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How to Find Forgiveness and Heal Your Relationship

thoughtful Thursday

Our lives are constructed of our relationships. So much of what we experience in the world comes through our relationships, and when they are hurt or broken, life can feel hurt and broken.

Whether it’s a friendship gone sour or a primary relationship on the rocks, there is one truth that can set you free in relationships.

there is no one in your relationship but you and your story about the other person

When you experience frustration, anger, disappointment and grief in relationship, it resides within you.  This doesn’t mean that you hold responsibility for another’s behavior.

In fact, it means that you hold primary responsibility only to your own mind and heart and the story you tell about that person and their behavior.

Practical Forgiveness in Real Life Relationships.

This concept is nice and good but how does it work for real?

Let me invite you into an experience of deep forgiveness that transformed my own life.

Many years ago, I was in a relationship that dissolved.  At the time I believed that it happened out of nowhere, that the other person simply abandoned me by cutting me out of his life completely (no contact, no response, no simple human courtesy), and that he had discarded me to go on with their life.

I was devastated, hurt, and insecure.

I can’t tell you how deeply this wounded me.

I suffered for a couple of years, reliving all the wrongs that had been done to me by this other person.

Keep in mind, there was no infidelity, no extreme discord in the relationship, and no abuse.  The other person just decided he didn’t want to be in relationship any more.

Here’s what I hope you can hear: it didn’t matter. I suffered.

Why?

I suffered because I believed the story. Did you read it above–the story of abandonment, uncertainty, insecurity, and feeling discarded?  Wow!  Those are some heavy plot lines. No wonder I suffered so deeply.

And I told that story, over and over to anyone who would listen.  I didn’t realize that I was perpetuating my own pain by reciting my story and believing it, unchallenged.

None of my friends questioned my story. That’s okay. They probably didn’t know how or even what to say.

And so I suffered on.

The Insight That Changed It All

One day, I had a flash of insight–and understanding.  The other person had moved on with his life. I was the only one continuing to suffer. I looked at the relationship and realized that even while I was in the relationship, I was creating stories.  I made him into “the one–my soul mate.” 

Being another person’s “one and only”  is a huge burden.  No wonder he ran!  Being the one requires impossible understanding of all my insecurities and expectations and the inhuman ability to fill and fulfill every one.

When my story was exposed, I was filled with instant (literally, instant) compassion. I recognized my part in the split. I immediately extended forgiveness to myself and to my own suffering.

And then the magic happened, as I turned to forgive him, I realized there was nothing to forgive.  He had not done anything to me.  (I had done it to myself through my stories and expectations.  I had kept my own suffering alive for nearly two years).

I apologized to him for never truly seeing him or who he really was (apart from my “soul mate / the one” story).  It didn’t matter that he wasn’t in my life to hear the apology.

I was free of my suffering.

The End of the Story

A couple of years ago, the other person got in touch with me after years of no contact and said all the things I had wanted to hear at the time our relationship broke.  He apologized for his part.

As I read his e-mail, my honest emotional response was “hmmm…that’s interesting.”

I knew I had freed myself because there was no emotional “stuff” left over.

I had given myself closure, healing and resolution years before it manifested in my life.

I’m not special. If you are hurting, or have been hurt, you can give yourself the same healing and closure. In fact, you are the only one who can give that to you.  Sometimes we believe we need closure from another person, but the only thing we ever get from someone else is a new story to believe which is less painful than the one we currently believe.

Give a new story to yourself now.  The new story you give yourself will always be more empowering than any other story you could be given by anyone else.

Don’t Wait to Heal Your Relationship

Heal your relationship with yourself now. Do this by investigating your story and your beliefs. Choose a different story that serves and supports you better.

If you need specific practical help on how to do this, I recommend The Work of Byron Katie.  The Work is free at her site. You can download the worksheet and begin to do the Work for yourself.

Read her book Loving What Is and watch her facilitate the work on her YouTube channel so you can help yourself.

This is essentially what I did over the two years of my suffering. I did The Work–I just didn’t know what it was called or have a specific method of investigation. All suffering ends when we question our thoughts.

