A great deal has been written about dealing with the emotional pain that comes with the end of a loving relationship. Unfortunately, not all relationships are loving. Most of us cross paths with people who, in one way or another, impact us in very negative ways. For some, it is a relative who abused them either mentally or physically. For others, it was an acquaintance who did or said things that left a lasting and undermining impression. Still others were physically or verbally assaulted by a stranger, leading them to seemingly feel forever discounted or vulnerable. Whatever the situation, the common element is that whoever went through something like this may find that these negative impacts still control their happiness and sense of wellbeing.
How can this happen?
There are a variety of psychological reasons why some people do this to others. In reality, it doesn’t matter why they did this, so much as the continuing power these actions have on those who were targeted. Often, the perpetrator has no concept of the lasting pain they have inflicted. In some situations, that pain was never intended, but it can continue whether intended or not.
While these people are the victims of the actions of others, that doesn’t mean that they need to carry the title of “victim” for the rest of their lives. Carrying this pain inside can lead to a variety of long term psychological and health issues. Treating the symptoms of these issues with medication can dull some of these feelings of helplessness, but that is only treating the symptoms. The underlying problem is that they are grieving how this negative relationship has impacted them and that’s the real issue that must be dealt with, if they are ever to take back control of their happiness.
What is grief?
Grief is the normal reaction to any change you experience in life. It can come from missing someone who has always been there for you, but is missing from your life when you really need them the most. If can also come from wanting something from someone who was never there for you when you needed their support or validation. Unresolved grief takes away from your happiness and can leave you forever being hurt by others that say or do something that reminds you of that painful relationship. The simplest words or actions, of someone who means no harm, can reignite painful memories of the past, causing that person who was previously victimized to become a victim once again.
How does this control you?
I have a good friend who shared a story of the lasting impact this once had on his life. He was at a party, and a therapist friend asked him if he could ask a personal question. He said it depends on the question, and the therapist asked him if he had been “hit on the head a lot when he was a child?” My friend then asked him why he asked this question. The therapist said that ne noticed that my friend never let his wife touch him on the head. He added that my friend was very practiced in this behavior, and that whenever my friend’s wife tried to touch his head or smooth a stray hair, he avoided it by taking or kissing her hand, but avoided that physical contact. My friend said that he would have to think about it.
He told me that he never realized he was doing this. He then added that, as a child, his father would sometimes come home, after a few drinks, and frequently cuff him, or his brothers, on the side of the head, since they probably needed it anyway. Even though he and his wife had a loving relationship, and she had never struck him in anger, he realized that he was still carrying that emotional scar from the past into their relationship. It was then that he had to take additional action on the painful parts of his relationship with his father, so that it would no longer have control over his life.
There is any number of ways that a past negative or painful relationship can continue to impact you. In most cases, people never realize that some of their “protective” or “reactive” habits are related to such a past experience. If you were attacked by a stranger on a normally safe street, you might avoid taking that path again, because the actions of that person still control your sense of safety. If someone ever continually said negative things about your weight, appearance or self-worth, you might still be carrying the power of those words with you and letting it hurt your self-image.
I have had a couple people in my past that said persistently negative things that made me question my abilities in certain areas. Even though I ultimately proved them wrong, I found that I still carried those words with me and continued to discount my talents. Even after they were no longer part of my life, I was still letting them control me on an internal level. Even when others uttered similar words, in an entirely different context, it took me back to when I first heard them and I reacted much as I had in that first instance. It wasn’t t until I took action to deal with the emotional pain that they inflicted that I was able to move forward with confidence and eliminate that hidden control that they still had on me.
What both my friend and I found was that taking this action did not require years of therapy, but rather realizing that we were both dealing with elements of grief. We took Grief Recovery Action using “The Grief Recovery Handbook.” This book isn’t just for those feelings the pain of the loss of a loving relationship, but rather any relationship. While the tools are the same in both cases, the application is defined by the unique elements of the individual relationship. The length of the relationship is not a factor either. It’s the lasting impact that is all that matters. Both of us are amazed at how taking these simple, but emotionally impactful actions, have changed our lives for the better.
You have a choice. You can continue to be a victim, and suffer with that burden for the rest of your life, or you can follow a different path; one that lets you live with joy in your life, rather than pain and sorrow. Life is far too short to live it as a victim. The Grief Recovery Method is an educational program designed so that you are in control of your own happiness, rather than leaving that power to others!
Image Credit: Antonio Guillem 123RF Stock Photo