Tag Archive | positivity

Where’s the love this Christmas?

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Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge

Tensions tend to rise high at Christmas time.

People become self-absorbed with their own problems – financial, family, career … whatever their unhappiness is seems to flare up.

Look around in Australia alone at the moment: Martin Place siege where 3 people were killed and the stabbings in Cairns where 8 children were killed. Two major and exceptionally tragic incidents in the same week.

The thing I want to highlight is that both incidences were strongly linked to Domestic Violence and if we had the correct procedures in place in this area, then neither of these events would have happened. Yet call a Domestic Violence helpline in Australia – any of them – I’ve spoken to most, as they continued to refer me from one to the next – and ask for a group or a psychologist who specialises in the field. No one could tell me, despite my distress, where or when it a group is held or recommend someone who specialises is domestic violence and trauma for individual counselling who may be able to help me – you need to go to the doctor for a “mental health plan”. Yet, each of them could tell me I was suffering trauma from my experience.

Great.

My argument is this: just because I was abused by a psychopath, doesn’t mean I have a mental illness. Not that there would be a problem if I did, but don’t you think it’s offensive to both those who do have a mental illness as well as those who are being misdiagnosed or treated as though they do? Besides: why do they call it a “mental health plan”? Why not a “recovery plan”, or an “inspiration plan”, or a “restart your life plan”, or … anything other than “mental health plan” which makes targets sound like they are the one with the problem.

Recently I started feeling cynical … I was finding the harder I tried and the higher I rose, the further I had to fall and the more people tried to rip me down. And they’re people who may be suffering, but who judge – they don’t actually know your journey. Just as I was about to throw in the towel – a man (who happens to be Hollywood-romantic-comedy level of good looking … and trust me, that’s not an exaggeration) turned up on my doorstep. I hadn’t seen him for 12 years … I’ve known him since I was six years old – he was at my birthday party. So he came into my world and my entire perspective on my life as it currently stood shifted: including the fact that had I not have left my ex (even at the expense of the hell I suffered), he wouldn’t have been able to see me because of the way I had been isolated. Even just for that, to enable me freedom enough to open my door, let him in and talk to him like we used to: it was worth it!

He was so patient with me, so kind, and although he picked up on some of my mannerisms residual from the trauma (locking the door as soon as I close it, washing up plates as soon as they were used, sleeping with a pillow against the door etc.) he accepted me as I was and didn’t question.

His visit made me realise something… the reason I’d been feeling down and out of late was the meaning I’d attached to my story. “I’m crap, that’s why it happened to me”. But as soon as I heard about someone who I respect suffering at the hands of another person as well, it changed my perspective. So this week I learned: I’m ok with selfishness to an extent – when recovering from domestic violence it’s essential – it was just in witnessing actions and reactions caused by jealousy, insecurity and straight up hatred based on assumptions and judgements, it just made me feel sad. Only they were other people’s meaning attached to other events. And we all do that … an event happens an we attach a meaning to it, rather than challenging what we think it means, we add judgement.

Reminder: It’s Christmas!

There’s not a lot you can do about other people’s behaviour, but sometimes a shift in your own behaviour can help you to feel better.

So what can you do to survive this Christmas and start sharing the love?

  1. Cease judgement for the next three days: you don’t know what you don’t know about people – let them live their life, their way.
  2. Be thoughtful and prove it: are you thinking of someone? Do you know someone who could use some extra love this Christmas? How can you let them know you’re thinking of them?
  3. Release ignorance: be open to the fact you don’t know what you don’t know and show some understanding and compassion.
  4. Don’t do it! If you wouldn’t do it at any other time of the year or when you’re not feeling as stressed as you are now, don’t do it now.
  5. Be mindful. Watch your behaviour and how you’re feeling, you are only responsible for you. If you become aware that you are acting out in ways you don’t usually: take some time out.
  6. Before acting or reacting THINK:

Is it TRUE?

Is it HELPFUL?

Is it iNSPIRING?

Is it NECESSARY?

Is it KIND?

  1. Give authentically – really think about the person and offer a genuine gift. Remember the people you do love and show them what they mean to you. Tell them what they mean to you at every opportunity.
  2. Challenge meanings you attach to events. If you can’t do it, find someone to help you do it. When things look scary: open your eyes! There’s a world of adventure out there – live like today is all you have.

I want to wish my friends, family, followers and that amazing man (who never really left) a very Merry Christmas. I hope peace is with you all and that each of you has a happy, safe and secure as you enjoy the festive season.

Love to all xx

The one thing that can make you thrive

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Your self-talk is the channel of behaviour change. Gino Norris

Have you ever thought about your passion? Is it something you’re good at? Is it to do with something you admire? Perhaps it’s your family or friends – building connections. Maybe you collect something. This year I’ve spoken a lot about finding what you’re passionate about because it’s in finding that we’re able to unlock the key to our motivation. This week, Happiness Weekly looks at the one thing that can make you thrive!

