Lessons in Gratitude: The 3 Levels in Healthy Relationships

Lessons in Gratitude: The 3 Levels in Healthy Relationships
By: Mat Boggs

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

 

Most of us think of gratitude as being thankful or appreciative. But it’s deeper than that definition alone.

There are lessons in gratitude that help you build better relationships, improve your own mood, increase your happiness, and much more…

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Top Reasons We Ignore Red Flags When Dating A Narcissist

Top Reasons We Ignore Red Flags When Dating A Narcissist

The early stages of any new relationship are always the most intense. This is the time when the exhilaration of meeting the right person is the most pronounced, and we feel immediately close and may even become focused on thinking about them frequently or on an ongoing basis.

This is typically a period of time when all of our emotional energy is on the relationship. Hormonal changes in the body, including higher levels of adrenaline, create a high level of emotional awareness. The levels of serotonin, which naturally calm and relax a person, are low, leading to a heightened sense of every interaction with the person who is the object of your focus.

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The Impact Of Betrayal Trauma Caused By A Narcissist

The Impact Of Betrayal Trauma Caused By A Narcissist

People in relationships come to trust and believe in the other person in the relationship. Narcissists use this trust in a destructive way when they feel that the partner is doing anything that may potentially be harmful to them. However, given that the narcissist sees everything from a very distorted lens, even helpful behavior from the partner can trigger the narcissist to betray the partner in many different ways.

The Cycle Continues
Often adults who are narcissists had a very dysfunctional relationship with their own loved ones. This is often a parent caregiver, typically a mother, who was not there to support the child and who caused damage and harm in that mother-child relationship. The child may experience his or her betrayal trauma in the dysfunctional relationship. Over time, the child may decide that the best way to protect themselves is to leave immediately, attack, distance themselves, or stay emotionally unavailable.

The new adult partner does not realize this dynamic is in play. Instead, they often see a confident, loving, and almost doting partner, at least in the first stages of the relationship. Then, slowly, the exploitive nature of the narcissist begins to come to the surface, often through controlling, verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive behaviors. In some cases, physical abuse may also be present.

The Power of Intermittent Reinforcement 
To avoid the partner leaving, the narcissist often uses a process known as intermittent reinforcement. It is a process that uses random, unpredictable rewards and positive experiences to motivate people to stay through negative experiences. A prime example of the power of intermittent rewards is gambling, particularly for those with gambling addictions. Even though gamblers only win randomly and infrequently, the positive feelings associated with that win keep them at the tables against all odds.

The same is true for many people in relationships with narcissists. Although there is more negative than positive, when the positives occur, they draw the partner back into the relationship. Unfortunately, this sets up the risk of another betrayal trauma as the narcissist reverts to ghosting, abuse, or a combination of damaging behaviors. In this way, the narcissist becomes both the source of the pain (emotional or other) and the solution (brief moments of intense connection).

Typical Signs of Trauma Bonding and Betrayal Trauma
The following signs are indicators of trauma bonding in the relationship or betrayal trauma after the relationship:

• A sense of connection exists – you continue to feel a strong connection to the narcissist despite the overwhelming negativity, control, and abuse.

• Need their validation – not only is there a sense of wanting to connect, but you may also want their approval or that brief period of time when you have hope there has been a real change.

• Accepting the unacceptable – you may find you accept the bad behavior and even minimize it or attempt to rationalize why it occurred, often blaming yourself for their issues.

• You feel sorry for them – the narcissist often creates a sense of being the victim and playing upon your sympathy and empathy.

• Defending the indefensible – you defend his or her behaviors to friends and family, even after they have betrayed and emotionally wounded you over and over again.

Most people find that betrayal trauma is made worse by accepting the narcissist back after being discarded. Often the narcissist comes back with a grand gesture, including stating he or she will go to counseling, only to set you up for another betrayal when they revert to their typical bad behavior.