You can have any relationship you want when you're at peace with the relationship you have when you're the only one in the room

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The Truth No One Ever Told You (but should have) About Ending A Toxic Relationship

There’s No Easy Way To Break a Toxic Relationship!

There. I said it.

I know. I know.  I can hear you now…

But, Steve, I don’t wanna hurt her feelings.

But I really love him…

I don’t mean to be uncaring, but you’re gonna have to suck it up, Buttercup.  There is no easy way to break ties with the junkyard dogs in your life (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should go read this article on setting boundaries and then come back–right away–and finish this one).

The #1 Don’t–DO NOT Equivocate

Don’t waffle. Make a decision and communicate your decision. Don’t play games. Clear decisiveness is not unkindness.

Remember the first time you stood up to the bully on the playground, or the “mean girls” in junior high? The bully’s reaction to a new boundary can get loud and nasty. Or, it may not be loud at all, it may be subtle and passive aggressive, but this does not mean that you should second-guess your decision.

I’m giving you permission to do what’s right for you.  When you do what’s right for yourself, you have taken the first step toward being able to do what’s right for others in your life.  If you want to help someone else heal, the best way to do so is to get well yourself.

You have played a part in this dysfunctional dance–whether it is with a relative, lover or colleague.  You must overcome your part in the dysfunction.  That means taking action.

Here are the Steps to help.

Steve’s Steps for Ending a Toxic Relationship

“Ending it” is often used when we talk about romantic relationships but terminating a relationship can apply to any situation that you currently find yourself in.

Let me clarify. When I say “ending it,” I’m referring to ending the way in which you have been in relationship with the offending personality.  So, although it may mean terminating the relationship completely, it may no necessarily mean that.

There is a distinction between terminating a relationship and terminating the influence someone has over your life or the access they have to your life.

Here is how:

1. Limit the access or influence that person has in your life.

Decide whether you need to terminate the relationship completely or whether you need to limit the person’s access to your life.

NOTE:  Beware of the “Equivocation Monster”
One sign of dysfunction that I’ve seen many people fall pray to when seeking to limit a toxic person’s access to their life is that they mitigate their decision and refuse to make a clean cut by saying, “well Sally is my best friend, so I can’t cut her off completely,” or “He is my dad. I have to respect him.  My kids need their grandpa.”

This is a sign of codependency–that you need something from the other person to survive.  The truth is that you don’t need anything to be well except the will to do the work to get well.  The inability to set boundaries and stand by them is insecurity on display.

What you are really saying when you use an equivocation such as these is “I don’t feel worthy of a healthy friendship, so I’ll hold on to what I have, even if it’s bad for me,” or “I want my dad to like me (or approve of me), so I’m willing to put up with bad behavior so my kids can have the grandpa I never had as a father.”

Give up the fantasy!  As harsh and difficult as this is, you must give up the wishes and dreams that things might be different.  The only way to build something new for the future, is to admit the truth of what now is.

2. Make the Cut

If you struggle with a toxic work environment, get out.  No excuses.  You must do what you need to do. Don’t blame it on the economy, where you live, how worn out your are.  Dig down deep in your soul and start doing what needs to be done.

You’ll be surprised at how the universe will come to your aid when you begin to make steps in the direction of health and wholeness.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined,
one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
                                    -Henry David Thoreau

Years ago, I found myself trapped in a toxic work environment…and what was even more frustrating was that this wasn’t my first time in this sort of a situation!  I finally, just got fed up.  I knew things had to change.

I was working in a large hospital, so I applied for a job to move to another department.  It was a lateral move, but at least my day-to-day experience would improve, I thought.  When I got the job, I gave my two-week notice in the department I was working in.

In a seeming unrelated situation, my partner interviewed for a job out of state.  This was right in the middle of my two week “notice” period.

The new employer offered him a the job paying more than he asked for, with a full moving package and additional moving bonus to move and start work in 2 weeks.

It was crazy. When I took action to change my circumstances, the Universe shifted in a way that I never could have imagined.  Within about 3 weeks, my life changed completely.  We moved to a new state, started a new adventure, and the old experience was left behind rather dramatically.