So what is my passion? My passion is something that’s locked up tightly to my heart, and something no one can take away: I’m passionate about what I do. Not just with friends, not just with Happiness Weekly, not just with building Relationship Free, not just with studying and working for a charity … I’m passionate about everything I do.

The reason I’m passionate about everything I do is that I aligned everything in my life with my authentic self. My friends and family, my career, the work I do etc. By doing that my self talk is always going “Yeah! Go get ‘em!” It’s positive, it’s happy, it’s confident and reassuring. Self talk is really important because it’s that internal validation that helps me to thrive.

I’ve learned a lot about the subconscious mind this year through studying life coaching and one thing I learned was the subconscious mind doesn’t take negativity into account. What I’ve trained my subconscious mind to do – over the years, and this dates right back to when I was working in the music industry in 2006 – is filter messages that people give me. By doing that it produces the most positive message possible. That’s something that I have always challenged myself to do in recent times – I ask myself: what else could it mean and how could that be positive?

This year I have worked really hard to re-build my self worth. I started at zero and I got it to 100% and now: I realise it. That’s the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me in my life, was realising my self worth and going “OK, I know my strength, I know how I can contribute, I’m going to share my gift!” It was like having a super power. Self worth grows confidence to the maximum, it enhances your perspective on things, it develops you memory and mind to a point where you’re ready to take anything on.

So last week I stood up for the first time since I was abused – and in fact, I not only stood up, but I stepped up with my head held high. It was taking a stand for something I’m passionate about coupled with my positive internal validation and self talk – “you’ve got this!”. I took words my abuser said – “I’ll make sure you NEVER do this again!” – and I finally said “We’ll see about that…”

I got myself invited to an interview for a role that didn’t exist – I had asked if I could just volunteer my time. My intent was just to answer his threat with a “We’ll see about that…”. I am so exceptionally proud to say: I proved him wrong. In only a year I built my strength from the ashes and in so many ways, every threat, every evil word, every painful thought and every shard left behind from the destruction cleared. By the end of the interview, I was offered something paid, which demonstrates the value they felt I contained.

As I walked back to work, I thought back to 2006 when I was in the music industry and competitive promoters were trying to throw me off the game. And I remember that always motivated me: never tell me I can’t do something because I will show you I can.

And then I’ll prove it.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the universe aligned this, but on the same day I went for that meeting, which will see me do exactly what I was told I never would again, I received my qualifications for my life coaching.

While I restored my self worth, my self esteem restored as well and now I’m equipped to take on anything that comes my way. In only a year.

And it was in receiving that certificate that I had my final thought:

You can’t take someone down who can create their own sunshine through even the most massive of storms. Rainbows exist – you can’t take away what’s real.

In conclusion, the one thing that can make you thrive is really listen and adjust that self talk. Be your own best friend. Back yourself as much as you can. Go get ‘em!

Dating following narcissistic abuse

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It sounds like a cliche but I also learnt that you’re not going to fall for the right person until you really love yourself and feel good about how you are. Emma Watson

Today I wanted to bring you a message about dating following narcissistic abuse.

Many clients have come to me recently with this big light bulb moment and said: “I know, I’m just going to date again!”

My question would be the motives behind the thought.

When we break up with a narcissist we are left with a big gaping hole in our lives. We feel completely empty. Useless. Like no one will ever love us. Our self esteem and our self worth are so low they’re almost non-existent.

This is not the perfect place to meet someone new. However, I made this mistake. Following narcissistic abuse, I thought I’d recover similarly to how I had from other relationships – by putting myself back out there. It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. People may also try to fill the void with food, and may overeat, but others want to fill it with love thinking that love is all empowering and it fixes everything.

It’s a myth. Love doesn’t fix anything … and it shouldn’t have to. If you want to be in love, you shouldn’t want it to fix something – instead it should be used to enhance what you already have.

So as I say in my video below (sorry for the lighting and glare), the reason I don’t recommend dating immediately after narcissistic abuse is one of two things tends to happen.

1. You’ll find a nice guy and get bored very quickly. This is because he can’t match the toxic intensity of your previous relationship. Your self talk then starts beating you down for not liking the nice guy, making you feel you’ll never find the right one etc.

2. You’ll find the guy who matches the intensity of your relationship and start to see them. Before long you will realise that he too is toxic or even abusive, and the reason is that your subconscious has led you to find someone who matches that intensity.

I’m working on a program for Relationship Free at the moment for people who have experienced narcissistic abuse, to assist them with rebuilding self esteem, self worth and fill that horrible void that intentionally leaves targets feeling empty and as though there is a big gaping void in their life.

