What is the opposite of anxiety? How do we heal from toxic relationships and emotional abuse? The way I see it is that fear is the emotion/anticipation of a real threat. Anxiety is the emotion/anticipation of an imagined threat. A lot of our anxieties and fears come from traumas of the past. These can be traumas from past relationships through traumatic memory. Our brains learn to expect certain outcomes. Individuals involved in unsafe coercive-control groups or destructive cults have traumatic memories that linger for many years.
Our first primal fear is a fear of heights (that is, a fear of being dropped). We all learn this as small children. There is no shame in this. It’s a survival thing.
We can remember God’s promises for today:
☀️ He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
☀️ We can press on from the past, receive forgiveness, forgive others and forgive ourselves
☀️ We can have faith that God will bind up our wounds if we ask (Psalm 147:3; Mark 11:24)
☀️ Let the past be a lesson for today and the future, not an anchor
☀️ Stay in the arena and fight for what we believe in, letting everything fall to the wayside that was and is a weight that hinders
☀️ We can let go of the fear of people because it’s a trap. We can trust God instead
Today, I pray God’s healing waters would flow into your soul as you feel refreshed and ready to move forward with a future focus. Onward!
If you are dealing with fear, anxiety or trauma from toxic relationships you are certainly not alone!
Do we comprehend the difference between confrontation and corrosion? When it comes to relationships, strong and worthwhile ones can withstand healthy confrontation.
Confrontation is uncomfortable yet positively productive.
It leads to more growth, mutual understanding and all in all, a better relationship. Though it is temporarily uncomfortable, healthy and loving confrontation is not corroding to self or the relationship.
Weak relationships crumble at any sign of pressure or stress. This pressure which could be beneficial in the long run is mistaken for toxicity. A true friend will hear you out because they value you as a person. This is the opposite of selfishness. Real friends do not think only of themselves! They don’t think of you as a mere extension of themselves. They are not threatened by your honesty or feelings. They don’t love you for the sole reason that you make them “feel good” at all costs.
Toxic relationships corrode one or both individuals. Instead of addressing issues head on, one attacks the character of the other (gaslighting). This is damaging.
Recently, I was chatting with some friends of mine about this topic. Conflict in healthy relationships cannot equate with poison in toxic ones.
Many are deathly afraid of confrontation.
This stalls their personal growth as well as growth in a relationship. They excuse good relationships as “toxic”, a word that is too common these days. It’s often thrown around at the first sign of discomfort. They confuse personal discomfort with toxicity. We tend to like comfort in our lives and relationships at all costs. We avoid the hard conversations to make ourselves feel good. We stay in our protected bubble. In our ignorance and narrow views, we often lose relationships that could have been amazing. This is tragic!
It’s also a danger to ignore the warning signs of toxic relationships. We have the intuition to know when someone is trying to bring us down and destroy us as an individual, right? Any relationship that sucks the very life blood out of us and disables us from being valuable to our children, families and other friends…needs to go. For those of us who tend to see the good in people at our own expense, we may stay in a poisonous relationship (to our own detriment).
Relationships are supposed to be life-giving, and that includes uncomfortable yet positive growth.
Still, how often do we dismiss worthwhile relationships and keep poisonous ones?
Toxicity can come in subtle, disguised forms of poison.
We all have people in our lives who “multiply kisses” and overdose on the compliments as they try to make us feel “warm and fuzzy” all the time. These individuals avoid the hard conversations. Instead, they let conflict and their true feelings fester. Instead of addressing the issue one-to-one, they let gossip spread. They adhere to the “think positive” (i.e., sweep everything under the rug) movement at the expense of positive growth! This is corroding.
Could it be that these are well-disguised toxic relationships? As the saying goes, “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”
In healthy relationships, the two parties value each other enough to confront with love.
Their mutual respect leads them to engage in the difficult conversations.
When it comes to confrontation and corrosion, God forbid we confuse the two! It would be just as tragic to lose a good relationship thinking it is “toxic” as staying in a toxic relationship thinking it is “good.”