Tips For Healing  
It is essential to recognize that betrayal trauma is likely to occur in a relationship with a narcissist. They create a trauma bond and make themselves vital to your life, and then they leave.

To begin healing from betrayal trauma, it is important to:

• Seek therapy – a trained therapist can help you to process the betrayal and reduce the impact of trauma on your life. As a licensed psychotherapist, I help clients through somatic experiencing, poly vagal exercises, tapping and other trauma modalities to heal the attachment trauma that occurs after a narcissistic relationship.

• Talk about the truth – it is essential to talk about your reality and experiences in the relationship in an honest way. Do not gloss over, rationalize, or make excuses for their bad behavior.

• Set goals – setting personal goals and working to be the best you is one of the most effective ways to work through trauma.

• Joining a support group such as my online group coaching program Wake Up Recovery.  There is nothing more powerful that not feeling alone after a toxic relationship.

Betrayal can damage your trust in others. Working through the thoughts and emotions around betrayal by a narcissist helps you to process these issues and move forward in your life.

Resources Reviewed 
 

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5 Mental Wellness Tips for When a Relationship Ends

5 Mental Wellness Tips for When a Relationship Ends

Like the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. The aftermath of a dissolved relationship provokes a strong emotional response that can even have physical consequences.

You should treat yourself gently during this time and take care to nurture your emotional well-being. Here are five mental wellness tips for when a relationship ends.

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Top Reasons Narcissists Don’t Allow Closure

Top Reasons Narcissists Don’t Allow Closure - Sherry Gaba LSCW

Most people have had at least one bad relationship. Often these toxic relationships end badly, with one person storming off and never being heard from or seen again by the other. In fact, in many of these types of difficult relationships, neither person wants to see the other.

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Single and Feeling Great!

Single and Feeling Great! - Dr. Margaret Paul

Is it possible to feel great being single? Yes, of course it is! There are many people who love being single. However, not everyone likes it.

Lorna is struggling with this issue with her wounded self:

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Choose To Love

Choose Love - Rick Hanson PhD

What does your heart say?

The Practice:
Choose to Love

Why?

Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – What?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.

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Your Brain’s Most Important Relationship Is Not With You.

deepak1.3.22 Deepak Chopra, M.D., Brian J. Fertig, M.D. and Jack A. Tuszynski, Ph.D., D.Sc.

You can’t have a thought, feeling, sensation, or mental image without calling upon your brain, and this close relationship makes us human. Since 100 billion brain cells are constantly generating your mental life, no relationship seems more important, and everyone has a fear in the back of their mind about what might happen in old age if Alzheimer’s strikes, in essence destroying the mind-brain connection.

But as precious as this relationship is, your brain has a more important relationship that was hidden until about twenty years ago. This precious relationship is with bacteria, and even when you are asleep or thinking about nothing at all, the communication never ceases between the brain and bacteria, specifically the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (the gut microbiota).

Between them the brain and your GI tract have created a real-life matrix, just like the one in science-fiction. You are alive and relate to your brain inside this tight structure of biochemicals that carry thousands of messages per second between microbiota and brain. At first sight this seems unbelievable, because few life forms have genetics as rudimentary as a bacterium, and no life form has a brain as complex as the human brain. An old proverb says that even a cat can look at a king. Biologically speaking, the lowly bacterium (along with viruses and microscopic fungi) does a lot more than look at your brain, more even than eavesdropping on it.

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Creating And Sticking To Intentions To End A Toxic Relationship In The New Year

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A toxic relationship is destructive on so many levels. Not only is there the loss of self and self-worth, but there is also the loss of enjoyment in life, the ability to be with a loving, positive partner, and the loss of your own sense of joy and purpose,  

This New Year, creating the intention to walk away from a toxic relationship is the best possible gift to give yourself. Like any type of change it is not always easy. There will be times when you may be tempted to give the partner another chance, to make those old excuses, or finding yourself being pulled back into the relationship throughout their manipulation and lies.