After a year in recovery, I have rebuilt myself from the coals and ashes – ruins my partner left behind from his path of destruction – and I have filled that gaping hole with self love, commitment and loyalty. The three things I was never offered in the relationship. And I have had a very happy and successful year. I have had the most incredible transformation. I have come through the most terrible storm, stronger, more confident and ready to take on the world. And it is only now, just last week that I have been open to dating again and already I’ve been asked out in some very elaborate ways! Haha! It’s funny what happens when you finally open yourself back up to the universe and say “OK, game on!” I’m also very conscious of the men I’m attracting now and am looking for someone who enhances my life lessons and can build on what I’ve already built up. I’m not sure if I’ve consciously gone out to find that before.

On my journey the major lesson I learned is that along with happiness, self esteem and self worth also come from within. So does passion! What are you passionate about? People look to external things: family, career, hobbies etc. What if it was more eternal. What if your passion was personal development or being in nature or something similar. Something that no one could ever take away from you – no matter how deceptive, how manipulative or how narcissistic. We are spiritual beings in a physical body, it’s important to embrace that and the life we have and focus forward on how you can create the best existence possible and make it more bearable for others.

The lessons I learned: you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge (Dr Phil), if you’re passionate – go for it, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something … particularly if it’s not up to them! It’s never too late to prove someone’s wrong, to embrace your self worth and to thrive.

Click the photo to watch the video:

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What the Hunger Games says about Domestic Violence

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Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor! Effie Trinket

When people ask me my favourite movie I say “The Hunger Games … all of them”. The next question is why and I instantly respond “Because at the time I needed it most, it brought me a lot of comfort – it became the metaphor for my life”. That’s generally when people give me a funny look. It brought me comfort? How?? At the time I didn’t realise, but when I look back at each of the movies with domestic violence in mind, many similar themes are taken to give hope to survivors. This week was White Ribbon day. This week Happiness Weekly explores what The Hunger Games says about Domestic Violence.

As well as being able to see the movie as strength for survival, I also feel people recovering from domestic abuse will also find themselves being easily able to identify with some of the lines, on a level that other people may not understand. In perfect timing, exactly as I needed them, these movies became my metaphor for life.

The standout moment for me – as with anyone who watches the movie – would have been the scene where Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute. I identified with this particularly when I was served with an AVO for lifting windscreen wiper blades – this of course is the equivalent of having both hands cut off for stealing a loaf of bread in 2013-2014. And so came the court case where I “volunteered” for my abuser to have the order over me – aka “consented without admissions” – the bravest decision I have ever had to make in my life. You don’t know courage until it gets that real. I had to overcome a lot of fear to allow for that to happen. That’s just one example, but when I look back on the relationship there were many times where I volunteered, putting myself in a position where I remained part of his Hunger Games – and I continued to volunteer for more pain, anguish and upset. The next thing to stand out to me was when they went into the aircraft and Effie Trinket is talking about all the things they can have – although just for a little while. And there they sit in this dream world of luxury and glamour that was well beyond their world and their imagination … this scene, reminds me of the grooming phase in my past relationship. The part where he love-bombed me and brought me gifts, and wrote me cards, and turned up at my house with dinner and my favourite drinks, he stood up for me … and the list goes on. That dream world that was well beyond my imagination that became a reality. But just for a little while. And just as the movie metaphor has it – Katniss and Peeta Mellark may agree – I will be glad never to glimpse that world again if it means I never enter back into his Hunger Games!

I was even able to identify with the characters – Cinna, Gale Hawthorne and Primrose Everdeen – who represented my beautiful best friends, Lara, Luke and Bryan, who always had my back, but could only help me so far – they couldn’t fight in the games for me.

I don’t even want to get started on those trigger-happy “peace keepers”, who actually have no interest in keeping the peace but in punishing at any slight disturbance. How dare I lift those windscreen wiper blades … and so it goes on my record for life that I’m abusive, even though I was never charged and I never breached it. In that police station, at that court, it will remain forever. The punishment didn’t match the crime. But it’s not unusual for Sydney police to maintain this trigger-happy “peace keeper” feel to their work, they don’t care if they’re good guys, bad guys or what the ultimate facts are: watch them at work. Just like that old man whistling from Rue’s district only to get his brains blown out of his head moments later … just for whistling a tune and kissing his three fingers before putting them up in the air. I guess this puts things in perspective… perhaps it could’ve been worse for me and the lady in the clip?

How about when Katniss speaks to Gale about running away. Is that a fantasy? Does that seem childish? Unlikely? Running away from Domestic Violence is often the only way to break the abuse cycle and stop it from continuing. If it wasn’t for running away from my Domestic Violence situation, I wouldn’t be here today. In fact, the games would have continued like cat and mouse until the end. And it wouldn’t have been a long way to that end. I had a very abusive, exceptionally jealous partner who couldn’t control me. Following going into hiding for a year, I got passionate enough about what I had experienced, that I started a business to help others avoid and recover from what I went through. I vowed that while I hadn’t had the strength to fight, I would assist others to find it. And in fact, I stood up in so many more ways, which maintained dignity yet still took a stand, and I will blog more on that in coming weeks.

