In the aftermath of a toxic or narcissistic relationship, we can lose all sense of self.
But there is a way we can heal—so we can move on and learn to trust ourselves again. And in today’s video, I share 3 mindsets that can help you do just that.
Begin to Truly Trust Yourself & Believe in Your Own Worth.
Learn More About The Matthew Hussey Virtual Retreat . . .
Sometimes in life, a dangerous person comes along, a person that ends up doing far more damage to us, our self-esteem, our sense of selves and our life than we ever thought possible. Now, when someone like this comes along and when we meet them at a time in our life where maybe there are wounds we haven’t healed, there’s childhood patterns that we’re repeating, where we’re doubting ourselves, where we find ourselves at a vulnerable moment, or we just find ourselves without the awareness of the kind of damage a person like this can do, we let them in. And upon finding that this relationship is difficult or this person has patterns that we don’t understand, we invest more in trying to make the relationship work, in trying to bring about peace with this person, in trying to make this person happy or give them what they say they want all the while hoping that one day the dynamic will change, that this person will change, that the behaviors that are causing you pain right now will cease, but they don’t.
And when we keep investing in a person like this, when we keep giving and giving and giving, they begin to take up more and more space in our world until eventually they are our world. They monopolize our time, our energy, our attention, and the emotional toll that the relationship takes, the stress, the anxiety, the fear take up so much space that we no longer have the bandwidth to think about anything else.
When someone becomes our world, it can actually start to rewire our brain the way we think, it can create new trauma or activate old trauma. It can make it so that we no longer distinguish between this person and the rest of the world. In our mind and our emotions, they become the same thing. It’s no longer what this person is like and what people are like. Logically, we may understand that our ex is not everybody, but emotionally it feels like that’s not true. Whatever pain this person caused us becomes the potential danger of everybody else in life. And so, when a relationship like this ends, there is this aftermath that continues. They’re now no longer present in your life, but they have left an emotional footprint.
So now when we find ourselves trying to form a new relationship, especially romantically, but it can even take place in new friendships, we find ourselves distrusting other people, we find ourselves thinking that situations represent danger that don’t necessarily represent danger. We put up the walls, we box ourselves into a smaller and smaller and smaller corner of our own life, and we get afraid to let anyone in the way that we did before ever again. Understanding this is crucial to healing from a toxic relationship because we begin to realize that there is a kind of deprogramming that needs to happen where we no longer see the rest of the world as being associated with the danger of the person we just left, and we begin to rewrite ourselves as a strong character in our new narrative going forward. And I have three mindsets that I want to share with you today to help you do just that.
Number one, this deprogramming begins with rewriting the narrative of that relationship. Sometimes we leave a relationship like this and the narrative we have is that people can’t be trusted, “If that could happen to me from this person, it could happen to me from anybody. When I open myself up, there’s danger.” That stops us from ever fully investing again when we take that lesson from it. But we have to rewrite the story, the story is not that people cannot be trusted, the story is one of ignoring evidence. So when we’re in a relationship like that, we see evidence that this person hasn’t got our best interests at heart, or that this is doing damage to us or that our needs aren’t getting met or that we can’t trust this person and instead of leaving, we stay and we either hope for it to get better or we try harder or we try appeasing this person or we try a different strategy all the while thinking that one day we’re going to get the peace and it never comes.
So I want you to think about the story that you created about a relationship like this. What did you decide? Did you decide that because of what this person did to you, that relationships mean danger? Did you decide that people mean danger? Did you decide that you should never lower your guard because that’s what happens, that you should never love that intensely because that’s what happens? And if you did know that those are all decisions, those are all meanings that will rob you of the joy, the opportunity, and the passion you can experience in your future.
Rewrite the story. This is not a story about how people cannot be trusted, this is a story about what happens if you continue to ignore the evidence about one person.
