What happens when you do fall into the orbit of a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (WSC)? Well, keep in mind, there are many trajectories. No “one size fits all”. But let me try and describe some common patterns. We touched on some of this in Part 1, but it’s worth expanding on the details, and really seeing how they might line up with your own personal experiences. I’ll think you’ll recognize at least some of these patterns….
The fantasy part:
At first, this new person is FANTASTIC!!!!! Exciting, charming, attentive, and like I said in the previous essay (Part 1), fits right into your fantasies of the Perfect Person. Which isn’t too surprising, because they probably believe they are the perfect person too. At least, they believe that on the surface. AND they have an automatic, highly refined skillset for zeroing in on exactly what YOU are looking for, and then morphing themselves into appearing that way.
One of the things that many, many, many people yearn for, is to be connected to emotionally stable, sincere other people — people who you can “be Real” with, who don’t flinch from difficult topics, who are good listeners, people who are easy to open up to. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’ve met some special person who REALLY understands and accepts them?
So, having conversations with WSCs is usually FANTASTIC! They are focused on you, intense, GREAT listeners, nonverbally skilled — the whole nine yards. This feels great.
But the reason they are this way is because they thrive on manipulation. While you’re opening up to them and telling them your secrets, they are cataloguing your past, remembering your examples, keeping track of your triggers, and especially, writing down in their inner book of “How to Fuck with You”, every mistake and vulnerability and bad relationship you tell them about. You don’t realize this at first, because they are expressing sympathy — “oh that must have been so hard”, “you were so brave to get through that”, “you are a real survivor, you know”, “I can’t believe that person was so awful to you, omg!!” Etc. So while you feel “supported”, the truth is, they are stockpiling ammunition for the siege-war on your sanity that is to come.
The other effect that all this fake “trust building” does, is to elevate your perceptions of them even higher, to establish that THEY are your true ally, and to position themselves as “your person”, the one you’ll open up to, the one who “really gets you”, and the one who you’ll trust in your moments of weakness.
The result of this is not only increased emotional dependence on them, but DECREASED emotional dependence on your other sources of support — your friends and your family. Because let’s face it, your friendships and family relationships, even when they’re good, are rarely “perfect”. They rarely fill all your waking hours. And they don’t generally also involve sex, fantasies, sharing-dreams-of-your-future-together, etc.
(Obviously, if the WSC is a spiritual leader, and not someone you’re in a relationship with, some of these details will be different. But the pattern’s the same. And in truth, a lot of Spiritual Predators also have poor boundaries and will sexually overstep them with their adoring acolytes. So, it’s not all that different…)
The barbed hooked
At some point in this process, THEY will also likely open up to you. And don’t me wrong, it’s possible that what they tell you is all true. It’s also possible that their story is highly embellished or a flat-out lie. But in any case, the pattern is the same. They will tell you about the hardships they’ve been through. And oooooooooh baby, have they ever been through hardships!! They’ve been abused. They experienced violence. Their last partner totally screwed them over. They suffered as children. They’ve had terrible medical crises. “Just like you,” they’ve been through a lot. It’s AMAZING they turned out to be so strong.
There are two basic varieties to this person, which diverge at this point:
1) The Spiritual Superhero: In the most extreme cases, they even seem like they have magic powers. They’ve cured their own illnesses. They’ve stood up to their own abusers and rapists. They’ve gone into hardcore meditation or yoga or “healing practices”, and they’ve REALLY connected with their ground, opened their chakras, had Kundalini experiences, read the works of the Great Masters of Living, and in countless ways, they have really worked on themselves. (NOTE: If I were a betting man, I’d be laying some sweet coin down on the possibility that this person is super-into the Law of Attraction…)
(Again, this all might be true, or at least partly true! They probably HAVE worked on themselves and had some intense experiences. This just feeds their delusions of grandeur even more though….)