I know it’s scary to consider making drastic changes in your life. Especially if you have mortgages to resolve and jobs to consider or businesses to close, and children to think of.

Change is tough, but it is not as tough as
staying stuck in pain and dysfunction.

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If you’re stuck in a family relationship that is toxic, get help.  Get support.  If there is no help in your family, reach out to your community resources–churches, synagogues, government agencies.  Do what you have to do.  You can do this. Make a plan and start executing your plan.

3. Communicate the Change.

This can be the hardest part of the process–especially if you’re a nice person or are like me, a recovering people-pleaser.

There is no “nice” way to tell someone that you don’t want them in your life. Just do it.

Here are the 3 “B’s”: Be clear. Be kind. Be firm (final–don’t leave all sorts of doors open).

At this time, I can’t be in relationship with you. That is all you have to say.

If they beg and plead and promise, go back to your 3 B’s: Be clear. Be kind and be firm.  Don’t offer any sort of reconciliation.  Let them react however they are going to react.  You are doing what is right and you have to affirm this within your own mind.

If the person is aggressive and refuses to respect the boundaries you have set, block their e-mails/social media contact with you.  Change your phone number.  Tell friends and relatives who care and are supportive what’s going on and help them to support you.

In the worse case, don’t hesitate to get a restraining order and use the authorities if the person becomes belligerent.

When boundaries break the relationship, get support

Relationships can’t continue the same way
when one person gets well, and the other is still sick.
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Battered Fort Wall

When this happens, it’s vital to get support.  This is about you reinforcing the fortress that has been battered for years by resetting the patterns of behavior that are unhealthy within you.

If you don’t become aware of these patterns and do the work to correct them, you’ll end up attracting the same dynamic in a different set of circumstances.

1. Educate Yourself
Search out a good relationship/family therapist to help you remap the behavior patterns that are the root of your own family emotional pathology.

2. Build a Support Network
Build a support network separate from the dysfunction.  This might be a house of faith family, a group of friends or other family members who can support your growth.

3. Create New Habits
It takes some practice, but you must create new ways of being within yourself first, and then teach this way of relationship to those around you

As you begin to heal, your interactions will automatically be more healthy because you have changed the relationship you have within yourself.  You are more congruent so your interactions with others will have integrity as well.

Finally, as you begin to heal the wounds in your own fortress wall, you’ll find that you’re able to provide a safe place within which others can hide to heal and grow.  All because you’ve done the work.

The Rest of the Series…

Part One: How to Break the Power of Toxic People In Your Life
Part Two: How to Set Boundaries for the Junkyard Dog in Your Life

Photo Credit: Steve Rice

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How to Break the Power of Toxic People in Your Life

Is Your Life Plagued by Toxic People?

Curled into a fetal position, sucking your thumb as you watch The Devil Wears Prada.  “This is so my life!”  you think in despair.

Or does your life sometimes feel like a weird Twilight Zone episode featuring the Mean Girls?

Toxic People–We all know the type: Nasty. Passive aggressive. Confrontational. Physically aggressive.

No matter how they present in your life, chances are you would like to find a way to kick them to the curb (or if not, at least to minimize the impact they have on you).

You may have heard the maxim that “hurting people, hurt people.”  Let’s start there. In order to ameliorate the influence that toxic people have in your life, you have to begin to separate the behavior from your judgment of the person–as difficult as it may be.

If you want to change the impact of toxic people on your life, you’re going to have to do the work to heal the things their dysfunction brings up for you.  So let’s take a look at how this works in a practical way.

Toxic People Behave Sickly

Judging someone negatively because they are unhealthy, hurting or scared doesn’t serve you.  Sick people act sick. This is especially important to recognize if you are in close relationship with the person (such as family or close friend).

Venting your frustration at their behavior patterns by continuously judging them negatively will support your ego’s need to feel “better than” but it won’t serve your healing or your desire to grow.

Releasing the expectations you hold for the person behaving badly in your life won’t be easy because you truly want them to be different than they are.  Trying to change another person through manipulation or coercion is a fool’s errand. If you will understand this truth, it will save you a world of hurt.