Creating a way to stick to your intentions to get out of the unhealthy relationship allows you to develop a plan to address these feelings as they arise. Building on your strengths and learning how to thrive in your own independence starts with accepting help and support from others.  This  is the best way to make the changes you want to see in your life.

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The Enlightened Rebel: OPEN AT THE TOP

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The best and most supportive relationship you can ever have with yourself is to allow yourself to live in the flow.


Living in the flow does not eliminate the ability to be a person of commitment. There is always a sense of freedom when you listen to your inner nature and make sure you are honoring yourself. It is important as an Enlightened Rebel to choose relationships in your life which also allow you such freedom. Were you ever expecting a visitor for several days and somehow had a feeling that it wasn’t going to happen?

Or, have you had a sense that the trip you were planning to take just wasn’t meant to be?
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Post Traumatic Growth And Resiliency After Toxic Relationships

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A toxic relationship is highly destructive. It creates a loss of sense of self through verbal and emotional abuse that tears down the person at a very basic level. Toxic relationships are often hard to see for the individual, as the toxicity or the negativity and abuse builds slowly. Even when there is no physical abuse, the constant degrading comments, the control over every aspect of your life, the gaslighting and blame associated with these types of relationships causes damage that is hard to see but highly devastating to experience.

The good news is that people can leave toxic relationships. Taking the time to work with a therapist or a counselor or joining a supportive community like my Inner Circle helps to identify the key signs of a toxic relationship and to rebuild your sense of self-worth, self-compassion, and self-love.
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Ambivalence, Relationships and Love Addiction

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We want love, but we are afraid of it. We seek out a relationship and then sabotage it the first chance we get. We want space and when we get it we are lonely. We can’t live without a relationship and we can’t live with it. What is going on here? It is simple. We are ambivalent.

Ambivalence is the number one problem in relationships today. We are no longer bound by a social order that dictates we marry and have children. We are no longer bound by a division of labor where the man has his duties [bread winner] and we have ours [domestic bliss]. We have choices and now we are confused.

I sometimes think that this is the lost generation and that in many respects my generation had it easy. I was told to stroke a man’s ego. I was told to let him make all the decisions. I was told that I should have children. Unfortunately, I was not meant to be a housewife and mother. I was born to write which is what I am doing now. So everyone around me suffered, especially my children, as I tried to find myself. I have thus concluded that even if this generation is confused and unhappy, so was mine.

I recently wrote an article about knowing yourself and it took me a long time to discover my true identify. So my heart goes out to young people today who have so many choices they don’t know what to choose. The media tells they can have it all and they believe this. So they run themselves ragged trying to take all that life has to offer. Then they reach middle age and are unhappy with life and the choices they made. They dream about starting over again and they can’t. They take control the situation, which has always served them in the past, and try to fix everything right now.

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Myths That Keep Us Feeling Sorry For Narcissists

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Narcissists are chameleons with the ability to appear to be just what you want and need, at least for the initial whirlwind part of the relationship. However, once they have established the relationship, the dynamics change rapidly, with the narcissist utilizing a variety of tactics and manipulations to keep you close. The relationship stops being about creating a partnership and becomes a focus on keeping them happy and their needs fulfilled.

The tactics that narcissists use in this process are easily recognized by those outside the relationship. They may also be evident to the partner, but the myths around narcissism can make it extremely difficult to leave.

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An Unconditional Relationship with Yourself

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As human beings, we have a compartmentalized hierarchical relationship with ourselves. That means that certain aspects of ourselves are okay and other aspects of us are not. 

In the context of evolution, by virtue that you are a human being, you are here to be all of it. You can’t make the choice to be human and then fundamentally disregard fifty percent of the human equation. It defeats the purpose of why you came in the first place. It would be like going to Disney World and hating Mickey Mouse!!