2) The Sufferer: Not all WSC position themselves as superheroes. Some of them are chronic victims. They’re “working on themselves,” but it’s sooooo difficult when the world keeps screwing them over. But, they are the plucky survivors, the people who just keep trying. They’re good people. They just want a simple life. They have common sense, and are doing their best. They “don’t believe they’re better than anyone else”, but man, life HAS been hard, and they want you to know that they REALLY UNDERSTAND where you’re coming from, what you’ve been through. They’ll be your comrade-in-arms, and you can walk forward with them, safely, into the future, supporting each other.
So this is the Hook. Like with fishing, once you take this bait and are exposed to their story of suffering, you’re hooked, and they can start reeling you in. And just like with fishing, the SHITTIEST PART of this whole thing, is that you almost HAVE TO take the bait. Because their story of suffering, and even of overcoming, is TRUE for most people!! It’s true for the TRULY HEALTHY people out there as well!
You can’t just take someone’s story of suffering-and-growth and say — “RED FLAG!!” — and run for the hills. Because then you’re a dick. Most people who have been through a lot really are good, kind, wonderful, courageous, beautiful people. So you simply can’t avoid the bait, or you’re gonna be turning your back on practically everybody.
So, what do you do??
Well, you look for the barb on the hook. There’s a big difference between a genuinely kind, Healthy person and a toxic, WSC person. The Healthy person isn’t telling you their story in order to manipulate you. They’re telling you their story in order to connect with you. They don’t NEED to control you or subjugate you in order to make themselves feel better. So, watch for how they respond to your self-care, your strengths, your boundaries, your successes, your friends, your interests. When YOU assert yourself, are they cool with it? Or, do they make you feel bad in some way? This is like when the fish starts fighting; THAT is when they feel the barb in the hook.
For example, when you need to “pull back” for whatever reason, and you express that to them, the Healthy person is, more or less, going to be okay with that. Let’s say you have a busy few weeks coming up and you can’t spend much time together. No problem. Sure, they might be a little “oh that’s too bad” or whatever, but otherwise, that’s okay, you can go be busy for a while, they’ll be here when you come back. Even if there’s no overt reason why you need to pull back, you just “need some space” or whatever, the healthy person will be cool with that. “No problem, take whatever time you need. If you want to reach out, I’m here.”
The WSC on the other hand, will be uncomfortable with you pulling back. They’ll get “all concerned” about it. They’ll try to get you to open up more and more “so they can help you.” They’ll plant seeds of doubt and make you wonder if you’re being avoidant. They’ll tell you they feel a bit rejected. They might even passively-aggressively say something like “well, there you go again, just like with your mother…” or in some other way take your boundary-setting act and turn it against you, pathologize you, suggest that what you’re doing is unhealthy. They might be “disappointed” in you.
This is part of what’s called “Gas Lighting” and it’s a key characteristic of toxic relationships. Gas-lighting involves the person whittling away at your strengths, your healthy actions, your self-respect, your confidence, your joy, your interests, your wisdom, and basically, everything that is good about you. Gas-lighting is about planting seeds of doubt, questioning you so you’re never sure about your own perceptions anymore, criticizing your actions, ESPECIALLY when those actions are to become more self-reliant.
A healthy person WANTS you to stand on your own two feet, WANTS to celebrate your successes, WANTS your light to shine as brightly and beautifully as it can and they’ll be there cheering you on, proud of you and smiling at your success. The gas-lighter pretends to want that, until it starts to happen, and then they do everything they can to extinguish your light, undermine your self-reliance, and diminish your success. And all the while, they’ll try to make you feel like they are actually your biggest supporter, and the reason you’re failing or doubtful or insecure or whatever, is because man, you really do have problems. You’ve got a long way to go in YOUR personal growth. It sure is good they’ve got your back, eh?
I believe the technical term for this is being “mind fucked”. (Insert scientific citation here…)
You also feel the barbed hook as soon as you turn towards other people, like your other close friends or family, or a mentor or other person you rely on for guidance. The Healthy person will be TOTALLY FINE with that. They’ll actually WANT you to have other friends, to be close with your family, to expose yourself to other sources of wisdom and support etc., because THAT’S HEALTHY FOR YOU. But the WSC will be uncomfortable with that. They’ll ask all sorts of questions about how it went, or what they said, etc., under the guise of “being interested” but in reality because they want to know what sorts of things you said about them. In the right moments, they’ll do what they can to criticize those people, tell you they don’t have your best interests at heart. They’ll try and make you believe that your friends actually don’t like you, or gossip about you, or are using you.
