The Recovery (4 – 6 months)
“Your pain is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself.” Gary Zukav
Once you really start to leave those early stages of healing behind and get into things more – you’ll find other temptations and distractions arise where you can shift outwards once again to external attachments. It may be just a new friend who we think “gets it” so we pour our “spare time” into them? Or maybe it’s a new love interest? Or perhaps someone’s asked us out and we don’t know how to respond? Why is this a problem? After high intensity relationships, and particularly where we’ve gone from toxic relationship to toxic relationship all our lives (call out to the co-dependents reading this!) – it’s really important that we learn to be on our own and allow ourselves to completely detox before trying to get into a new relationship. The idea is to stop any opportunity of repetitive compulsion – where our subconscious draws us back to another high intensity relationship where we feel comfortable in that space, because that’s what we’ve now adapted to. We need to recreate what is a healthy normal for us: challenge ourselves to be bored and comfortable with people.
What people are asking:
– I’m struggling with loneliness and a broken heart – and I know a new person could fix all this and make me feel better; but would I be really attracted to or actually in love with this new person?
– How can I shift the focus from obsessive thoughts and back to me? Doesn’t matter how much work I put into my healing – I still seem to drift back there.
– How do you ignore a smear campaign once they know you’re not coming back?
– I want to be strongly centered in Self, in partnership with me – how do I stop myself from losing myself and not being affected by others?
1. Set Boundaries: If you are co-dependent or a love addict trying to recover, you will be a people-magnet and have a deep desire to welcome the pull. You want to make new friends and new connections, with everyone and everyone and particularly people in this space – because they get it! The problem is: you haven’t healed yet. And if you’re meeting someone in this space, they haven’t healed either – so it’ll be blind leading the blind. If you’re just going to help each other with strategies and you’re motivated to do your own work, go for it. But if your buddy is stuck and you feel as though you’re leaving them behind, or vice versa, you need to be assertive as you allow the needed growth to occur – and not let this impact your healing!
Often when we hear of setting boundaries we start thinking about other people – we set them to keep the bad guys out or to ensure people are respectful towards us. This is where it ends, so we don’t really think about it any further – if someone “crosses a line”, we’ll act on it and that’s when we may need to think on it more. If this is how you’ve been thinking about boundary setting, it’s time for a change: boundaries are as actually more for us than anyone else. This is where we need to set our boundaries (which either we don’t have, or we keep ignoring): not for others, but for ourselves – and follow up. What is our acceptable behaviour for us? When are we out of line? What do we do to correct it? Etc.
If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to start setting your own boundaries. Learning to say no to people who come into your life for the next 6-12 months because this time is committed 100% to your healing. Learning how to assertively communicate with people when someone asks you out during this time. This is important because setting these personal boundaries helps you be honest with yourself, enhance your self-trust that you’ve already built the foundation for and builds on the commitment you made yourself.
Once you’ve set your boundaries – separating what’s acceptable and unacceptable for you to do and say – then you can move into setting boundaries that impact your external relationships and start making a shift in this space. This blog post may help.
2. Fully process your emotions: When we first leave these relationships we often experience some really frightening and overwhelming emotions. We need to experience these emotions and learn how to soothe ourselves in this space. If you can master this – then the rest of your recovery from this point is fairly straight forward.
Good and bad, we need to accept our emotions (and this is a big part of this self-acceptance piece which we’re working on overall right now). Learning to tolerate your emotions will help you regain control over your entire self.
Understanding and processing emotions can be as easy as journaling about what you’re feeling, staying in the present moment as much as you can. You may also like to use this as an opportunity to learn to sit with difficult emotions. Make yourself as present as possible, then sit with them as they come up and intensify and reach their peak – and then watch them fade out again, like watching a cloud drift away.
Remember to practice plenty of self-care after exploring with the above activities to help soothe yourself back down. So, as well as exploring these difficult emotions, we also need to retrain ourselves to have healthy emotions and explore a new healthy normal away from the toxic intensity we’re used to. This may mean being bored and retraining us to find comfort in a space that initially feels boring to us. Set boundaries around this new space – preserve the boring nature of it as you try to get comfortable.
3. Be your best friend: One of the best actions we can take for ourselves to realign and also build a strong relationship with ourselves is to start treating ourselves as we would our own best friend. A lot of people in this space are struggling with loneliness and it’s just as Maxwell Maltz says: “If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone”.
When I first started my healing, I struggled with the isolation. Not that there weren’t people in similar situations: but there weren’t people in my specific situation with my specific narcissist – and that made me feel very isolated, and as though no one could ever fully understand. To an extent, that’s true – but what was actually most difficult was that I was struggling to understand everything myself, which lead me to feel frustrated and – with no one else close at hand – I channelled that frustration towards myself: and it made things worse.
At one point my therapist introduced me to inner child work where I was able to really spark this initial connection with myself. Looking at myself in adult form, left my frustrated and angry. How could I get myself into such a bad situation? Why did this stuff only ever happen to me? When was I going to get it right? I was really down on myself. But when my therapist told me to refocus on myself a little child (3 to 7 years old) and what I enjoyed back then, things started to shift. I kept a photo of a young me in my phone. Every time I felt angry, I reflected back on that child and thought “It’s not her fault, she wouldn’t want this – this would really hurt her and she doesn’t deserve it.” For the first time, I felt compassion towards myself.
It was only from this space of connection and compassion that I could really make a shift and start to become my own best friend, and slowly that bond grew as I moved the connection to my adult-self. I started checking in with myself, before anyone else – What’d I think? How did I feel? I started doing what I wanted to do more – and caring more about the outcomes of my life. And at this point, I started feeling stronger and I started going after the life of my dreams. If you have a strong internal rule book, if you’re struggling against yourself, start with being really honest with yourself about what’s going on, and then look at how you can change it.