From my perspective Haymitch Abernathy represented the people around me who cared about me but who I was unsure if I could trust or not. And there is another scene where Katniss raises trust as an issue, saying she’s not sure who she can trust and Haymitch says “It’s not about trust – it’s about survival” – and that’s true to an extent. It’s true that targets of domestic abuse often feel “a single perpetrator has the potential to taint or implicate all humanity. If one person can abuse then all others become potential abusers” (Grant, The Way Of The Wound, 1996, p13).

Survival is obviously another core theme throughout the Hunger Games as Hymitch’s parting advice is always “Stay alive”, but it really highlights trust. Not necessarily trusting your abuser or the people around you – but it’s about trusting yourself to make the right moves.

Trust also became a theme when Peeta betrayed Katniss to join an alliance against her which he did for his own protection and safety. I think this is a general life lesson that we all learn at some point, but it was a hard one for Katniss, although she moves quickly past it, and it’s a hard one for anyone in a domestic abuse situation. Trust becomes exceptionally hard to give away to anyone after being the target of domestic violence, which is why I encourage all my clients to focus their energies only on trusting themselves during their recovery. The rest can come later, but while healing, that’s the best place to start.

There’s discussion about betraying themselves for the sake of the “games” – and I can’t tell you how much self-betrayal is involved when you’re being abused. I don’t even know where to start … but I guess a common theme in these relationships would have to be betraying ourselves in a bid to convince our abused that we’re always ok. And in the process we tell them that we’re ok or forgive them again, we’re also telling them what they’re doing is ok and we force ourselves to accept the unacceptable. It’s so not ok! And then as the abuse continues – just like Katniss finds in each of the Hunger Games movies – we find ourselves in more and more complicated situations. And the more complicated and far-fetched the situation becomes, the more difficult it is to get out as things continue to move from bad to worse. I am in the process of writing a book called The girl who couldn’t get away: the typical rise and fall of narcissistic abuse where this is more clearly exposed to develop this understanding.

Another thing I identified with was when Katniss started looking for solutions as she was just trying to survive as best she could, but in the process she actually betrayed herself more – because it wasn’t actually what she wanted and only made her play right into the hands of President Snow and the Capital. We witness this in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire when she suggests: “We could get married!” Even the way she said it, was exactly as I’d come up with ideas to try to protect myself from further abuse. Emotionless, matter-of-fact, as though anything is better than the current hell we’re subjected to. If you’re in this toxic situation you may be able to relate.

The falseness of Caesar Flickerman and everyone from the Capital, represents the abuser who presents as something they’re not. Their so caught up in displaying their “false self” that in the process they lose all sight of their true self – which is an ugly person, very lonely, very broken and they suffer a lot of pain. While they think what they are presenting, all their lies and manipulation is normal and natural, it’s so far from the authentic truth. By the time a target sees the true self, it is often too late. Once it’s revealed, the abuser has you well in their sights and so being the threats and entrapment.

Another triggering moment was the offering to hose down Katniss a second time – these style of insults are dished on a daily basis to keep targets self esteem and self worth low so they will stay in the relationship. While the target accepts it because … well, it’s true, right? She is from district 12, she is dirty… she just has to accept what was said, right? Go with it… get hosed down again…

There’s a quote in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that really stood out for me, Haymitch says: “This trip doesn’t end when you get home – you never get off this train!” Recovery from Domestic Violence isn’t dissimilar. When you “get home” – ie. leave the relationship – depending how traumatic your experience is, every second of every day is spent thinking about how you’re going to avoid that happening again. While you may find yourself out of the relationship, that’s not even a scratch on the surface for the journey you have ahead of you in order to make a complete recovery. It’s actually something I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy. It’s extremely difficult to deal with. I liked The Hunger Games: Catching Fire because it really grasps the concept of trauma recovery as it covers themes including the flashbacks, reoccurring nightmares, the reality being so far away from anything ever experienced in the past… Trying to get use to how things are all over again – it’s like trying to sleep with a broken bone – it takes a long time to get comfortable again. It is a long way to recovery. Anyone who thinks once you’re out, you’re ok, is extremely misguided.

One thing I would never do though … I would never enter back into the games as a way to recover or to try to find that same door I entered through. Maybe at the start I would’ve. But now, I’m more than happy to keep searching for a different door to eject myself from this really difficult two steps forward, one step back dance I’ve been doing.

In the first two movies there’s very strong themes addressing bravery and courage. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire where Peeta and Katniss stand before the families of fallen tributes and are forced to read off cards given to them – speaking words well outside their authentic truth. This literally gave me flashbacks to those times I returned to family, friends and colleagues and they questioned if I was ok, and just like a robot, I would come out with responses that were forever protecting my abusive partner or steering their focus away from him. Even when I went to the doctor to complain I was “bruising easily” – it was never his fault, it never had anything to do with him at all – or so the script went. And despite my desire to be honest with the people I loved dwindled as the fear for their safety and protecting them from whatever else he would subject me to next, became a priority.

