Breaking Free From a Toxic Environment

discover the power of self-love with spiritual counseling & coachingAna (not her real name) came to see me because she was having second thoughts about her job and relationship and was looking for direction. She had the desire to switch to a holistic career and had taken some reiki classes. She also remembered being able to see people’s auras when she was a kid and was looking for someone to show her how to tap into her intuition and psychic abilities.

The minute she started talking about herself, she would cry profusely and apologize for doing so. Yet she couldn’t help herself. It seemed that it was really the first time that she had stopped to question her life and environment and to look within, so there was a whole lot of mixed feelings and hidden emotions behind the desire to give herself something different. She had been married to an abusive man in the past and was now involved with a man who would put her down in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

It was clear to me that Ana had a profound need for emotional expression but had always found herself in an environment that would not make her feel safe enough to allow any of it. So she had to swallow her feelings up since she was a kid, and feeling free to express what was inside her during our sessions was a bit overwhelming.

She slowly accepted that it was ok to give herself permission to feel and cry and express who she really was and how she truly felt. I wanted her to understand that her life path was about integrity, transparency, and self-expression. Ana needed to step up and give herself the time and space for self-exploration and healing before tapping into the intuitive gifts she was so interested in developing or remembering.

She had the illusion that if someone could show her how to tap into them, everything else would fall into place, and I helped her see that the focus should be on her self-growth and self-expression; that developing psychic abilities was not going to heal her emotional wounds; and furthermore, that any intuitive gifts would emerge through her inner work.

During our conversations she realized that she needed to change her environment to make any progress and to feel free to be herself. She considered breaking up with her boyfriend, with whom she was living, and find a place of her own. Yet at the same time, she was afraid to be alone and “make a mistake.”

Like so many women, Ana had the ingrained belief that she needed a man to be “complete” and “valuable,” and that choosing to be free and independent could be a mistake that she might be “punished” for. Taking care of others and nurturing those in need was her role in life, and one that made her feel needed and worthy of love.

Breaking Free From the Need to Be Needed

Ana eventually saw that being needed was not the same as being loved and that by perpetuating her need to be needed she had maintained a dynamic where she would usually end up feeling used and resentful because she was taking responsibility for everyone else’s problems and emotional wounds, instead of taking care of her own.

In reinforcing the dynamic of feeling needed through taking care of others, she had created a self-image that was hard to break free from without feeling selfish and guilty; she had also created an environment that made her feel “safe” only because it was familiar and suited her role as a caretaker, even though in reality she felt trapped in it and unable to express herself freely.

Coming to see me actually became an issue in her relationship, as it threatened the status quo and her partner was very critical of our work together. The relationship had become an invisible cage where she was supposed to take care of her partner’s emotional needs, but was not allowed to be herself and fulfill her own needs. And a big question for her was, what were her needs?

Only by going back to this question over and over would Ana be able to see her current relationship clearly and begin to explore who she was and what she wanted, and to fully embrace her desires and abilities, regardless of what others thought of her or needed from her. At some point, her desire to grow became stronger than the emotional ties to the environment she had created, as she understood that she was only responsible for herself and the reality she was creating from her beliefs about herself (her self-image).

She realized that there was no way to move forward without ending the relationship, because her boyfriend’s resistance and criticism wasn’t really about our work together, but about her self-growth and her determination to move into a stronger, more empowered sense of self. If she wanted to eventually find a relationship that would honor her profound need for emotional expression, as well as her dreams and desires, she had to cut the toxic cords of this one.

Understanding Emotionally Toxic Patterns

In the highly dysfunctional world we live in, love has become an illusion, a dangling carrot to keep you moving in the direction others want you to go. Dysfunctional families seem to have the common denominator of a sense of lack: there’s never enough love, enough acceptance, enough attention, enough appreciation, or enough abundance for everyone. So you have to behave and act a certain way to be ”worthy“ of any of it—especially love. The problem is that you end up chasing the carrot endlessly without getting any love in return, because a relationship that requires you to be something other than who you are is not a loving relationship.

Growing emotionally and spiritually requires letting go of the past and disengaging from the toxicity in and around you. This is your first true act of love and a necessary step toward more love: giving yourself the love nobody else does and the sense of self-worth nobody else can. You will not move forward or upward if those around you are trying to hold you back, pull you down, and keep you small—simply because they are probably afraid or unable to be free as well.

You need a healthy, supportive environment to grow, and this often means cutting the energetic ties of emotionally toxic relationships. This is a tough choice you may have to make at some point, especially with those you have loved in the past, but unfortunately there is no way around it if you are truly committed to your self-healing and self-growth and your environment is not supportive.

You can’t wash clothes with muddy water and expect them to be clean. Likewise, you need a clean, clear, and loving environment to find your own clarity and sense of self. It all starts with the relationship you establish with yourself, the gifts of love you give yourself, and the people you allow in your environment to mirror that self-love.

In these times of spiritual awakening you really have to ask yourself, “Is my environment supporting my growth or holding me back?” And if there is anything preventing you from moving in the direction you want, in any way, it’s time to let it go, because nothing, and I mean nothing, is more valuable than your spiritual growth toward a true sense of self. Your whole reality and world emerge from it.

Please feel free to leave your comments or questions below. And contact me today for guidance and support to find the blind spots that prevent you from breaking free from codependent dynamics and creating a more meaningful life!

© 2012 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.

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