Or they’ll play the sympathy card, and tell you that your friends are against them (against the WSC, that is). Which might actually be true. Your friends might see them for what they really are, and might genuinely be uncomfortable with the WSC. And the WSC knows that, and wants to isolate you from them. They want you in a nice, little tower somewhere, so to speak, supposedly “protecting” you when what they are actually doing is cutting you off from the people who will help you.
WSCs, abusers, cult leaders, tyrannical leaders, toxic ‘friends’ — they want you all to themselves. They want to control your reality as much as they can. And because they know that other people might see through their bullshit and warn you, they do everything they can to convince you that THOSE PEOPLE are the untrustworthy ones. Only you and the WSC, in your nice little soul-mate bubble of trust, are the Good Ones.
If that strategy doesn’t work, and you still insist on going to see your friends, or take on that new project at work, or spend more time with your family, then the WSC’s next line of defense is to NEED you. They’ll suddenly have some crisis that simply overwhelms all other considerations. ALL HANDS ON DECK! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!!!! They’ll get terrible headaches, or sudden arthritis, or they’ll have some huuuuuuuuge crisis at work, or even, as a result of the “deep work they’ve been doing in healing,” they’ll find themselves “overwhelmed by all these terrible memories” that are being dredged up, and “just for a while” they’ll need your support.
(If they’re not the needy type, then their only other real fall-back is guilt and straight-up anger. They might have terrible tempers. And then, of course, some WSCs do “all of the above” — being needy, guilting, anger. One way or the other, they’re gonna fill up your consciousness with THEM, not with you.
So you, being a decent person, will say, okay, I’ll be here for you. And you’ll shelve your friends, family, plans, etc. You’ll make excuses. You’ll ask people to be understanding, because you really have to be there for WSC-person. You’ll explain that they’re going through a really tough time, and “now just isn’t the time; next time, ok?” And your friends and family will smile and nod and express concern and send you positive vibes and thoughts and prayers. And you will stay in your prison.
After that happens enough times, your friends and family will get frustrated and will confront you. OR they’ll start to think that YOU are the one who’s lying, and then avoid you. In either case, the WSC wins. If your friends confront you, the WSC will say “See? They really don’t have your back. I told you they were shitty.” If they turn away after your umpteenth time of bailing on them, the WSC will say “See? They really don’t have your back. I told you they were shitty.”
Gas-Lighting when you Challenge the Gas-Lighting
It’s so difficult to challenge Gas Lighting behaviour, because even your challenge can get co-opted into the gas-lighting. For example, you bring up that you feel they are being unkind to you, or are being too jealous with your friends. And they respond by telling you that of course you feel that way, you’re ALWAYS seeing other people as being against you. Remember when you told them about your roommate in first year and how they were a dick? And your boyfriend in high school? And your sister? And your mom when you were a teenager? Yeah, in relationship after relationship, it’s always YOU who is the one feeling hurt and apparently being victimized, blahblahblah. So now in THIS relationship, you’re doing the same thing! You’re turning ME into some abuser-person who doesn’t care about your feelings! I mean, I can’t believe you would do that! Especially after, Jesus Christ, after all the times I’e been there for you, listened, been so understanding about all those things you told me, and now….now you’re turning this on me? Seriously.? I’m hurt. I don’t even what to say right now. I need some time to think about this.
— and they storm out, “setting a healthy boundary” for themselves, and leaving you to stew in your guilt for being such a fucked up person that YOU mess up all your relationships.
And you sit there, alone, having just been yelled at, feeling all those terrible feelings, and you wonder, is it really you? I mean, maybe you didn’t deserve everything they said….but…I mean, yeah, it was kind of true, wasn’t it? You really are kind of ungrateful. …..
THIS is gaslighting. And now you are on fire, and burning, and being scarred. And it sucks.