When Peeta is dancing with Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and he says: “People are starving in 12, here they are throwing up their food so they can eat more…” and if this triggered anything it was that moment when you’re in that domestic violence situation with those false scripts, and you’re talking to a friend who is mostly happy in their relationship, and they have a great husband and gorgeous children, when all of a sudden they say how they’re upset at their partner over the smallest thing – and now they’re considering separation, or whatever it is. And all you can think about is: “I used to crave marriage and children, but now all I want is peace – I’d do anything for peace!” It feels as though many people take their good, healthy relationships for granted, and it’s so easy to see when you’re looking at it as a target of domestic abuse.

There is one moment when Katniss says it as it is: “The games don’t mean anything – they’re just here to scare us!” And isn’t that the truth? Even in Domestic Violence – even in my situation with all my abuser’s crazy, bizarre threats – it’s literally all there to scare them. And I think the answer to why is really explored a lot more and done really well in the third instalment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I. Plutarch Heavensbee is speaking with President Snow in one scene when he says “We don’t need to destroy her – just the image – let the people take care of the rest”. If my abuser sat down and had a conversation mapping out the ‘moves and counter moves’ with all the people involved in his quest, then I’m pretty sure it would have sounded something along these lines. And even after he got what he wanted, even after his ridiculous attempts to destroy me, his feeble attempt at a pathetic smear campaign involving a previous employer. You know what? Talk about shoot yourself in the foot … because without this campaign, I never would have linked my abuser to narcissism or know that what I experienced was narcissistic abuse or know anything about his Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Because I wouldn’t have started searching for the answers, I would’ve continued blaming myself. It was only in being the target of such a horrendous campaign that I started to piece together what really happened to me and all those pieces came together.

Gale asks Katniss if she loves him and she responds: “All I can think about every day since the reaping is how afraid I am – there is no room for anything else”. In my experience with domestic violence, suffering some extremely traumatic events caused by the ongoing abuse and even in my recovery after, I was so terrified that I barely remembered the simple things – like how to breathe and when to eat! It’s not until you experience such a horrendous trauma that you realise how much your life slows down to such a basic level just to enable that recovery. And it’s true – you just don’t have the mental capacity to try to process anything else, other than what you’re experiencing.

Another sterling standout moment that triggered my feelings that this movie really is a great metaphor for targets of domestic abuse and domestic violence is where Haymitch Abernathy says “Nobody ever wins the games. Period. There are survivors. There’s no winners.” If anything encapsulates my feelings towards narcissistic abuse and domestic violence it’s this! This was what I came out of the relationship saying. “OK, he got what he wanted and he hurt me … but really, was that winning for him?” Clearly not if the abuse needed to continue. And no one won. He thinks he did because he sucked his wife and children back in to his games. But it’s not winning when the cycle (or “games”) continues. The only good that came out of my experience was what I boldly turned it into! Until I started Relationship Free there were no winners, but now … there is – as I push myself into that the role of a victor. Using my learnings and my survival to share my story and lift others from the ashes. And there will be an uprising from targets of narcissistic abuse and domestic violence – you can count on it! Because now they know they can not only survive but they can win by thriving through it! If you get off on hurting people, your days of pulling satisfaction from other people’s pain are limited! Because I’m not afraid anymore. And I will be the face to help others become fearless after their abuse. Join forces with me, share your stories and bring light to this darkness!

At one point, Johanna Mason loses it and goes into a short monologue challenging President Snow to set everyone on fire, when she stops and says “What? He can’t hurt me. There’s no one left that I love”. I identified with Johanna because of all the isolation my abuser caused. In the end I felt I had absolutely nothing left to lose, I had no motivation to protect myself or to continue the fight – simply because I had nothing left – and so we go back to that courtroom where I volunteered as tribute. And I thought as long as there was no one left that I loved, he couldn’t hurt me anymore. This wasn’t entirely true and I think is demonstrated in the third instalment of the Hunger Games when Johanna looks completely broken. One of the final scenes in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has Katniss lying on the ground as debris and destruction falls around her. She makes no effort to move to safety. She’s exhausted. This is a metaphor for how I felt by the time I got to the courtroom. I was exhausted. I literally had no fight power left. I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to hide. I didn’t want to run. I was just completely numb. My soul was completely shattered. I was helpless and I didn’t have any motivation left. It took six months to recharge … and my batteries will never run flat again.

Just as there were themes in the first two movies, the third movie also shared themes that resonated strongly for anyone suffering from or who has been the target of domestic violence. There’s a scene where Katniss is speaking with President Alma Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee and she gets frustrated and says: “You’ll never be able to guarantee my safety!” and President Alma Coin responds: “What if you get killed?” And Katniss says: “Make sure you get it on camera.” That feels like how it was when I went to the police and even now – that chilling realisation, and most of the cause for the trauma is that no one can protect you. When I travel based on where the CCTV footage is – it’s not in a bid not to protect myself, but if anything does happen, then for it to be shared so my abuser is exposed.

