Intuition or Trauma? Trusting Your Gut After a Toxic Relationship

The scariest thing about learning to trust your intuition is that there is no one who can do it for you and no one to blame if you get it wrong.  That is why so few people learn to do it.

Quite simply… it takes guts to trust your gut!

Especially if you have been in a toxic relationship where someone has trained you not to trust  yourself because it made you easier to control. And, yes I mean trained. Because toxic people know exactly what they are doing and who they can do it to. Toxic people train you to no longer trust your instincts because they want you to trust their voice more than you trust your voice. Toxic people want to be the voice in your life. The beginning, the end, the expert of all things you.  This allows toxic people to act selfishly, treat you badly, and make or break all the rules of the relationship while telling you that you’re a bad person if you want to end the relationship.  

This cycle of chaos leaves you unable to trust your own thoughts and mind, as well as leaving you with a general feeling that the world is constantly shifting underneath your feet. An inability to make decisions and constantly second guessing yourself makes it incredibly difficult to leave the relationship not matter how bad things get.  Thoughts of “Should I stay or should I go?” can run circles in your mind for years and going around in circles means you are unable to move in a straight line…right out the door. So you stay another day and wrestle with another round of guilt and not knowing what you should do. Unfortunately, second guessing yourself doesn’t stop just because you get away from your toxic person.  People who have been in toxic relationships can find it difficult to trust their mind, heart, or gut long after the relationship is over.

It is well noted that after trauma people have a heightened awareness of danger.  In theory this should be helpful after a toxic relationship. It should be easier to spot the red flags and read the danger signals you missed the first time you tried dating.  Unfortunately, the chances of having a second toxic relationship (or third, or fourth) is actually higher if you have experienced a previous toxic relationship. As if you haven’t already endured enough! This has to be because of one of the following:

1. The universe hates you.  

2. Your relationship abnormal has become normal.  This new normal has meant losing touch with your intuition and ability to keep yourself safe.

While it may feel like the universe is out to get you or that you have a sticker on your head that says “Pick me.  I love taking other people’s crap.” the truth is your toxic person has trained you to ignore bad behavior.  No one, and I mean no one who has experienced the hell of a toxic relationship has not had at least one thing go down that they never thought they would put up with. But, for some reason they ignored the little voice inside of them and did put up with it!  And then they put up with something else. And something else. And through this they gave their toxic person another chance and another than 14 million more chances.  Because forgiveness is goodness, right? And…you loved him. Or, you love him still.

And you thought if you loved him well enough then he would love you back.  

But, he didn’t.

Instead he broke your heart and now your anxiety is on high alert.  If you can’t trust the man you love(d) then who can you trust? The world feels dangerous and you are determined not to be fooled again.  So, you find a great guy who seems kind and peaceful and… dull, because your life within a toxic relationship was anything but boring.  Heated fighting, heated sex, confusing silence, grateful reconnection. The rollercoaster of an evening at home and the sweet relief of “Ahhh…for this one moment he isn’t upset, I’m not confused, and everything is okay.”  But then, the next morning comes and you wake up and start the games again. Then, when a normal guy comes along it feels off, odd, boring after the games and adrenaline of a toxic relationship. So, you break up with him. And you find another toxic relationship because the grief and confusion feel so familiar, painfully, horrifically familiar. And with that decision the first toxic person who has already stolen 2, 5, 10, 20 years of your life steals another. And another.

It isn’t enough to get the toxic person out of your bed.  The key to happiness is getting the toxic person out of your head.

So how do you get him out of your head?  How do you get back in touch with your own intuition? How do you learn to live again? To date again?  To love again? How do you learn to listen to yourself and KNOW that it’s your gut trying to take care of you rather than your old trauma trying to consume you? You learn to differentiate when you feel like you have bumped against a wall or fallen down a hole.  

Bumping Into A Wall

Imagine you are walking along the road and you come to a low wall blocking your path.  The wall isn’t insurmountable. It hits right below your knees so you can easy decide to turn around or you can decide to hop over it and ignore it all together.  The wall is obviously there and has to be dealt with, but you can decide what you want to do. You may say “Ugh. Dang wall. What was someone thinking building you here.” But, the  wall isn’t coming out of the ground to consume you and cripple your decision making process or stop you from you ability to move forward. It is just there. You know it is there. But, you are still the one in control.  You are bigger than the wall.

Trusting your intuition is like bumping into a wall.  Your intuition becomes aware of a thought and you know that your thought is going to have to be dealt with.  However, you don’t go into a frenzied panic. You don’t think the wall has ruined your life and you will never find happiness again.  It is more of “Ugh. Crap. I’m picking up on something and I have to make a decision.” You can then make the decision to turn around and ignore your intuition, jump over the intuitive thought as if it’s a small wall that can be easily jumped over and forgotten, or you can acknowledge that you have discovered something and deal with it as best you can.

“That is weird he didn’t text me back yesterday.”

“It seems odd that he isn’t home on time every Thursday.”

“Something can’t be right if he insists all his ex’s are crazy and he doesn’t want me talking to any of them.”

Intuition says “Here is a wall.  You need to pay attention to it and collect more details so you can stay safe. You do not have to decide to jump over the wall today.  You don’t have to decide to ignore the wall forever and continue to stumble over it. You don’t have to decide to get a bulldozer, knock down the wall, stand on top of the rubble in triumph and scream “Not today fools!” But, you do have an awareness that something is there and that it should be paid attention to.  

Falling Down A Hole

Now imagine you are walking down the road and fall into a deep hole.  You immediately begin panicking and trying to claw the sides of the wall to get a grip.  Yet, you keep slipping. The darkness grows around you as you fall further and further from the light at the top while the talk in your head gets busier and more confusing.  Rather than thinking “How am I going to get out of the hole?” you find yourself thinking “My life is nothing but holes! Of course I am in the darkness again. I don’t even know why I try.  I am so stupid and hopeless that I probably deserve this hole. Nothing good ever happens to me and when I hit the bottom then I’m just going to make myself as small as possible and wait until it’s time to die.  It will probably be soon because I’m a such a screw up.”

Completely different feeling right?

But let’s imagine you text a new boyfriend and the chaos of trauma kicks in rather than intuition.  You send a text wait an hour and get closer and closer to the emotional hole. After you don’t hear from him you start to slip.  You immediately begin panicking and the talk in your head becomes busy as you wrestle with the darkness. “He is probably cheating on me.  All men are cheaters and I will never be loved. My life sucks. I don’t even know why I try anymore. I was so stupid to think things could ever be different.  Nothing good will ever happen to me and I know I’m destined to die alone.”

Do you see the difference?  Intuition is a new awareness that should be looked into and trauma shows up as an emotional frenzy that takes consumes you.  We are naturally inclined go into fight, flight or freeze when we are faced with conflict, but after a trauma like a toxic relationship you must also notice when you go into falling.  Because your gut will never send you into a free fall.

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Sarah K Ramsey