Hook, line, and sinker Now, you just get reeled in. And gutted. They own you. If you’re “lucky”, you’ll become the trophy-fish they put on a board and display to the world as a sign of how great they are. If you are “unlucky”, you’ll become their emotional slave, and they will use you, and use you, and use you to prop up their inflated-but-needy ego until you are sucked dry of every ounce of life and spark of joy you have.
And then, it’s hard to say what will happen. The worst-case scenarios are terrible. You’re signed up for a lifetime, possibly, of emotional torment, control, conflict. It will exhaust you, and if it escalates unchecked, or frankly, if you don’t leave, then you’ll start to fall apart. Your work will suffer. Your health with suffer. All those dreams you once had will fade to nothing. You’ll lose your confidence, the bounce in your step, your interest in the things you used to care about. You’ll become afraid to make a mistake. You’ll always apologize. You’ll be depressed. You might even get driven to suicide.
And unless THEY actually plug into healing at some point, they’ll never change, and even if they do “plug in”, there are no guarantees here. The clinical literature shows that people with strong personality-level disorders, have poor treatment outcomes overall.
The tragic irony of it all is that YOU, your loyalty, your love, your presence in their lives, might be the very thing that actually prevents them from getting help. Because as long as they can live in their controlling bubble, where YOU are the fucked one, then THEY never have to fully face themselves. Your suffering becomes their validation. And their need for validation — is endless.
The other worst-case scenario, is that when you are fully sucked dry, broken, and have fallen apart, when your relationship has devolved to constant fighting, when you see YOURSELF turning into a monster, then they might just leave you. There’s more fish in the sea, right?
One thing for sure, you will be shedding the layers of ‘toxification’ for a long time. When a person goes through very difficult relationship experiences, these can continue for years, decades even, so it’s no surprise that when it ends, the effects will last, and linger, for a long time as well.
You will probably fall, for a while. You’ll go through some dark times, feel so disgusting and hopeless that you just want to die. You might even try. If you make the mistake of not-dealing-with-grief very well, then you’ll likely bounce back after the acute crisis has passed, but then hurtle yourself into the next intense relationship or work project or group or whatever, and before you know it, the same processes of insecurity and everything you did wrong before, come back to haunt you, and this next phase blows up eventually and the cycle continues…
If you DO deal with grief better, and you take the time and heal from this, and change your own patterns, and get help and work on yourself, sincerely, then yes, even though you fall for a while, you’ll get back up, and you WILL be an even stronger person for it. You can grow from anything, if you confront the reality of what you’ve gone through, and then really work at whatever there is for you to work at.
So remember this, if you end up laying on the floor sometime, staring at nothing, thinking of dying. This “worst case scenario” is actually a blessing. It’s a terrible blessing, but it’s a blessing. Even if your health is gone, your friends are gone, your money is gone, your job is gone, your self-respect is gone — you can start again. You can be free. You can get help. You can reach out from the bottom, and accept the help that is available, whatever form it takes. Whether it’s that lifelong friend who is still loyal to you, or your siblings who are still there for you even though “it’s been a long time”, whether it’s the abused women’s or men’s shelter, or whether it’s just walking into Emergency at the hospital and saying “I’m fucked, I need help”, there ARE resources out there to help you.
It will seem like an impossible climb back to “normal life”. But you CAN do it. And people WILL help you. And the upside of this kind of experience is, by hitting bottom, you might actually be ready for transformative change. You might finally be ready to really open up to that therapist. To really “do the work.” And when you start, things WILL change.
Lessons to be Learned
For now, the big “take home messages” are, I think, the following:
- If the person seems perfect, check your own fantasies.
- Healthy people want YOU to be a healthy, successful person and are truly comfortable and happy when YOU shine.
- Always, always, always stay connected to your friends, family, or whoever is your “support system”.
- Taking time for yourself is healthy, normal, and part of your own well-being.
- If you find it difficult to get your emotional needs supported, or if you “feel afraid of how they’ll react” if you bring up certain things that are important to you, then chances are, this is not a healthy relationship.