Another scene where Katniss is yelling at President Snow “And if we burn – you burn with us!” And I think that’s so true of targets of domestic violence and their abusers, particularly in the case of homicide or suicide. When the target dies as a result of ongoing domestic violence and domestic abuse, I think it’s difficult for the abuser to completely get away with it. While our flimsy laws aren’t that great at serving justice – it draws attention directly to the abuser. And even in a smear campaign – even in my abuser’s attempt, people in his industry went to a friend of mine and said they heard the story and no one believed him. So while he spoke in an attempt to get people to judge me, he actually brought judgement upon himself. Bob Marley says it best: “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect – and I don’t live to be – but before you start pointing fingers… make sure your hands are clean!”

Also in the third movie, there is a scene which touches on the theme of co dependence, strongly linked to domestic violence and abuse. Katniss kisses Gale and he says: “I knew you’d do that…” Katniss responds: “How did you know? I didn’t even know!” And Gale says: “Because I’m hurting and it’s the only was I can get your attention”. If anyone watched my video about abuse last week, I read out a post-it note left from my abuser where he says he’s “hurting”. It was only then as I was watching this movie one year later, that I realised he anticipated my response as a result of writing that. He knew I would immediately try to go to him and to try to stop his pain, because he’d seen me rescue him time and time again … and then he used it against me in the final blow. So, if your abuser is playing the victim or “hurting” – run AWAY because it’s likely they’re doing it to get that control. In short: abusers use and fake pain to control their victims.

In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I Finnick Odair says “It takes ten times longer to get yourself back together than it does to fall apart”. I LOVE this line because it’s SO true! Anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence and abuse will certainly be able to relate to this because the journey to recovery is so LONG! And painful. And frustrating and all the rest! Also, the longer you stay, the harder that journey becomes. I’ll always consider myself one of the lucky ones for getting out when I did, how I did. My abuser underestimated me. And right towards the end of the movie, Katniss goes on screen at the Capital to talk to President Snow and commitment becomes a theme. “I’ve always kept my promises,” she says trying to bargain with him. In response, President Snow brings her honesty into question. This was triggering for me because this was one of the conversations that would continually cycle through the relationship I had with my abuser. My bargaining using my demonstration of commitment, truth and honesty, followed by my honesty being called into question.

And right after they touch on fear and Beetee says “It’s the most difficult emotion to overcome because we remember it the best” – which is exactly why abusive people use it to trap their targets, not only in the current situation but also in their recovery. Fear is also known to be the strongest human emotion there is and overcoming fear is extremely difficult. As you can see, The Hunger Games can be used as a metaphor for targets of abuse and domestic violence.

Another core theme is hope – and it is also hope that will keep the targets going – it’s that hope that will build strength to venture out and try to find these new solutions to problems. I hope it also explains why I found so much comfort in these movies! When you come out of a relationship with domestic abuse and violence, it is really challenging to identify with anyone and anything – so to have these movies really helps. I think they expose a lot of hidden and helpful messages when it comes to domestic violence as well.

The Hunger Games – I strongly endorse this series – watch it, read it, enjoy! Use it to find your strength.

Want to talk about it or need assistance moving forward? Contact me: sarah@relationshipfree.com

The way back – strength, discovery and adventures

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Do your thing and don’t care if they like it. Tina Fey

I have a confession to make…

I didn’t blog this week.

I know – I kind of said last week I’d be back another time, but I can’t help myself.

So it’s now after midnight on Sunday and I’m starting to write.

I had a break through this week. In fact, I had many break throughs. I’ve come to so many realisations all at once, it’s like a series of fireworks going off in my mind.

First of all, I’ve been living in the past … if you hadn’t noticed!

Even my parents text me this week and said “We hope Happiness Weekly will be happy again soon”. So my first realisation was this: I have become so good at letting go, that I was starting to let go of things that really mattered to me. Happiness Weekly has been going for two years and although my new business Relationship Free is already better known and more popular – Happiness Weekly was my pilot blog, and it served me well. While I do have many things I could do with my time other than blog for Happiness Weekly, this remains my passion. For those who don’t know, Relationship Free is my company that encourages clients to find the freedom within to be their best self. It has a strong focus on developing a relationship with yourself to combat addiction, loneliness, toxic and abusive relationships etc. Something we are never taught is how to love ourselves – and if anything, from a young age we are taught to play it down and betray ourselves. Don’t stand out. Stick with jobs we don’t love. Be kind even when someone is nasty to us… Relationship Free is a safe haven of its own – the website is currently in design phase (exciting!!).

