Don’t let the darkness from your past block the light of joy in your present. What happened is done. Stop giving time to things which no longer exist, when there is so much joy to be found here and now. – Karen Salmansohn
What is it that defines you? This question is one we seldom ask ourselves because most of the time we’re frightened by the answer, or to be more precise, by the lack of it. Do you know what actively impacts and shapes you? Are you aware of how certain people and circumstances influence you? The dreaded “autopilot” mode we get stuck in more often than we’d like to admit leads us to become stunted in every aspect of our lives and getting out of it is everything but easy. And most of all, we get pinned down by relationships that no longer serve us.
Yes, we’ve all been there. No, not all of us have managed to get out yet, but the crucial difference here is if you’re working on pulling through or you simply choose to be complacent with the horrid situation for which you know the exit strategy – let go. However, giving up on a loved one is always an experience that shakes us to our core and you can be sure that your mind will do anything to dissuade you from going through with it. Thankfully, there are still people who decide they don’t want to live a half-life anymore, they turn away from half-love, half-respect, half-peace they struggle to have with someone in order to be whole on their own.
Why Giving Up on Someone is Sometimes The Best Thing for You
It all sounds good on paper, but when you think about doing it, do you get that gut-wrenching feeling that leaves you nauseated and with your heart pounding? If the answer is even remotely yes, observe closely where the feelings come from and you’ll sadly find that it’s fear. Not love, not self-sacrifice, not believing that the other person will suddenly turn a new leaf, but fear deeply rooted in you from the moment you decided to care for that certain someone. That fear that echoes through your existence with the plethora of questions like – What would I be if I lost him/her? Clinging only becomes more desperate, reeling you in, making you blind to what’s right before your nose – let go. To start off the process of stepping away, a one-word question is enough – why?
There are countless examples of toxic relationships, be it with friends, relatives or lovers, and all can be equally damaging if we choose to stay “no matter what”. This is the issue that underlies all others – if you’re strong, you should hang in there and give it your best shot. Like holding on to a rotten branch over a precipice is better and safer than reaching for a healthy one and pulling yourself back to safety. Just like holding on to a rotten branch doesn’t show courage or wits, holding on to a relationship that endangers all you are and have the potential to be doesn’t show character or the strength of love you have for that particular person. When put in such a situation, what would you choose – the rotten branch or the strong healthy one?
If you are thinking that this is oversimplified, it really isn’t because every moment we breathe we choose people we want to share our life with but rarely do we ask ourselves why we choose them?
Are they “soul mates” who have betrayed your trust and love in every possible way, but you stick around anyway because of those extremely rare moments when it all seems perfect?
Are they friends with whom you’ve lost all mutual interests, but you continue to spend time together simply because you “don’t just give up on life-long friends”?
Are they family members who feign vague curiosity about your life just so that they could talk about themselves but you spend your time with them because “blood runs thicker than water”?
If any of these situations apply to yours, ask yourself – Why are you doing that? Reasons without reason will follow as an explanation and if you listen carefully, you’ll find they’re nothing more than excuses. The “why question” doesn’t have to have an answer right away, but it’s enough to stop you in your tracks and make you truly think about it. Why do you choose not to give up on someone when it’s obviously the best thing you can do for yourself? This question will then pop into your mind whenever the person you’re clinging to does or says something deeply hurtful or when they do nothing at all, which can be just as excruciatingly painful. Why? Why do you allow same patterns to shape your life when there’s nothing there that serves you? Why do you let shrapnel of your own emotions hit you like you’re the enemy when in fact there shouldn’t even be a war going on in you?
You will resist to the “why”. You will fight against it and you will try to excuse your way out of it, but once it’s in your mind, harmful clinging patterns will start glitching and then comes the next stage, the one that is most feared, though in fact, like with most things in life, it is also most liberating.
Identification of Emotions and the Debunking of the Self-Myth
Like mentioned earlier in the article, fear is the common denominator of toxic relationships and identifying it can take a long time. Just realizing it is fear that binds you to a person isn’t enough, you will have to give it name and rank if you want to be unbound. This is where the autopilot tendency comes into play and distracts us from delving into the true problem – what is in us that makes us hold on to people who make us unhappy? It’s much easier to keep moving in the same vicious circle and your mind will impose this idea in the most cunning of ways, you won’t even realize what is happening. If awareness and presence are something that escaped us in our life, then the mind wants us in the comfort zone and unfortunately, our pain, toxicity, and imprisonment in time become our comfort zone if we don’t tend to it and change it.