Number two, celebrate the small, but brave steps you take. One of the things that can be hard for people to understand is that what might represent a truly ordinary action for them is an extraordinary step for you. When you’ve been in a situation like this, it’s almost like you are training yourself to walk again. Making yourself vulnerable to somebody else gives you such a visceral response, “I’m going to get hurt. This is danger. I’ve left myself wide open.”
Of course, the instinct is just to close up. So what we have to do is almost run these mini experiments in our life. Instead of being defeated by that and saying, “I’m so hopeless,” we have to run these little experiments where we say, “Well, what would happen if I did give this person a little trust? Not all of my trust, but what would happen if I actually became a little vulnerable with this person? What would happen if I reached out, if I was kind first instead of expecting someone to be kind to me because I’m afraid that if I’m kind first I’ll get rejected or this person will take advantage of me? Or what if I put a little boundary in place that’s a boundary I’m not usually good at putting in place, I said no to someone I always say yes to?” I’m not talking romantically, I’m talking friends, family.
I spoke up about something I needed. I voiced something that I was worried if I say that it’s going to scare someone away because my needs aren’t valid, my needs aren’t important. That’s what I learned in the last relationship is that nothing that’s important to me matters, my needs do not matter. Well, what if you voiced them in someone of your relationships in small ways? What if someone asked you to do something for them and you said, “I can’t do that today, I’ve way too much on, or I can’t do that this week, I’m so sorry”? And you just got used to these baby steps because these things are really a big deal.
I’ll tell you right now, I grew up struggling to trust people. And in my 20s, despite the work that I was doing with people, I found it hard to trust people in my own life. I had this feeling that I was going to be taken advantage of or that if you give someone an inch, they take a mile. And so, despite having an intensely generous heart, I always have had, I love people, I always want to help, I always want to support, when it comes to the people that I know and love, I’m always there for them. And yet, I had this fear, this distrust, and I didn’t realize that until later on because my experience of life was just, I would just keep people at arm’s length. I would just keep people out. And the first time they showed me something that married up with this idea that people couldn’t be trusted, internally, I’d have this moment of, “Ah, there it is.” And there was that confirmation bias.
And I started to realize that, you know what, the little steps that I take to trust people, to let people in, to share more of myself with someone or to do something generous for someone without fearing that I’ll be taken advantage of, those little steps, they matter, they make a difference. But recognize that your little steps may be easy for somebody else, somebody else may look at them and be like, “Really? That’s the big battle you’re fighting right now, or that’s progress to you is doing that?” But you can’t compare your significant steps to the everyday actions of people whose wiring never got disrupted or corrupted in the way that yours did. So when you make these little steps, when you get the small wins, celebrate them because those are a big deal on your healing journey.
Number three, stumbles are okay. One of the saddest things that happens when we are trying to heal, when we’re trying to rewrite our story is that as we’re taking those small steps, we’ll sometimes get it wrong, and when we get it wrong and it confirms the suspicion that people are dangerous, that they cannot be trusted, we use that as the evidence we needed to retreat back into our cave.
And it’s so sad when it happens because it’s like that moment in the movie where you see the character struggled to trust and they come out of their shell finally at a point in the movie where they have a breakthrough and you’re like, “Oh my God, look, they’re on their way to a better life. This is truth. They’ve accessed truth, they’re going to get better, their life is going to get better, this is so beautiful.” And you just want the best for that character, and then someone in the movie in some small way does something that inflames that character’s trust issues and you see them just retreat and you scream because you want to go, “No, you had it right. You were doing the right thing.” Maybe you did the right thing with the wrong person, or maybe even you did the right thing with the right person, but people are complicated, so this person did one little thing that doesn’t represent huge danger, it’s just represents that people are complicated and that’s okay. They have a good and a bad side. You want to will them forward, but they retreat.
People are like that in life. You have to see that your journey of trusting, healing, opening up your heart, becoming someone who can connect again is a long-term recalibration. When our brain has become wired in a way that’s not productive for us or hurts us or keeps us away from love, it takes time to recalibrate. First, we have to make the decision that, “Okay, this isn’t working for me. Me retreating in this way is not bringing me any joy or happiness. My life is just wasting away while I’m hiding from opportunity and possibility. I don’t want this for myself. It’s not working. I need to do something about it.” That’s when you start taking small brave steps to get outside, whatever that means for you.
