How To Break Free & Begin Recovery
Extracted and adapted from an article by Sharie Stines, PsyD, GoodTherapy.org – Copyright acknowledged – we thank the author for their scholarship
10 Steps To Breaking Free And Staying Free
Bonds occur in toxic relationships (such as with a romance scammer) and tend to be strengthened by inconsistent positive reinforcement — your hope of something better to come (a happy ending).
These Trauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. Bonds occur in situations such as romance scams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost., abusive relationships, hostage situations, and incestuous relationships, but also in any ongoing attached relationship in which there is a great deal of pain (which can also be self-inflicted) interspersed with times of calm (or maybe just less pain). It is generally recognized as an addiction — the relationship promises much, gives fleeting feelings of utopia, and then it sucks away your very soul.
If you or someone you know has been in a romance scam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. relationship, you have witnessed the strength of this type of connection. Maybe you or someone you know is trying to get out, but seems incapable of leaving.
Breaking Bonds & Becoming Free
Here is advice on how to break free from this type of stranglehold:
- Make A Commitment To Live In Reality: If you find yourself wanting to fantasize about what could be or what you hope will be, stop. Remind yourself that you have made a commitment to live in truth. Even if you don’t choose to leave the relationship immediately, in the meantime you can at least remind yourself that you will stop fantasizing about what is not happening.
- Live In Real-Time: That means to stop holding on to what “could” or “will” happen tomorrow. Notice what is happening in the moment. Notice how trapped you feel. Notice how unloved you feel and how you have compromised your self-respect and self-worth for this relationship. Pay attention to your emotions. Stop hoping and waiting, and start noticing in real-time what is happening and how it is affecting you.
- Live One Decision At A Time And One Day At A Time: Sometimes people scare themselves with all-or-nothing thinking. Don’t tell yourself things like, “I have to never talk to the toxic person again or else”; this is akin to trying to lose weight by telling yourself you can never eat chocolate again. While it is true that your relationship is an unhealthy one, you don’t need to make every encounter a do-or-die situation. Don’t scare yourself.
- Make Decisions That Only Support Your Self-Care: That is, do not make any decision that hurts you. This goes for emotional “relapses” as well. If you find yourself feeling weak, don’t mentally berate yourself, but rather talk to yourself in compassionate, understanding, and reflective ways. Remind yourself that you are a work in process and life is a journey. Do not make the uncaring decision to mentally beat yourself up. In every encounter you have with the object of your obsession, stop and think about each choice you make. Make choices that are only in your best interest.
- Start Feeling Your Emotions: Whenever you are away from the toxic person in your life and feel tempted to reach out to them for reassurance, stop. Consider writing your feelings down instead. Write whatever comes to you. This may help you to build inner strength. Learn to simply be with your emotions. You don’t need to run from them, hide from them, avoid them, or make them go away. Once you fully feel them, they may begin to subside. Remember: the only way out is through. For example:
- I feel ____.
- I miss ____.
- I wish I could be with ____ right now, but I am going to sit and write my feelings down instead.
- I am going to teach myself how to feel my way through the obsession, rather than turning to ____.”
- Learn To Grieve: Letting go of a toxic relationship and breaking a traumatic bond may be one of the hardest things you ever have to do. You cannot do it without honoring the reality you are losing something very valuable to you.
- Understand The “Hook”: Identify what, exactly, you are losing. It may be a fantasy, a dream, an illusion. Perhaps your partner had convinced you into believing they were going to fulfill some deep, unmet need. Once you can identify what this need (or hook) is, you can get down to the business of grieving. Grieving means (figuratively) holding your hands open and letting it go. You say goodbye to the notion the need you have may never be met. At a minimum, it will not be met by this relationship.
- Write A List Of Bottom-Line Behaviors For Yourself: Possible examples:
- I will not talk to scammers or strangers online.
- I will not argue with someone who has been drinking.
- I will take care of my own finances.
- I will not have conversations with anyone when I feel desperate (or defensive, or obsessive, etc.).Whatever your areas of concern, determine what you need to do to change and make those your bottom-line behaviors.
- Build Your Life: Little by little, start dreaming about your future for yourself (and your children, if you have them); in other words, make dreams that don’t involve your traumatic partner. Maybe you want to go to school, start a hobby, go to church, or join a club. Start making life-affirming choices for yourself that take you away from the toxic interactions that have been destroying your peace of mind.
- Build Healthy Connections: The only way to really free yourself from unhealthy connections is to start investing in healthy ones. Develop new close, connected, and bonded relationships that are not centered on fantasy or drama. Make these your “go-to” people and make sure they are real. It is extremely difficult to heal without support – join a SCARS Support Group. Notice the people in your life who show you loving concern, and care and hang around with them as often as you can. Reach out for professional help as needed.
If you find yourself feeling weak, don’t mentally beat yourself up, but rather talk to your support group In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. and assure yourself in a serious, compassionate, understanding, and reflective ways that you are going to be ok and make it through this. Remind yourself that you are a work in process and life is a journey. You can get through this!