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Why Some People Attract Dysfunctional Relationships

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Most of us tend to pick partners who reflect the vision we have of ourselves and our world. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Compatibility and a sense of ease in a relationship come from having similar preferences, ideas, and values about things like money, religion, monogamy, parenting, and even what makes for good sex. The Legacy Project at Cornell University even did a study on this. They interviewed hundreds of people who had been married 40 or 50 years, and even longer. Most agreed that shared values are at the core of a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

But we don’t pick the people we’re with based on values alone.

We also choose people who have similar ideas about what relationships look like and how they should play out. This sounds good but it can also backfire.

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Learning To Trust After A Toxic Relationship

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A toxic relationship is an unhealthy relationship. These relationships typically include feelings of being unloved, unwanted, misunderstood, unsupported, belittled, or even attacked. While most people consider a toxic relationship emotional and psychological abuse, there can also be issues with physical abuse and domestic violence.

It is possible to find yourself in a toxic relationship and not really understanding how things got to that point. Often the toxic person is very good at hiding their abusive behavior at the beginning of the relationship. If the person is a narcissist, it can be difficult to understand the constant swings from overwhelming and grandiose acts of passion and love to absolute disdain and anger. The result is that you are constantly kept guessing what will happen next and doing everything you can to avoid the hostility and toxicity.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

A few of the signs you are in a toxic relationship include:

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Setting The Trap: Dating Strategies Used By Narcissists

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There are many myths and misunderstandings around being in relationships with narcissists. One of the most common myths is that somehow people should be able to recognize a narcissist by simply checking off a few boxes on a handy dating checklist.

In reality, the behavior of a narcissist during the initial stages of a dating relationship is a carefully crafted façade. He or she does not use abusive language or ghost you on the first, second, or even the twentieth date. They do not try to manipulate in overt ways, but they do use subtle and often seemingly innocent behaviors to test the waters to determine the flexibility or the presence of boundaries.

Unfortunately, potential dating partners who have a history of emotional or physical abuse, abandonment, or dysfunctional families often lack boundaries. They fall into the trap of allowing the narcissist to begin to get his way, even over small things, which eventually lead to highly toxic behaviors that will become more significant as the relationship unfolds.

To help understand the trap the narcissist sets during the initial dating phase, let’s take a closer look at the strategies the narcissist employs. Based on your response, you may see more than one strategy in play, or the strategies may change over time.

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Don't Be Your Partner's Therapist!

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One of the important things I learned in my own marriage and in my work with clients is that a committed relationship is NOT supposed to be a therapeutic relationship. We can help each other to learn, grow and heal, but this is very different than a therapeutic relationship. In a marriage, or close committed relationship or friendship, we can help each other, but in a therapeutic relationship, one person is helping the other. This doesn't work well in a partnership.

Caretakers often enter relationships to 'fix' their partner.

Caretakers often see themselves as healthier or more evolved than their partner, and they go about trying to change their partner – 'for their own good.' This puts the caretaker in a one-up position, which may make the other person feel one-down. I often hear from a client whose partner is trying to fix them, or who sees themselves as the ‘healthy one’, "My partner is much healthier and more evolved than I am."

Since we come together at our common level of health or woundedness, I know that this statement isn't true - that it's indicative of an imbalance in the relationship and is what is causing some of the problems.

Sometimes one person expects the other person to listen the way a therapist would. A client in this position asked me,

"What should I do when he vents on me and expects me to listen to him like a therapist might listen to a client?"

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The Law Of Attraction And Relationship Issues

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Being addicted to love is not the same as being a sex addict, a drug addict or an alcoholic. Love addicts are drawn to people that initially cause them to feel part of a whole rather than as an isolated individual.

For a love addict being single and alone is a crisis. These are people that rely on others for their sense of identity, where the relationship becomes the focus of their lives. Needless to say, love addicts smother the partner, which only causes the partner to pull away while the love addict clings on and compounds the problem.