What we then have to do is say, “This is a process that happens over time. The rewiring does not take place overnight, it takes time. I have to push the boundaries of what is comfortable for me until I’ve pushed them so many times that it’s like an elastic band that you stretch it once, it snaps back, you stretch it once, it snaps back, you stretch it again, it snaps back, and then you stretch it another time and it breaks and all of a sudden it changes form.” That’s what our confidence is like, that’s what our courage is like, that’s what our wiring is like. You need to keep stretching it and stretching it and stretching it until it recalibrates.
But when you are in that process, there will be times where you get it wrong, where you trust too much, where you trust the wrong person. When that happens, you have to say, “My progress is not that I have become a person of perfect judgment because that person doesn’t exist.” And if you made mistakes with people, again, guess what? We all do. I know people that are unbelievably trusting and generous in business and they’re confident and strong and they have standards and they still get it wrong sometimes, they still get betrayed, they still have someone who took advantage of them, and that’s okay. They don’t chalk that up to some great meaning of, “Oh look, I keep getting it wrong. People can’t be trusted. I can’t be trusted with people because I always get it wrong.” They don’t do that. They just go, “Oh, okay. I’m not going to do business with that person again.”
And the same is true in love. Don’t make what you think of as progress, this being of perfect judgment, you’re not going to be that, none of us are. But what you can be is the person who exits quicker, you can be the person who knows how to lean in and also how to lean back again when you see something that isn’t working for you. And that’s the progress. The arc of your hero’s journey is that there was a time in your life where you saw the wrong things and you stayed, and part of that staying might originally been a generosity of spirit that you were going to see if this person could improve, but then you stayed and you tried harder and they didn’t improve, and then you stayed and you tried harder and they didn’t improve. That was your character back then. But know this, you are already the character who left because otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, you wouldn’t be watching this video as the person going, “How do I recover?” You left. That’s progress.
There was a version of you that hadn’t left, so you are already further than they are. But now that you are here, you can improve that again by being the person who when they seize the red flags, leaves quicker. I’m not saying that you bolt every time you get a hint of something you don’t like, that’s going straight back to our fear. I’m saying that when you see something you don’t like, you’re able to test that. And when the test confirms that this behavior is the wrong behavior, you’re able to exit far quicker than the old you ever could. That is your hero’s journey, that is your arc. Not bad judgment to perfect judgment, but staying, to leaving, to honoring your standards immediately.
And when you get there, you’ll realize that you don’t need to go through life trusting everybody. Not everyone can be trusted, there’s always going to be bad people, and even good people can’t be trusted sometimes, people are complicated. But when you can trust yourself to uphold your boundaries, your standards to take care of yourself, and you no longer need to have perfect judgment and you no longer need to go through life trusting that no one will hurt you, all you need to do is trust that you’ll take care of yourself and that even if someone does hurt you, you’ll be able to get through it just like you are now.
If you want to go on a bigger journey with me in rewiring your brain in the ways that I’m talking about, if you’re realizing that this is about deeper work for you at this stage, I have a place where you can do that deeper work, it is called my Virtual Retreat. It is happening from the 2nd to the 4th of June this year. And I promise you that if you spend these three days with me, it will move you forward in extraordinary ways in your own programming, your own internal resistance. Because we can change things about our lifestyle, we can change things on the outside, but the things that really hold us back are the things that cause us resistance on the inside, it’s the ways we get in our own way. There is no greater investment you can make than your investment in your mind because that is controlling how happy you are, that is controlling how many opportunities are coming your way, that is controlling your every experience of this life.
So come and get control of it with me on the Virtual Retreat. The link is MHVirtualRetreat.com. I look forward to seeing you over there and thanks for watching. I’ll see you soon.