Breaking free from everything you’ve known for a certain period of your life and risking “safety” in order to go after what truly makes you happy isn’t a notion the mind complies with gently. It will kick, shout, scream, and spout your insecurities and darkest fears at you until you give up or, until you’ve identified them all, and the mind has no choice but to let you take the reins. Identification of the emotions that tie you to the person when there’s no reason for it can be the moment when the opinion you’ve formed about yourself shatters into million pieces. This will hurt, which is, again, why so many people decide they don’t want to unclutter their emotional baggage but choose to lug it through life like a burden. Your emotions should serve you to understand yourself and others more deeply, to live better and get to wherever you want to be, they’re not a baseball bat that smacks you back into your comfort zone just because you think you have no strength to acknowledge how you feel.
The debunking of the self-myth will crack you open and your clinging factor will be the hard surface that does the cracking. Establishing the exact emotions that keep you in a debilitating relationship with a lover, a blood relative or a once-close friend will shine light into the dark places of yourself you tried really hard not to look at, and those are the places that quietly shaped your life and your relationships thus far, all the time in shadows, completely unaccounted for. As much as the debunking of the self will leave you raw and open, the realization that harmful patterns you’ve created have brought you so much pain and misery which could have been avoided will leave you astonished.
This is one of the primary positives of letting go of people whose presence brings you nothing but toil and bitterness – the understanding that you don’t know yourself not even remotely well as you thought, as well as the acceptance that there’s no better time to work on it than now.
Here’s one thing you have to learn about being in a toxic relationship – it’s never about the other person. This is harsh to hear and yes, other people can profusely hurt you and make you feel puny but this stops the moment you understand that who you are is the power that no one can take away from you unless you allow it. This is a cliché but the moment you debunk your self-myth you’ll understand it as clearly as the fact that letting go and losing someone is nothing compared to staying and losing yourself. From this moment on, emotion recalibration starts taking place, though the name of this process is much less technical than it sounds.
All the negative emotions and behavior patterns that are tying you to that certain someone need to be either altered or neutralized in order for you to move on without the poisonous relationship residue. If fear is the primary factor of your inability to let go, discover if it’s the fear of being alone, the fear of abandonment or something else and then work out how you can recalibrate it. This will take time, since fear is slippery and chameleon-like, so catching it will take some time and recalibrating it will take even more because you will still feel surges of it long after your toxic relationship is over.
If co-dependence and the need to control one another is the issue, working on yourself and developing your abilities will recalibrate you from needing to have someone by your side at any cost.
Maybe you’re the only one trying to keep the relationship afloat, in which case your overinvestment will fade as you come to realize that you should firstly invest in yourself, not everyone else. This recalibration works very well with the one of co-dependence and it happens quite quickly.
Recalibration as such will take a lot of time and it will require a lot of attention and awareness on your behalf but it won’t be overwhelming. In fact, you’ll wonder how come you haven’t done it before and why it had to come to such lengths where you feel stuck in your own life so that you can have a closer look at yourself. As you work on unbundling the true reasons of why you weren’t able to give up on someone earlier, all the ties that kept you chained to them will be severed like the Gordian knot that couldn’t be untied in any other way.
Why Letting Go Is the Best Thing You Can Do
As mentioned earlier, staying in a relationship that brings nothing good has all to do with you. The attention and energy you poured into keeping the relationship alive are the attention and energy that should have been used to raise your self-awareness, and breaking free of toxic relations is a long way round to bring you closer to yourself.
The funny thing is that once you start to delve deeper into yourself and change your emotions and behavior, you won’t even have to try to break up the toxic relationship, it will dissolve on its own because you’re not there to withhold it anymore. You will turn your back and leave without feeling much else but relief. You will also realize that while some people might be good in general, they aren’t good for you, but you always have to be good for yourself. That is why you let go.