There may be times when you’d think the world is out to get you. When everything seems to be spiraling down, and you can’t get out of the routine, there will always be a way out.
“People deserve what they tolerate.” This is one of the most famous lines people quote regarding toxic and abusive relationships. And those who haven’t experienced it are the loudest to say it. But while this has been socially established to stop tolerating abuse, it seems to have done the opposite. Because of this quote, more people might stay with the thought that maybe they deserve to suffer in the wrong relationship because they have been too dumb to tolerate it earlier on.
However, staying or tolerating a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean they wish and choose to suffer. Instead, a part of the brain will continue to believe that staying in the problematic environment is safer, associating it as a survival tactic to stay safe from the abuse. And this is commonly known as the Stockholm syndrome.
What is Stockholm Syndrome?
Stockholm is a trauma bond that happens when people are in an abusive relationship, one where it has spiraled down to the point that the abused feels that they’re unable to leave. And this inability to leave is amplified when the abused receives the slightest good behavior. When people are continuously surrounded by darkness, the slightest sign of light can make them hopeful that there will be better days – or in this situation, a way out of the hellhole.
This is what Stockholm is; the constant anticipation that the slightest kindness is a sign that there will be a way out of the abuse and perhaps, into a better relationship. However, most of the time, there isn’t. And it’s up to the abused to take a step out of the situation.
Stop blaming yourself
This is easier said than done. Most of the time, people who end up in abusive relationships blame themselves for not seeing the signs and leaving earlier. But the real thing is, it’s not very easy seeing the signs not unless you’re looking at them in hindsight. Everyone is looking for love, and when they’re provided with it, it can be easy to overlook flaws and issues. You are not alone. And this isn’t an issue or a situation that you have experienced in isolation.
One of the most common defense mechanisms people’s brains are wired to do when faced with events they aren’t comfortable with is denial. Unfortunately, when things go haywire, people’s brains might be too stressed and pressured to function, and they might begin to shut down – the brain’s last attempt at protecting the person. This leads to blocking out or forgetting those stressful events. Wiping away these memories makes room for the abuser’s empty promises.
The cycle will continue unless the abused proactively takes part in remembering the abuse. One way to do this is by keeping tabs on what’s happening right after they happen. You can write every harmful or dangerous thing your abuser has done. Of course, without letting the latter know about it. It’s important to remain factual and be thorough in recording what has happened.
Breaking and going through trauma is hard to do alone. You would do better with people’s help. This support can come from the people who have also experienced the same trauma that you’re going through. In the memoir by Veronica Lisare entitled The Other Side of Fear, she shares her own experience and what she has done to overcome her fear of moving on from her abuse and trauma. In line with finding support from others, you should also seek help from professionals. They are trained to help you process even your past traumas, so you can completely heal and move on from them.
Shift your perspective
You’re stuck in the cycle because your brain has already found it difficult to break free from how it’s processing the situation. It’s about time you use a different perspective to look at the problem. You may use your younger or older self, your family, or even any celebrity that you look up to. This may need a lot of practice and can be prone to regressing your habit – mistaking your emotions and blocking your memories. But, as with every other process, there won’t be any result without consistency of practice.
Think of your younger self, who’s continuously looked forward to meeting their soulmate, and spending time with their loved one. What would they have thought seeing you in this situation? Think of your future self. What would they have wanted you to do to break free from the situation hurting you?
Focus on feeling
When you’re suffering for too long, it’s easy to become numb and turn away from feeling knowing all you’ve felt so far is pain. This is primarily a common thing for those suffering from traumas. People can repress any negative thoughts that they can associate with their trauma. Rather than doing this, they need to welcome their emotions and do the opposite to process them. Sit for a few minutes at home and let yourself feel. No matter how heavy it may be, let it be. Letting yourself feel these emotions rather than avoiding them will allow you and your brain to know and understand what you are going through and process why you’re feeling that way.
Trauma can be a complicated thing to process. And when we’re exposed to it for a long time, staying and letting things be may seem more manageable. But the choice to let go is the biggest challenge to face. After this, things may be smooth sailing from then on out.
One of the enduring questions asked is how to move on from the past, let go, and break free from the chains of the past. Especially for those who have endured suffering and pain, there will always be remnants of the hurt and sadness coming from those experiences. Author W. Veronica Lisare in her book, The Other Side of Fear, My Journey Into Perfect Love, shares her story of going through an unhappy childhood and marriage, the loss of a granddaughter, battling cancer, and how she managed to overcome all odds and break the chains of the past that holds her to suffering by discovering the ultimate love of God.
The chains that hold us
What are these chains that bind people to their past?
The feelings of pain and anguish are among the top binders that hold a person to their traumatic yesteryears. These feelings may result from a physical or mental affliction, but these experiences and emotions are often the hardest to recover from. A bodily injury may do more than produce a purple, swollen bruise on the body. The damage goes deep to the very core, especially if an imposition accompanies it upon the person's integrity.
Guilt and regret also shackle a person to their yesterday. Guilt is that feeling of sadness or remorse over an action that seems to violate a principle or moral conduct. It is that shamed feeling that something was done that should not have been done in the first place or an omission of an act that should have been done.
Bad habits are also considered chains that tie people from being free and living an overall healthy life. These bad habits are so addicting that the damage to a person can be so all-encompassing, affecting the person's physical, mental, and emotional health.
How to break the chains
It's easier said than done, but it takes a lot of willpower, effort, and energy to break away from that painful past. Ultimately, the individual's choice can help them take that step towards being free. To let go and move on, below are some valuable and practical tips that people can apply to their redemption journey.
Believe it or not, creating a barrier or a significant physical distance can help a person in their journey towards saving themselves from a hurtful situation and past. Often, physical distancing is the first step toward breaking free. A physical distance tends to create psychological distance. If a person is not seeing their aggressor or the one inflicting them pain personally or physically, it slowly helps them stop thinking about the person. The fact that they're not near enough to cause pain or remind the other of the pain and sadness is another reason why creating physical distance is essential in moving on.
Be surrounded by positive people
Those feelings of pain, anguish, guilt, or regret lead to mental health complications. To counter eventual mental issues, it's best to be surrounded by supportive and motivating people. Emotional inflictions are the ones that pull people down to the very bottom of suffering. Rock bottom, so as they say. To prevent that or stay afloat, people need people who can help them float, bring them up, lift them, and ensure that the right inspiring words and actions support their decision to move on.
Never underestimate the power of self-care or self-love. When a person is hurting, it often feels like there's no clear line between hurt and healing, and all that a person can see is just the hurt. Self-care delineates the boundary between hurt and healing or recovery. It's putting a stop to the pain, saying no to feeling sad, and crossing that line towards doing things that make them comfortable or happy.
Self-care is empowering. It empowers the person to choose to be happy, thereby letting go of anguish and pain-filled past. Self-care could come in the form of taking rest and relaxation, going on a vacation, or doing things that leave a person feeling calm, relaxed, peaceful, and happy.
If all else fails, reach out and ask for help. After making an effort and trying to recover and break free from a traumatic past, yet to no avail, then it's time to seek help from other people. The help could come from family or friends who can give different perspectives and helpful advice or from a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, depending on the need. Professionals are trained in listening effectively and can provide expert tips and advice on how to recover from a traumatic past.
Letting go and moving on from a past that a person has invested so much into is never an easy task. There are and will be many barriers and challenges to overcome. But all of these will definitely be worth it once the person finally arrives at a point where they can say, "I'm finally free!"