My next realisation was this: I’ve been depressed, frustrated, angry, bitter and extremely fearful over the past year. I’ve dragged my feet everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve found it really hard to meet new people recently and trust. But I have. And the people I am now letting into my life are different to anyone I’ve met before. They adore me. Not like narcissistic kind of adoration where they’ll just annihilate me later – but they’re genuinely beautiful souls, who inspire my dreams. Big shout out to Russ and Kev, my two American men. Russ is a coach and Kev is into the whole coaching thing, he wrote this awesome blog about the World Domination Summit. He’s an exceptionally talented writer, which pleases me greatly. I can’t wait to attend this with him next year, it’s a new thing on the bucket list and I’m SO excited.

I thought I’d never meet anyone again, and I really didn’t care, but these men not only met me where I was at, but patiently listened to my story and somehow shifted me well outside of where I’ve been. I am forever grateful to both of them and all my patient friends who have stood by me. These two helped me get my smile back. So yeah – be gone that horrible Sarah that was taking over the woman I am! There’s no way I’m going numb for ten months only to finally feel again and not to feel anything good – I have some level of control here and I’m going to choose that with my head held high.

I had another realisation: going through domestic violence, surviving quite extreme narcissistic abuse (which I still think I’m lucky to actually be alive among all his coded threats and riddles, manipulation, deceit and lies), means you can actually spot narcissists really quickly. A big reason I haven’t dated since is I’m so terrified of meeting anyone even slightly resembling my ex boyfriend – and even just the thought of that actually gets bile in my throat. But you can slay that dragon. If you recognise one, live authentically – for some reason it’s kryptonite to these people and be mindful of their lies, manipulation and deceit.

And finally, I really learned the importance of self care … mainly because I haven’t been doing much of that this year compared to other years. Did I not deserve it? Do you have to deserve it? And if you do, then what do you have to do to deserve it?

Maybe you don’t know what a self care plan is – I was talking to a girlfriend the other day who was saying her family didn’t accept her self care activities and self soothing choices. It wasn’t hurting anyone – have your nails done, get your hair done, take a bath, go for a walk, drink a glass of tea, walk by water, sit in the sun … whatever it is, I can’t highlight enough how important it is that you take care of yourself – regardless of anything else.

Today, I’m just very quickly going to help you put together a self care plan – and I apologise this is in writing – I wanted to make a video, but unfortunately I ran out of time. This is different to your typical Self Care Plan – but hopefully it works for you, because this is my secret medicine for getting back on track.

 

Happiness Weekly’s Self Care Plan

Step one: Take a blank piece of paper and a pen.

Step two: Write down five to ten things you really love to do at the moment. Ie. go to the markets, walk on the beach, go camping, get your nails done, listen to music, have a massage etc.

Step three: Go back in time to when you were a child – somewhere between 3 and 11 years old. Write down five things you really loved to do. Ie. jump rope, drink a milkshake, play sport, build a cubby house, play computer games, blow bubbles etc.

Step four: Now we’re going to set those lists aside. On another piece of paper write:

MIND

BODY

SPIRIT

And under each heading start populating various things you can do to fulfil those things, sooth yourself and show yourself some care – or even just things you enjoy doing that are associated to these headings. Now you can move the list from step two under the best headline for that item, and step three. Next to the step three items I want you to write (IC) next to each item in brackets – this stands for inner child. What you’re doing there is nurturing your inner child by doing these activities and be particularly mindful of your inner child as you complete these activities. For example, when I take myself for my skim strawberry milkshake, I think to myself: “Here you go, you’ve been a good girl, little Sarah – I love you!” So I really acknowledge my inner child as I complete that task or any task on the list associated with my Inner Child. Ensure you always tell your inner child that you love them. “I love you, little –” and say your name. And once you say that, feel what comes up for you. It’s really important that you connect with yourself and learn to love yourself in a holistic way.

Ensure each of the headings has quite a few activities under it.

Step five: Plan your week and add in between one and three self soothing activities or activities from your Self Care plan a day. This is particularly useful for people who are looking to reconnect with themselves or busy people on the go who don’t often have time to reward themselves.

 

self-loveWhat’s my self care plan look like?

This week I am taking some time off work to attend the Festival of Change

Next month I’m graduating from my course and I have five positive certificates to go with it :) (I am also attending two more courses next month)

For New Years Eve, I’m celebrating with Kev – and yes it’s booked! I can’t wait! (I don’t usually do anything for New Years Eve)

Relationship Free opens in January, although I am receiving quite a few inquiries now and will assist where I can.

Next year (in June/July/August) I’m going to New York City, Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas … pretty much everywhere I can! Oh and Kentucky to see my survival buddy, Susie, who reached out to me when I swear my soul was charcoal and helped get me where I am today.

And between all that, I will get some sunshine, some walking by the water, play some air hockey (GAME ON!), and have a couple of skim strawberry milkshakes and maybe a rainbow paddle pop. Another thing I learned this year was to hug myself (as demonstrated in this picture). It’s the ultimate in self soothing, make time to hug yourself each day.

