Our love lives can feel like a title bout match with a heavyweight at times. We’ll recover from one emotional blow just to be blindsided by another right hook to the jaw. No matter how much we posture and shuck and jive the hits just keep on hitting. We find ourselves regrouping in the corner between rounds while our bruises begin to form. We start to question our ability to withstand the borage of combos being thrown. Self doubt eats away at our mind and our knees get weak. We start to whisper to ourselves, “that cut above my heart is deep…”
Now, in an actual boxing match if a boxer bleeds incessantly the referee will call the match and throw in the towel. Yet, somehow, in relationships we wounded souls fail to do so. We stand there thinking if we can just withstand the punches a little while longer they’ll see our value. Of course, healthy people will realize the futility of such actions and walk away long before things get to that point but what of we broken ones?
Many of us don’t know actual love because we’ve never had healthy examples of love. The statistics on broken homes are staggering so it’s no small wonder that many of us suffer through toxic relationship after relationship meeting sorrow face to face time and again.
Yes. The repetition in that last paragraph is intentional because what we’re talking about here is cyclic. We human beings will make the same mistakes over and over again before realizing our own flaws and fixing the only thing we do have any control over, ourselves.
For me that generally signifies a time of meditation and prayer, study and reevaluating what I hold dear. To uproot vices and implant virtues is pretty much Christian Mysticism 101.
SELF ANALYSIS AND REFLECTION
As I descended into my cave I reflected on a good deal of my own nature and just how repetitive my actions have become. From the damsel in distress to the desire to let everything burn in the aftermath I am but a simple creature who incessantly runs into walls and gets mad the walls won’t budge. I want to demand explanations from people who don’t owe me one. I aim my anger at the narcissist without taking stock of my own codependency. I’ll scream at the God within to fix me while refusing to acknowledge the consequences resulted from my choices.
I think it’s human nature to always look for the good in everything and remain positive at the worst of times but that isn’t always the best course of action. People who naturally take everything they can from others will always prey on those who feel guilty saying no. So long as being alone is a fear there will be no shortage of people there to emotionally manipulate said fear. So long as we live out of desire- need- there will always be those who capitalize on fulfilling our cravings. Robert Greene sums it up nicely in The 48 Laws of Power:
“Everyone has a weakness, a hole in his armor, a thumbscrew. It’s usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need, or a secret pleasure. Once found, it’s leverage that you can use to your advantage.”-Law 33
Ah hah! We will never overcome our flaws without understanding them. To understand our shortcomings requires brutal honesty.
I’ve always shaped my sense of self worth based on how others value me. It’s good to be needed right? Wrong! People who have a need of others can only, by nature, be used. This is a simple law of equivalent exchange. If we step into a relationship needing emotional security then whoever it is that is fulfilling that need is also feeding a need of their own. Whether it be the showering of affection or financial gains all partnerships of this type are based on exchange and there can be no growth when both parties involved are only giving to receive.
FACT VS FICTION
Like all 80’s babies I enjoy a good Fairy Tale. The storybook Knights in shining armor rescuing the Damsel in distress is truly a tale as old time. I’ve often daydreamed of such a tale becoming my reality with this childlike awe. I’ll fancy myself as the Beast in a Disney movie meeting my Belle who’ll see past my rough exterior to the beauty within. She’ll undoubtedly need rescued from some dilemma to make this dream a reality and here… lies… the problem!
A) None of us are perfect. I am flawed beyond measure and we fixers should fix ourselves. That’s right, The Knight in Shining Armor doesn’t exist. There’s always a weak point in any suit of armor- what Robert Greene calls a thumbscrew- and it’s egotistical to see ourselves in such a positive light. It’s a childish notion, one that always leads to a victims mentality. Without unearthing our flaws we blindly continue blaming others for extorting them.
B) The damsel in distress is but another child who is looking for someone else to fix the messes they themselves made without accepting any responsibility for their actions. Adults don’t behave in that way. Not to mention how horrendously presumptuous it is for we men to assume women have a need to be saved. (they don’t) In 2021 the whole notion of hunter gatherer gender “roles” has been tossed on its head as some of us are struggling to catch up with what that actually means.
The realizations rush through my mind like gazelles galloping across the plains. This entire storybook fantasy is based on an ingrained prejudice resting deep within my psyche. I would love to paint this into a more positive light and say that this ends at misogyny but that would be a lie. I’m one part rescuer and two parts control freak.
I’ve thirsted to help others through their tough spots because of how painfully I’ve learned life lessons. I’d spare people the struggle and offer and easier and softer landing when they fall but that’s not how it works. People have to want to grow and evolve. Compassion isn’t a forced effort. We can plant seeds but that doesn’t mean we get to control the outcome. That means we have to let go and allow people to do as they please with our advice. To do otherwise is to fail to see our own limitations and play Superman. Last time I checked none of us were jettisoned on Earth by our parents while our home planet of Krypton exploded.
So… check your motivations Captain Save Em’ All Day!
While I’ve been strapping my cape on I’ve looked for others to complete me. I want them to tell me how awesome I am for all my rescuing. As is always the case the psychological makeup between a user and the used is one and the same. Whether we need someone to lead us or need someone to lead we still have needs. Plenty of profiles have been built chronicling how the abuser and the abused share the exact same mind state. Both are holding onto some unresolved trauma and finding ways to nurse the wounds. The one who is beating down people because they were beaten and the one who associates being beaten with love both have a victims mentality-
“Oh I’ve never known love because my parents…” -or-
“They’re going to do it to me so I’m going to get them…”
“If only they would love me, appreciate me, cherish me…”
When love becomes a battlefield sometimes it’s best to put down your weapons. Too many of us keep bombing for peace and reacting in old familiar ways when we should simply stop shooting. It sucks to have to get honest about but the only thing we drag with us from one toxic relationship to the next is us. So if you’re one of the broken ones wondering why others won’t see your value ask yourself if you see your value. Oftentimes we stay in shit relationships because some part of us doesn’t believe we deserve any better. Maybe there’s some lingering trauma left unresolved needing addressed. Whatever the case may be genuine love starts with loving yourself.
THE MIRROR OF OTHERS
“It was a great surprise to me when I discovered that most of the ugliness I see in others was but a reflection of my own nature.”-Napoleon Hill
Understanding toxic traits is a painful process. If you’re struggling to see your own toxic nature just bring awareness to what you don’t like in others. Oftentimes the things others do that upset us are things we are guilty of. Anger is almost always a surface emotion that reveals something deeper.
If you’re dealing with a toxic person who is draining the joy from your life and are exhausting yourself trying to change them just stop. Understand your part, being an agent of change means you’re changing who you are and leading by example. Others are responsible for themselves. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how obligated you feel you have to do what’s best for you.
Just remember, those of us who have made genuine changes can pinpoint something we lost- something we found too much- that forced us to make a change. Maybe your walking away from a toxic person will be the catalyst that leads to that change in them. Maybe not. Either way you will be free from the poison being dripped into your soul and will be able to breathe again.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, creates the space for us to continue our growth. So be the change you want to see and stop pretending you can change others. That’s their job.
Just dance that around in your head a bit.