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Breaking Free of Toxic Relationships

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
What you seek is seeking you. ~ Rumi

Toxic Relationships — Breaking free from the cycle

Love in its truest sense is freedom. It is an expansive force that accepts and embraces all that we are. Within relationships, love is the ability to be able to have unconditional acceptance of another without judgement. Often we confuse love with attachment. Attachments keep us bound in illusions. Attachments make us look for permanence within what can never be permanent — the material world. Everything in the material world is subject to the law of birth and death. So if we attach ourselves to something that will inevitably come to an end, we will suffer. This kind of attachment is prevalent in our relationships in our modern world where we look for permanence and stability in another person, instead of connecting to that essence within us that is permanent, our spirit, our soul.

Toxic relationships are created out of these attachments, which in turn are created from the illusion that we are separate from God, from source, and thus unloved. When we are unable to feel our connection to the divine, our ego drives us to look for love outside of ourselves. So we project onto others this need for love and understanding. If you look carefully at toxic relationships, you will find that the two people involved don’t even like each other, so it is impossible for them to love each other.

The Kabbalah calls the ego as the ‘Nachash (the snake)’, which is described as an internal ardor, a centralized fire, agitated by a violent movement and seeking to extend itself. (From the Secrets of the Kabbalah, by the Yoga Publication Society). This aspect of our being is what brings about our sufferings, pain and anguish. Now notice how it is said that the Nachash is always seeking to extend itself. And as long as we are identified with this part of ourselves, we will forever seek fulfillment outside of ourselves, because this violent movement can only extend itself if it can feed on our suffering. And toxic relationships are food for the Nachash.

breaking free of toxic relationships
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My last relationship was one of the most painful ones I have ever been in. And yet I am very grateful for the experience I had because it brought to light a pattern of toxic relationships I had had for pretty much my entire adult life. Usually within toxic relationships, there is some kind of codependency, as well as some kind of power struggle or imbalance. My pattern was one in which I was always doing the work and wanting to move the relationship forward while simultaneously engaging in self-destructive behavior that would push the other person away. The thing is, if you make somebody the center of your life, it is too much for that person. No one wants to be responsible for the happiness or unhappiness of another person. And toxic relationships cause us to focus all our attention onto our partners, overwhelming them.

The most important question to ask if you’re stuck in a toxic relationship is why you want to be with somebody who doesn’t make you happy. Love isn’t misery and drama. It isn’t having to convince somebody to be with you or to commit to you or to demand that they fulfill the void inside you. All these things are born out of fear, not love. If you stop thinking of your partner as your source of happiness, you will discover that all they are doing is mirroring to you your internal dialogue about yourself and love. This might be a hard mirror to look at, I know it wasn’t pleasant or easy for me. But when I was wiling to look at what the mirror was showing me, I saw poor self confidence, desperation and selfishness. I also realized that I had a pretty low opinion of myself given what I was willing to put up with to be with this man. And most importantly, I realized that while I was blaming him for my unhappiness, the only person that could change the situation was me.

When you finally decide to take your power back, your whole world will shift. At the crux of it, unhealthy relationships are the result of the feeling of separation we have from God. You can call it the Universe, Source or any other concept that pleases you. But when we feel ourselves separate from this spiritual essence, we experience pain and guilt and shame. We feel abandoned and alone and unworthy. This leads us to make somebody else the source of our happiness, someone who can love us, who can make us feel complete because the illusion of separation makes us feel incomplete. Unhealthy relationships where we make somebody else so special that they are the only one who can make us feel happy occur as a state of our egoic identification and confusion. The ego wants to make us believe that this person will help us feel whole again, and yet our search remains futile.

This is because the wholeness we are searching for, the love that we are searching for, the relief that we are searching for cannot be found outside of ourselves, much less within another person. It can only be found through deepening our connection to ourselves and realizing that we are one with God, with Source. And the stronger this inner connection gets, the more we realize the truth about ourselves.

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The way to getting to this truth has a key that’s actually a trinity. This trinity is something one of my teachers loves to say is our weapon against our egos and the way forward. This trinity is Love-Forgiveness-Compassion. This is the key that can help us rise above our egos and free ourselves from the illusions we have created, so that we can let go of our past.

The trinity of Love, Forgiveness and Compassion is something that we first need to find within ourselves for ourselves. When we discover the illusions we have created through our egoic confusion, it is a wake up call unlike any other. And it is one that at first can be painful to experience. So when you finally start to look at the truth of the ‘special’ relationships in your life that are in fact toxic, you will learn much about yourself and your inner darkness, or the Nachash within you. And the Nachash will put up a fight. Don’t fight with your ego, rather let the light of your awareness wash away the illusions as you take the reigns and build a new you. Allow yourself to be compassionate towards the mistakes of your past. Forgive yourself for hurtful words and actions against yourself and others. Love yourself unconditionally, no matter what. This is the key to connecting with the divine in you. Once you feel this connection, you will be able to apply the trinity for those who have wronged you. You will be able to forgive that ‘special’ person who perhaps left you and broke your heart into tiny little pieces. You will realize that he/she was just stuck in the confusion and illusion just like you. Most importantly, releasing your past will free you to live in the present, in the now.

Love is freedom and joy, it needs air to breathe. When you love yourself, when you are connected spiritually to your true essence, you will no longer look to create attachments in the impermanent world. You will find a source of happiness that has no reason or limits and you will be centered and grounded in your self. And once you love yourself, once you have found your center, the people who are drawn to you and the ones you are drawn to will change. When my last love relationship dissolved, it wasn’t the only person in my life who left me. My best friend of 30 years also cut off ties with me in the same year, I lost one of my mentors, and many other less intimate friendships also faded away. A year later, after I had gone through the darkest nights of my soul, I found myself surrounded by positive people. I found new friendships that were expansive, positive and supportive. Not only did I find new people to mentor me, I was also able to repair my relationship with my previous teacher and we were able to connect again. And even though I am not currently in a romantic relationship, I feel more loved and cherished than ever before, because I love myself. Interestingly enough, my parents who I’d always had a difficult relationship with began to respond to me differently. I was very pleased to find that I could create new wonderful memories with them as we spent time getting to know each other like I never had before.

All these shifts happened because I stopped looking outside, and I looked within. I asked and sought for help, and I stayed willing and open to making a change. The biggest shift I experienced was creating a spiritual connection to my own self. And this now is my daily practice. You can experience these kind of shifts too. You can break out of the toxic patterns in your relationships and find healing and love. You can create joy and happiness in your life, and live life to the fullest sharing your heart and your love with people who are positive for you, who celebrate and support you. You can do all this and more, you just have to have the willingness to do so, the willingness to step in front of the door that holds the truth and practice the trinity that unlocks it — Love, Forgiveness and Compassion.