1. It’s not personal! 
They are sick (or fearful, or hurt, etc), so they are behaving as a sick person would.  It doesn’t give them an excuse to victimize you; however, it does give you the freedom to release your expectations of them.  That’s big, if you can absorb it.  Sit with that one for a bit, if you need to.

2. You do not have to take anything personally.
You have the power to liberate your soul from the burden (and pain) of taking the disappointment of those unmet expectations personally.

There are no toxic people, only toxic behavior.  
(Tweet This)

Stick with me here and I’ll show you how this is true.

Your negative judgment of another person is an indictment of yourself–always.

Because we cannot fully love and accept ourselves, we judge others (tweet it). We want to judge each other because we have criticized and condemned ourselves so harshly, first.

When the ego needs to prove its worthiness, then everything and everyone must be judged.  (How else would it know its worth?) The need to judge someone else evaporates when there is no need to set myself up as “better than…”

No separation exists between us. If you loath a quality or characteristic in another person, you must have first recognized it in yourself.  Otherwise, you would  not be triggered emotionally by another person’s actions.

The ego seeks to project the dysfunction outwards onto someone else (i.e., “he/she is toxic”).  It is easier than facing the truth.

What is the truth?

When you are whole and healthy, the pathology–or bad behavior patterns–of another stimulates compassion in you, not judgement.

When you feel judgement rising within you, it is a sure sign that your own pathology has awakened. There is pain or an unhealed wound within me which surfaces, stimulated by someone’s unhealthy behavior.

The Inadvertent Gift of the Toxic Person

Preparing for the expected Police Raid at Occupy L.A.I am not saying that you are responsible or to blame for the bad behavior of those around you. You are only responsible for your reaction to it.

Think about the last time you saw a child throwing a fit in the store.  You probably shook your head or rolled your eyes. Maybe you just walked away.  You noticed it, but it didn’t trigger a response within you.

Why?  Because it wasn’t your child!

It is the same in your life. Someone else’s tantrum (bad or unhealthy behavior) won’t cause an emotional reaction within you when it’s not your “child”.

When you recognize that you are emotionally triggered, use the opportunity to lean into awareness. This isn’t a bad thing!  It’s a gift. Embrace it.  Stop and observe.  What do you feel in your body?

The feeling of emotional charge that urges you to react is a signal that there is some fear, pain or wound within you that remains unhealed.  When you recognize it, you can choose to heal it. This is the gift that the toxic behavior of those in your life brings to you.

Release the need to judge–even your own feelings.  You are not your feelings.  You are the one observing them.  Allow them to flow in and through you.

So the first step to alleviating the pain of toxic behavior in your life is to begin to separate the judgement of behavior from the person. Next, it is to recognize that the judgement of someone else always begins at the doorstep of our own sense of failure.  Learn to ask: Where is it in me?

When you bring it out, you can work it out.
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The people you believe to be a toxic influence in your life actually offer you a great gift–the gift of awareness.  They invite you to awaken to your own pain and hurt in order to heal it.  They can be your greatest teachers if you will let them. It’s up to you.

What About You?

How do you cope with the toxic behavior of people in your life?  Have you been able to heal these relationships? Please join the conversation in the comments.

In the next post in this series, I’m going to discuss these relationships and how we can strive to move them from dysfunctional to healthy.

NOTE: Be sure to check out the rest of the series.
Part Two: How to Set Boundaries for the Junkyard Dogs in Your Life
Part Three: The Truth No One Ever Told You (but should have) About Ending Toxic Relationships

Image Credit: greg lilly 

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Kindness: Your Most Precious Resource

What Is Kindness?

girl smiling
Think of the kindest person you know.

What made you think of them?  Was it their attitude? Their disposition? Their actions?

How do you define or identify kindness, personally?

This week, some co-workers and I were treated unkindly by a supervisor.  The statement he made was so abrupt that it shocked me a bit at first, but it made me really start to think about why we choose unkindness in our interactions with one another. [Read more…]

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How to Move Your Relationship Light Years Ahead

Keys to Healthy Relationships

My buddy, Deone from Releasing Me Today recently posted an article on forgiving yourself and freeing yourself from the negative influence of others.