Every good relationship will go through testing from time to time. May we have the wisdom to discern between the tested ones worth fighting for and the corrosive ones worth leaving.
The dreaded silent treatment. It should not be allowed in our lives for many reasons. The silent treatment equates with a lack of human dignity and a lack of love and respect. Who needs that?
Nobody likes being on the receiving end of silence. Not many realize what is truly happening during the silent treatment. Many individuals don’t understand at all what is happening, especially if one is highly empathetic and tends to see the good in others.
Individuals who are acting abusively use the silent treatment dagger to throw the target off kilter and to keep control and domination. It is a subtle yet damaging form of aggression, and why would we allow aggression and coercive control in our lives? It’s an attempt to control a person, to tell them clearly – without words – “You don’t matter” and “I dominate you in this relationship.” It’s human oppression which is rooted in pride and hatred rather than freedom, humility and love. The silent treatment is manipulation.
The best we can do when we are dealing with a controlling person is to pray for him or her and to stop giving the person the opportunity to further abuse. This might equate with stopping the chase. Keep in mind that true narcissists love the mind games which include a chase. When we chase a narcissist, we are only hurting ourselves.
Are We Overthinking It?
Often, the temptation creeps in which makes us think that we are “overthinking” the silence. That is, maybe the silent person is “Just busy” or “Not trying to be overtly mean.” While that might be absolutely true in some rare cases, our intuitions (God-sent) do alarm us when something is unhealthy in the relationship. The fact is that where the silent treatment flourishes, there is often an unhealthy or toxic dynamic. Plain and simple, the silent treatment, when done on purpose to punish someone, is oppressive emotional abuse! Gaslighting (when the abuser gets the target to doubt his or her understanding and reality), confusion and cognitive dissonance often ensue.
While I believe there can be times to show grace, mercy and to give others the benefit of the doubt, often our gullibility and lack of education concerning the silent treatment tactic ends up perpetuating the abuse. Those who have kind, merciful hearts are at high risk for emotional abuse from the silent treatment.
Sharie Stines, Psy.D explains,
“Abusers and/or narcissistic personality types love to ignore you and they love for you to know that they are ignoring you [this is part of the game of chase]. Why is that? Let’s parse this concept apart. The silent treatment is not blatant; it’s insidious [it’s not a mere accident, it’s an actual, aggressive tactic used in abusive relationships. Yes, there are people this cruel]. The only person who really feels the silent treatment is the target. The person giving the silent treatment is not being overtly aggressive, abusive, or unkind in any visible way [this lends to the confusion of the abusive dynamic]. This keeps him looking “good” and reasonable. When challenged, the giver of the silent treatment can say comments such as, “I’m fine.” “Nothing’s wrong.” “I’m not mad.” Or some other innocuous comment [this causes self-doubt and more confusion]. Realize that these comments are forms of gas lighting and confabulation, which are other common narcissistic weapons (see Coping with Narcissistic Confabulators.) The internal confusion results in the experience of cognitive dissonance, which is prevalent in abusive relationships.” (Emphasis in brackets added)
Friends, allowing ourselves to be ignored is not a good idea for one main reason: it eats away at our self-worth and self-esteem. It is a blatant contradiction to the truth: that God values you and that you have human dignity. You should not allow the silent treatment in your life because you have worth and you matter! You should value yourself too. The silent treatment – like a poison – will only damage your psyche, your spirit and even those around you who need you to be healthy!
We are called to respect others but also to respect ourselves. Relationships should be nourishing, life-giving and should allow for equal communication with mutual listening. Above all, when dealing with others who are trying to dominate with the iron fist of silence, let go of fear. Instead, operate in a spirit of power, love and self-control. You – not the abuser – have the power to say “No” to the shaming tool of silence, to love them, pray for them, and get on with your life of freedom.
In my future article, I will discuss my insights about what to do when the silent treatment happens to you. I look forward to exploring those insights and going deeper, together.
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