I think the biggest lesson I have taken from, let’s say, “the relationship literature,” is that it’s a good thing to protect yourself, to be choosy, to stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and say “no.” There is no shame in working on yourself, getting stronger, being healthier. And ultimately, if there’s any semi-reliable path to finding a healthier relationship, it has to be through you first working on becoming a healthier person.
Great posts Dan. I know you wrote them for you and you also wrote them for me. You always explain things so well. This type of experience is unbelievably confusing but you can get out, you can get help and you can get better. Its quite a path to travel though. I don’t wish it on anyone. I hope many read your guidance here and do something sooner rather than later if they feel this might be happening to them.
Thanks Donna. 🙂 It’s so hard to put into words experiences that are themselves unclear and self-contradicting, where you have mixed feelings and one day would say one thing and a different day say a different thing. So….I tried to capture that confusion and how you get ‘sucked in’. Based on the *cough cough* relationship literature, of course.
But I hear you — my hope is the same, that by talking about common relationship patterns, people who find themselves in one can maybe get a big of an outsider’s look at their situation and be encouraged to, like you said, “do something sooner rather than later.”
I had to read this a couple of times, it definitely sparked something very strong in me. I have been asking myself why this feels so familiar and I can’t quite figure out which side of these patterns I have found myself in – maybe both? I felt scared and ashamed that I may have demonstrated many behaviours of WSCSs – like perhaps using manipulation to get attention and to focus on MY sadness, my difficulties and away from partners’ successes and joys… it makes me sad and almost sick to realize this. Have I been exposed to these types of behaviours in others? In my family? And just replicating them in my own life? Is this a lack of love for the other person a lack of love for myself? Pffff, much to think about… I’ll be pondering on this one for a while..
Hi ‘M’! 🙂 Thanks for telling me that, first of all. I appreciate it, and just knowing that it resonates with you like that — thank you. And you know, I really appreciate the honesty of your comment. There’s ‘no shame, no blame’ here, and I certainly have exhibited my own selection of WSC patterns at points in my life. It is sobering to think about, eh?
I think, if I may offer a suggestion — it would be to forgive yourself for whatever less-than-ideal paths you may feel you went down in the past. The patterns of our past come from us adapting to the challenges of our earlier life circumstances. So, the fact that you’re now so mindful and sincere about the kind of person you are, is a testament to your growth, and maybe could help, a little, you not feel ashamed. It’s a delicate balance though, isn’t it? Like, I think there’s a kind of grief, or mourning, that you have to go through when you realize things about yourself that are….hehe….’less healthy’ than we’d like them to be? But yeah, that’s what it’s like — it’s like having to grieve what’s been lost in your life. And then, by feeling that, opening to it, letting yourself feel the sorrow, I think that’s what changes a person.
And definitely, I hear you — I’ve often wondered about whether my perceptions of relationships have had more to do with my own relationship to myself, than with anything actually happening in a particular relationship. ….Realizing THAT, is like…d’oh… I’ll be pondering on this one for a while, too. 🙂
Oh boy. What a terrible walk down memory lane. But actually, thank you for taking the time and energy to put into words these experiences. It is important that these things are spoken about and not left in the dark. I am almost certain it was challenging for you too, as when we write or talk about things, in some ways, we do kind of re-live the experience. So hope you are taking care of yourself.
I remember my own experiences of being completely befuddled by what was happening, because words and actions did not align. On the one hand, I was told that I was loved, and that I would be taken cared of, and yet, with the mere request of asking for help with the dishes, for example, the response I received was one of borderline rage with the message, “Why can’t you do it yourself?”