At the beginning of the article, he talks about the assumptions we make and how they influence our relationships.

It made me think about the 2 most powerful keys that have drastically and permanently moved my own relationship forward, and I had to share. [Read more…]

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008: AWAKE! Podcast – How to Build Security in Relationship

This episode is all about building security in your relationship.  It’s the foundation to a powerful and healthy relationship.

I also discuss…

  • The myth of seraching for the “perfect one” (and why you shouldn’t do it)
  • Why you should search for someone who complements you versus someone who completes you.
  • The reasons that we build romantic relationships (and the fundamental purpose of relationships)
  • How to createa safety zone and nurture the “Secret Garden of the Soul” within your relationship.

BONUS: I share how to affair-proof your relationship.

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The Myth of the “Right One” in Relationships

Photo Credit:  Monkeywing

Were you taught growing up that you should look for the “right one” to date/marry?

Where does this idea of the perfect “soul-mate” come from? Where do we get the belief that there is one “right one” for us?

I remember as a teenager being terrified of missing “the one.” Then a young adult who I respected told me, “You can’t miss the ‘right one’.”

I found that when you’re in the right place, in the right space (mentally and emotionally) and doing the right thing, the right one materializes.

A Fundamental Distinction

Here is a simple distinction that helped me and I think will help you.

Don’t look for someone to complete you; look for someone who complements you.

You are already whole. If you’re looking for someone to complete you, then you will be continuously disappointed. If you look for someone who complements who you already are, then you are well on your way to building a fulfilling relationship.

The Bottom Line

If you’re searching for someone or something outside of yourself to tell you who and what you are, you will never be satisfied.  If, however, you learn to stand strong in who you are, then you can freely offer yourself as a gift to anyone and find that they may bring out the best of what you already are.

Don’t look for the right one. Be you, right…give yourself lavishly to the world, and open your arms to receive the love that floods back to you in abundance.

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007: AWAKE! Podcast – Building a Strong Relationship

In this episode of the show, I discuss the most important relationship you have–that with yourself.

I talk about how our relationships with our loved ones and friends are really constructed and how we can transform any relationship in an instant by changing our thoughts about the relationship.


Please subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Join Me Tonight!

Did you know I’m hosting a LIVE Spreecast tonight, Thursday March 29 at 9/8c?  I’ll be discussing how to build a strong relationship in more detail.  You’ll have an opportunity to get your questions answered.  Join me by scrolling down and clicking on the blue RSVP button in the lower left corner of the page.  (Just sign in with FB or Twitter and you’ll be set!)

Will You Do Me a Favor?

I also need your help to build up the credibility of the podcast as I add more content. Just open the iTunes application or go to the iTunes show page, click “view in iTunes” and click on “write a review” to leave an honest review.  This will help our ranking with iTunes and will help other listeners to connect to the show.  My goal is to get 50 good ratings.

I’d also appreciate if you’d share the show with your friends.

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Protecting Your Relationships With Trust

Photo Credit: Terry Johnston

All relationships have a buffer that protects them from damage.  This is true of platonic as well as romantic relationships.  I call this the “Benefit of the Doubt” buffer.

Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “Oh, I know her and she would never say that!”?

This is the benefit of the doubt.  What the person is really saying is, “I trust that person’s character. What you have told me doesn’t line up with my previous experience.”

What Is the “Benefit of the Doubt” Buffer.

Trust.

Our willingness to extend the benefit of the doubt to another person comes from our trust in them and what we already know of, and have experienced with, them.

Where does trust come from?
[Read more…]

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006: AWAKE! Podcast – Who Are You, Really?!?

An unexpected Google Hangout prompts this question.  I take this esoteric, “big” question and remind you of what you already know about who you are and what you are capable of.

At the end, I share the secret to creating any potential relationship you desire.

Please help me raise the rating for the podcast by leaving a review of the podcast on iTunes.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell your friends to join you in subscribing to the show.