The other type of partner that is drawn to a love addict is a person who is completely self-centered. They may have narcissistic tendencies or have another type of personality disorder. These are often the “bad boys” of the world, seeming to do nothing but take in a relationship. Finding a partner that wants nothing to do but to give creates the perfect destructive relationship for both.

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Is Your Early Trauma Picking Your Partners?

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Most people have had at least one bad relationship in their life. For most individuals, this bad relationship was a blip on the radar, with the experience chalked up to a lesson learned.

However, there are also people who find themselves in the same toxic relationship over and over again. The partner may look different on the surface. Still, his behaviors, abusive ways, or emotional unavailability are exactly the same as the partners before.
Why do some people bounce back after a toxic relationship and move on to a healthy relationship while others are destined to repeat the same negative relationship cycle? The surprising answer is that this behavior may be directly related to early trauma in your childhood years.

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is more common than most people assume. For example, in a 2017 study by Grant Sara and Julia Lappin published in The Lancet Public Health Journal, one in four adults reported they were physically abused as kids, and one in eight reported sexual abuse.  As stated in my book, Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love . “When we hold on to unresolved pain from childhood, especially trauma and abandonment, these wounds reemerge in adult relationships as toxic shame.”
Other types of childhood trauma can include:

•  Loss of a parent – the death of a close family member or a significant person in a child’s life can create trauma if the child is not allowed to grieve or does not receive the care and attention required to work through the grief.

• Multiple homes – children that are moved from home to home either within a family or through the foster care system are often traumatized as they have no place of comfort or belonging.

• Bullying and fear – this can be bullying from siblings, parents, or even within a community. This can be a single significant event or chronic types of fearful situations without the parental support and care needed for the child.

• Abandonment – children that are abandoned with friends, relatives, strangers, or even the other parent can be traumatized very early in life.
   
• Addicted parents – children that live in homes where they must take care of siblings and even their parents are often traumatized as they feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Attachment Styles and Choosing Partners 

Children that experience trauma early in life develop an anxious attachment style, which is sometimes called an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. These people are extremely fearful of being on their own as they obtain their validation and reason in life from being with someone else. Although they believe they need their partner for their identity, they often feel the partner does not care enough.

Signs of an anxious or anxious preoccupied attachment style include:
   
•  Extreme desire to please – these individuals will do anything to win the approval of their emotionally distant partners. This may include staying in physical abuse and toxic relationships.
      
• Clingy – the need to be physically close to the partner. This can initially seem attractive to some partners, but it quickly becomes overwhelming and smothering.
     
• Constant communication – in today’s always plugged-in world, this can include constant calling, texting, posting on social media, and even electronically tracking their partner.
       
• Constant reassurances – there is a constant need for reassurance the relationship is fine. This can become a constant in the relationship.

• Jumping into relationships – anxious attachment styles have short dating periods and then immediately into a serious and significant relationship.

These types of individuals attract people who need attention. The narcissist is the prime example of an individual who seeks out a person with an anxious attachment style as they crave the need for attention.

Tips Identifying Toxic Relationships 

It can be difficult to identify the signs of a toxic relationship if your childhood trauma has made it difficult to see the red flags in the relationship. Here are some tips you can use to determine if you are in a relationship with a toxic partner:

• Constant arguments – despite all you do to try to please the other person, it is never enough. You are always blamed for any difficulties or negativity.
   
• Jealousy – despite ignoring you or being emotionally distant, your partner may be very jealous of your relationships with others.
   
• Emotionally exhausted – taking responsibility for the happiness of another person while ignoring your own wellbeing is emotionally draining.

• Inability to end the relationship – if you believe you have to be in the relationship for your own happiness, despite being unhappy, and cannot break off the relationship, you may be in a toxic situation.

Working with a therapist or counselor with experience in healing from childhood trauma is perhaps the best way to identify the problem and begin the healing process.  You can also consider joining my online group coaching program Wake Up Recovery where you will receive support from me, as well as those like minded souls who have been where you have been.

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