esteem. Make it important to know your triggers and emotional patterns and seek help from trusted others to facilitate your personal empowerment;
3. Ask yourself why you react so strongly to this person’s disapproval. Do you think you deserve disapproval? Whose approval is most important? Is anyone’s approval important? What does this person have invested to make you feel less than? Who in your family history told you that you were not good enough? How is this relationship being controlled through intimacy or sexuality?
4. Manage the dysfunctional relationship. Negotiate the best possible terms for your sanity and personal empowerment knowing that this individual has their own agenda. Set firm limits on your time and agreements and demand respectful communications. In some cases, the only resolution is to suspend the relationship by withdrawing your attention and energy, (creating emotional distance) or termination of the relationship. This can be an extremely painful and traumatic process. It is critical to create self-nurturing and seek support from loved ones. You may have much invested in this complex relationship, but creating healthy boundaries is possible at every level, at any time in the present moment;
5. Investigate the lesson. Most of us want to understand why we have experienced pain in these difficult relationships. How does this relationship carry a pattern of our childhood or early Narcissistic relationships? Our choice to present our authentic selves within daily interactions will make all the difference. Often these are past Karmic relationships testing us to be our authentic, empowered selves. Honesty, self-love and unconditional self-acceptance are our greatest rewards. Self-honesty can be life-changing. Give this opportunity to yourself and the person you are in a relationship with;
6. Honour the lesson. In becoming our best selves, we will encounter others who challenge us. We will celebrate tribe members and test our self-perceptions with those who challenge or mirror who we are. This is our ultimate test. They may be passing acquaintances or those we feel deeply drawn to for some reason. Discover the true nature of yourself, mindful of the world that surrounds and judges you. Remember that spiritually, nothing is more important than the way we see ourselves and we have already inherited unconditional acceptance as our birthright.
I invite everyone to reflect on the times someone has made us feel less than. We need to question these subconscious responses and assumptions as they are based on others’ world views and their own experience through the filters of their own pain and rejection. We often demonstrate doubts and fears in our everyday interactions. How much attention do we give these persistent thoughts when our inherent desire and potential is for happiness and positive interactions? These are the choices we experience every day and the ways in which we can shape our world. Will you be empowered in your relationship with others or will you carry the baggage of shame or guilt? Each of us has a choice every day we experience our human interactions.
Connect with John De Freitas through Van Isle Mystic