Throughout our lives, we are bombarded with ways to organize our homes.  Bins, baskets, and labels are big business because society is very clear about how our homes should look.  But, we don’t have as much guidance in how our minds should look.  Living in a toxic relationship means constant confusion.  Many experts refer to it as living in a fog.  A toxic person wants you to keep second-guessing yourself. This keeps you reflecting on your own choices and behavior rather than turning your gaze to the toxic person’s behavior.  If the toxic person can turn you against yourself then there is a situation in which is it two against one.  This creates an environment where the toxic person always wins!

So, how do you fix it?  One of the best ways to rebuild ourselves is by reorganizing our minds.  If you have been in a toxic relationship then your mind is probably 90% focused on the toxic person and 10% focused on everything else.  That makes work, children, hobbies, and everyday activities like driving and housework seem exhausting.  In the best circumstances, our minds should be focused on loving ourselves, loving others, working towards goals, and making the world a better place.  If we are focusing 90% of our mental energy on the moods and needs of another person then we are unable to even function in a healthy way, much less create a better world.

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Marie Kondo asks you to take an honest look at the things in your home and see what items spark joy in your mind and soul.  If it doesn’t spark joy then it gets thrown out!  One of the first things we can do to reorganize our minds is finding the thoughts that do not spark joy in our lives and throw them out!  Now, I am aware that it is much easier to throw out an old towel than a recurring thought, but beginning to evaluate our thoughts helps us begin to manage depression and anxiety.  We are made to survive and in an effort to keep us alive our brains literally put more effort into remembering the bad and less effort into recognizing the good.  It is easy for us to remember trauma and terror and difficult for us to remember a baby’s laugh or a beautiful sunset.  To recover from a toxic relationship we have to push through the fog and someone, somewhere find joy. If we were going to organize our thoughts, in the same way, we would organize a room it would look something like this.

1. Thoughts We Love- These are the thoughts we want to make large in our minds.  They should be front and center as often as possible.  Write them down, journal etc. to focus on them as much as possible.  These are the thoughts that spark joy!  Thinking on them as much as possible will create more energy in your life and increase your happiness.

Ex. “That sunset is beautiful.” “My life isn’t over yet.” “I am thankful for my friend.” “It isn’t selfish to take care of myself.

2. Thoughts We Keep- These are the thoughts that can move us forward in our lives.  Thoughts we keep our thoughts we can take action on.

Ex. “I am going to talk to a counselor.” “ I am going to stop following her on social media.” “ I am going to learn tools for standing up for myself.”  “I am going to say no to her.”

3. Throw out- These are thoughts that I can not anything about.  They keep me stuck.

Ex.“ What will he think about that?”  “ I wonder what she is doing right now?”  “Will that make him angry?” “Why doesn’t she love me?”

If you are struggling with “Thoughts We Love” after a toxic relationship then you are not alone. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to find joy in anything.  When your life is literally a tornado it is so easy to feel as if everything is dark and stormy.  For me, it all started with a coffee mug.  It was $5 from pottery barn and I bought it because it had a huge black S on it.  It was perfect.  It helped me remember who I was and what I loved.  No matter how bad the previous night was I could wake up, hold that mug in my hands and start fresh.  That mug literally became a sacred way to start the day.  Every morning when I reached for that mug I remembered that I was choosing joy wherever I could find it.  I relished how warm I felt when I held it, I loved the boldness and simplicity of the black and white pattern, and I loved how strong it felt in my hands.  It wasn’t much, but it was a start.  It was a daily reminder that there was something I could find joy in. “I am happy each morning when I hold my mug” became a thought I could love.

Find something today and make it yours.  Your life and your brain power should not revolve around another person. You are the only you in the world that can play your part in the world. It is not about that person taking over 90% of your brain, it is about you. You are the main event in your own life! If another adult is making you feel as if you are the supporting cast then they are manipulating you to advance their own selfishness.  Remember the little girl or boy who used to dream. Remember the teenager inside of you who used to hope. Remember the person you are today and the person you can be tomorrow.  Remember the person who can still love, who can still dream, who can still hope.  Find something today that will be a daily reminder that life is moving forward.  Choose a mug, a blanket, a keychain, a hairbrush, an item to help you remember who you were, who you are and most importantly, who you can be. Choose thoughts of joy and take the first steps to finding a life of joy.

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Sarah K Ramsey