I experienced many of the things you wrote, amongst others: being told I couldn’t trust my friends and family, that they weren’t really there for me and didn’t care about me; unable to voice my emotional needs without being met with anger or guilt, or somehow it morphed into being about THEM, and meeting THEIR needs; missing out on events with friends or families because a fight would blow up, over essentially “nothing”; working hard to try and meet their needs, met with resistance, and then told that I am selfish and don’t make an effort to meet their needs…
The problem, as you shared, is that it began with him “earning my trust”. He spent hours just listening to me, and even helped me with some breakthroughs. So, I thought I could trust him. I thought he understood and cared about my well-being. I genuinely created a deep bond with him, wanting to make things work because every relationship has their issues (right?), making excuses for his increasingly hurtful actions. I defended his actions against the concerns of family and friends. Told them if they cared about me, they would support my decision. That’s how deep in the hole I fell. Until he crossed a hard boundary. Even then, it was difficult. I struggled with the decision, but ultimately I left.
What I want to share, based on my own experiences, is that it will feel AWFUL at first. I mean, if you stayed in the relationship long enough, it means that a bond was created, and severing that bond, even if you KNOW it is the right thing to do, STILL feels wrong. Because you are used to making excuses for them, used to “protecting” them, because that was the dynamic of the relationship.
So, surround yourself with people who support you, but are not completely “against” the other person, or at least skillful with their words and wisdom. Because human nature would have it, that as soon as someone starts bashing the person, it would bring up feelings of guilt, because again, that was the dynamic of the relationship. And it could then lead you to play out the same pattern of defending them. At least in the beginning. Take time to process, seek professional counselling, friends who know you both to can give a more “balanced” view, but friends who will not excuse their behaviour. This time for me was KEY to waking up from the fog. I needed space to feel things through myself, with support, but without the heavy opinions of others. Maybe this is unique to me, but in case it resonates with you. Also, take time to FEEL your emotions. ALL OF THEM. The grief, pain, anger, uncertainty, fear. Do not suppress them. Find people who can hold space for you to do so without judgment; often times you will need professional counseling. And most important, have COMPASSION for yourself. I often questioned myself, wondering why I stayed in the relationship for so long. “Was something wrong with me?” The answer of course is that I am a human being. Flawed. I did not have all the answers. I did what I thought was best, in that moment in time. And that, ultimately, is all I can do. Now that I know better, I can make different choices. So have compassion for yourself.
In processing the aftermath, I too had to take responsibility for how my own “vulnerabilities” led me to stay in the relationship, despite the Red Flags. And yes, there will be. And yes, I ignored them. For me, it was a core belief that I needed someone else to take care of me. And in being taken care of, it meant that they loved me. So essentially, I was looking to feel loved. And because that was one of the first things he told me, I was hooked, and I wanted to believe him. Despite his actions that showed me otherwise. So reflect, dig deep, ask yourself questions, not from a place of judgment, but genuine care. “What made me stay?” Then, start the work of loving yourself. Again, this type of work usually requires enlisting professional help. But it is 100% worth it. Perhaps the most important work you will do for yourself.
Of course, all of this is my own experience. This is what helped me. The message that I do want to send is that if you do find yourself in this situation, in an extremely unhealthy relationship, know that there is a way out. I did it. It was no piece of cake. I still am shedding the layers of “toxification” (thank you, Dan for this word). But it is possible. Dan is doing it. I am doing it. Many many many others are doing it. You are not alone. Reach out for help. Seriously. Help will come. And yes, if you choose to, you WILL grow, and learn and become a stronger person. Surround yourself with people who will support this new you. And yes, a part of you will feel like “dying”, and it will feel uncomfortable, because you’ve been so used to being a certain way up until this point. TRUST the new you. Again, keep friends and family around to remind you of this new you. It sounds silly, but you will need to be reminded. Old patterns are hard to break. New patterns require repetition. SO keep repeating. And it’s okay if you fall. It is likely. Process. And just get right back into it again.
Oh, and if spirituality at all is playing a factor, where you think you need to be COMPASSIONATE towards their struggle, please remember that Compassion must and always include YOU. So if your actions are coming from a place where YOU yourself are not being honoured, it isn’t compassion. And you’re just putting yourself in harm’s way. In other words, compassion requires Boundaries. Still learning this myself. This is where spiritual misinformation is dangerous, and people feel like they need to remain in the relationship to “save” the other person. I know I did. Now, I know that no one can save anyone that doesn’t “want” to be saved. It’s also an ego-trip, thinking you can save someone else. Save yourself!
