Toxic Individuals and the Power of Forgiveness

by: Tina Swithin

There seems to be a great deal of discussion surrounding the power of forgiveness as it relates to divorce. Forgiveness seems to be a buzz word in religious teachings, self help books and a regular topic on the Oprah Show. Even my therapist seems to cling to the word! We are taught that in order to be free, we must forgive.

When it comes to my ex-husband, Seth, I’ve learned to practice acceptance rather than forgiveness. I accept that Seth is who he is. Seth suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and because I’ve educated myself on this disorder, I don’t expect him to change.

Becoming a Survivor: Whether you are dealing with a narcissist or a high-conflict, toxic individual, I have advice for you.The first step is to accept and come to terms with the situation. Learning to accept Seth doesn’t mean that I have to accept his behavior nor does it mean that I continue to be his victim. There is a huge difference. I hear from people all over the world who are stuck. I believe that you have two choices in life: you can be a victim or you can choose to be a survivor. I equate being a victim to being trapped in quicksand and unable to move. Being a victim prevents you from going forward in life.

Forgiveness: One of the first steps in moving forward is to learn forgiveness but not in the way that you are probably expecting. You have to learn to forgive yourself. We’ve all made mistakes. I don’t believe in having regrets because mistakes are simply opportunities to learn and grow. The key is to learn from your mistakes and not to repeat the same pattern again.

Letting Go of the Guilt: When I speak to individuals who find themselves in a high-conflict divorce, I often hear guilt in their voices. In the aftermath of the storm, many are left questioning why they allowed themselves to fall for such a toxic person in the first place. They struggle to answer that question when quizzed by well-meaning friends or family members. They are re-victimized and haunted by these questions.

We all have some type of past baggage whether it is a result of a horrific childhood or the parents who gave you everything. The baggage could be from the bullies on the playground or your first boyfriend. Everyone has baggage. Narcissists and other toxic individuals have a way of honing in on past wounds and morphing themselves into your own personal band-aid. They are charming, charismatic and they sell their victim on a world that seems too good to be true. The theory is great but the problem is that world only exists in their mind. It can take weeks to see their lies unraveling or it can take years. In hindsight, there are usually red flags, orange flags and yellow flags.

Acknowledging the Past: In the past, I ignored the warning signs because I wanted to believe that Seth was really who he claimed to be. There were red flags from the beginning but I quietly swept them under the rug. Seth was charming 75% of the time and I chose to ignore the rest. Unfortunately, the percentages began to shift until the red flags far outweighed the positive, charismatic side of Seth.To move forward, I needed to acknowledge the warning signs and take personal responsibility for ignoring them.

Be Gentle with Yourself: You aren’t the first person to fall for this type of person and unfortunately, you won’t be the last. Forgive yourself. It’s the most freeing thing that you will ever do. After you forgive yourself, your healing can begin.

Tina Swithin is the Author of “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and the popular blog, “One Mom’s Battle”. Tina is also the newest contributor to the Huffington Post and enjoys helping women (and men) to feel empowered when going through a high-conflict divorce. Her Facebook page has become a source of education and camaraderie for those going through a divorce with a narcissist. Her ultimate dream is to create a non-profit agency with the goal of educating and bringing change to the Family Court System. Tina resides in sunny California with her fiancé, two daughters and three-legged tortoise named, “Oliver” You can follow Tina on Twitter @onemomsbattle. She writes for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, CupidsPulse.com, and LAFamily.com.


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