And when you are ready, let go… This is the phase that I am in. Because talking about it for so long, in a way, keeps me stuck. It is energy that is tied up. I do believe it is important to share my experiences, the lessons learned, to raise awareness for others, but at some point, a letting go needs to happen. Moreso on an emotional-mental level. Where I am not so caught up in the story anymore. It is just another story. An important story. But another story from my past. And right now, I want to live the present-moment story.
Hi Marilyn, wow….I really just want to say how much I appreciate you sharing that. It sounds like you have been on quite a journey, and to hear the growth and balance in your perspective is, humbling, really. I hesitate to even say a bunch of words, because you already said it perfectly. So — anyone reading this — go read Marilyn’s comment instead! 🙂
You captured so beautifully the process, the step-by-step process, by which these relationship patterns end up being our own. I think so often people just demonize the person they see as being at fault, AND they demonize themselves, in the sense of wondering ‘what was wrong with me?’ for getting into the relationship, staying for so long, making so many excuses, etc… But you eloquently described how responsibility is shared by everyone involved, even though it may be quite lop-sided! Nevertheless, accepting the roles that you do play in your own relationship outcomes (choosing, excusing, being assertive vs. ‘accepting,’, staying vs. leaving, etc…all-the-things!), IS important! It gives you power, lessons to learn, tools to gain better skill at for the future, and more deeply, an evolution in your personality. Difficult experiences DO make people stronger, in one way or another, and I think you are doing all the right things, in terms of strengthening yourself in ways that are healthy, and wise, and supported by a large community.
I know it’s hard when doubts arise, and you blame yourself again, think that “some” of what was said in anger against you “maybe is true?”, and you wonder “Am I doing the right thing?” This is a universal part of difficult relationships, especially with certain other complicating factors that may be involved, like shared family or professional or other linkages between the two people. It’s hard enough when you CAN just go your separate ways and never have to deal with each other again, but it’s much, much, much harder when you can’t, because of other ties that may bind you.
One thing I want to highlight, for you in particular because this is something I have learned from you in a big way, is that when all these doubts and difficulties arise, it is very wise to NOT ‘go it alone.’ But instead, to reach out to a community of support. Or, communities of support. There may be therapy groups, online groups, exercise/jogging/yoga, friends, family, faith, etc. — but plugging into people you know are well balanced themselves, well grounded themselves, people whose experience you trust — that is SO important, and I commend you for keeping yourself grounded through your relationships in the larger community. It’s such a healthy way to live, and yeah….I find it inspiring, and hope that you do appreciate that about yourself.
(Especially when you contrast it to the opposite — which is isolating yourself or only surrounding yourself with people who put you on a pedestal and will just agree with everything you say…) 🙂
I know for me, at some point in the past, I experienced a lot of the initial bonding and good times of a relationship around spirituality and sharing ideas, practice, deep experiences, etc. When they turned into …a whole different thing later, it was discombobulating. It was like, I felt like my own reasoning must be insane, because here on the one hand are all these beautiful spiritual insights and knowledges etc., that we share together, and we believe the same things, and reason the same ways and THAT is why so much of the Connection seemed so real and healthy in the first place! But on the other hand then you start realizing that you share very very different perspectives about other things, and especially things that revolve around your relationship. (And of course, before long, EVERYTHING revolves around your relationship…). I found that experience very un-grounding. Very destabilizing. It can start to sync-up with other factors in your life to make you think that you are basically some kind of terrible person. It’s so easy to slide into that way of thinking, when your relationship-environment has conditioned that into you over and over, perhaps for years. (And of course, these patterns probably build on childhood patterns as well….because everything does…).
So this is one thing I appreciate deeply about you, which is how well you support yourself with a wise community. It’s totally the ‘right way to be.’
Maaan, seriously…if you could hook up every person to a community of support, with some ‘wise elders’ in their life, we would make a huge difference to virtually all problems in society. This is something I totally credit you with helping me to understand.
So…three cheers to you! 🙂 🙂 🙂