And so the title of my blog post today … because I found my way back.

 

I swear by keeping a self-care plan and action it when ever you can. This is not only the first step for understanding yourself, but it’s also the first step for loving yourself completely. This plan helps build self esteem and self worth and it can also assist with self forgiveness and self trust.

What is your favourite self care activity? List it in the comments.

 

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Self soothing tip #1: have fun!

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Self soothing tip #2: hug yourself

Woman-Entrepreneur-Relaxing-Reading-NewspaperSelf soothing tip #3: Enjoy nature

The day life stopped

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The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Douglas Coupland

Everyone seems to have one day in their life where life just … stops. It could be the day your partner tells you they want a divorce. The day you find out you have cancer. The day someone really close to you dies. How we respond to the day life stops is up to us – the difficulty is sometimes we just don’t have the steps to move us out of there, so we get stuck.

I’m going to talk about the day my life stopped. Anyone who knows me right now knows how I feel about police, our systems surrounding domestic violence and most of my story – which I don’t cover up anymore and I’m certainly not protecting my abuser anymore. Anyone who knows me, would tell you I’m respectful of everyone I meet – but believe me, if you work for NSW Police Force right now – you don’t want to meet me because you get a different side to that story and here’s why:

 

It was 31 December 2013.

I was getting ready to go out with friends to celebrate New Years Eve.

I didn’t have a care in the world. My music was playing.

For the first time all year, I felt happy.

 

Four weeks before I had left an abusive relationship. During that next four weeks there was torment and more abuse and push and pull like you wouldn’t believe. I was involved with a narcissist but because of the constant lies, deception and manipulation – I couldn’t see it. And I didn’t realise how dangerous that was to me … until this day. The day my life stopped. So here’s what happened…

 

I’m sitting there naked in front of my full length mirror getting ready.

I’ve just put some foundation on – no other make up.

My intercom buzzes.

I answer.

There’s two police waiting to talk to me with some “paper work”.

 

And I look back at that moment and I think wow! How’s that for desperation? He stopped me going out with friends all year. He ruined every happy event to the point of exhaustion. And now this? Well I knew I couldn’t be dreaming – because it was right in line with everything else he’d done, including filing for divorce on his wife’s birthday. What I still have difficulty accepting is that the police supported his abuse! The AVO was “non-urgent” so why wouldn’t they stop for just one moment and go “It’s New Years Eve, this is non-urgent … she’s complained about him three times already, it’s an ongoing dispute … really, it can probably wait – I’m sure he’ll survive another day if she lifts his wiper blades again.”

 

Clearly the fact an abusive partner WOULD target New Years Eve in a bid to crush my plans and stop me going out, just didn’t come into the equation at all.

Well … to my stalker (yup, still subscribed twice there, I see, still have your fake Facebook profile … good on you, you loser!) and you were the ultimate kill-joy: I just want you to know it didn’t stop me. I still went out.

And I had fun!

In fact, in one night, I had more fun than I’d had all year.

I had more fun than I EVER had with him!

And then at midnight, I declared the year of Awesome.

So if you think the day life stopped, and the day my soul shattered into a billion pieces that I changed from the life-loving person I am, you’re wrong.

 

So here lies my frustration with the day my life stopped:

The “paperwork” called him a “defacto”.

But he never lived with me – and I never lived with him.

And I wouldn’t call it a relationship when I thought we were in it and he deceived me and his wife so badly for an entire year. That’s not a relationship.

So … where was the evidence?

 

The paperwork said I asked about his “ex wife”.

But they never divorced.

In fact, they never even separated which is what I was questioning about!

And the police then ask me on the phone if he’s back with her… what the fuck? Is this a test??

Where was the evidence at the time that he WASN’T with her?

 

So I complained – because the majority of their reasons for serving me were fictionalised beyond recognition. And they said:

“You left nine voicemail messages for him”.

But here’s the thing…

He didn’t have a voicemail. He had a moment of white noise and right to the beep.

Plus, I knew, after a year of being with him that he never listened to his voicemail messages – so why would I leave a message?

And so I asked: “Did you listen to the content of just ONE of those messages?”

“No”.

Well then WHERE was the evidence?

 

In the constable’s protest and determination that his manipulated evidence was fact, he continued reading out the alleged times – this is the same man trying to manage my complaint, I suggest he keeps his day job because customer service certainly isn’t a strong point – because as I cried out: “I couldn’t have done that because I was in the basement at that time, I can’t get reception there!”

WHERE WAS THE GOD DAMN EVIDENCE?

 

We were getting nowhere so I asked why the police didn’t call me before serving me on his behalf.

Back pedal: “The constable thinks he did, but he can’t remember”

Even from his tone I could hear the doubt. He was LYING and he knew it!

At that point I realised I was discussing this with police defending police. I will NEVER trust police for my protection or the protection of others again. EVER!

And don’t get me started on their ridiculous times – I wasn’t even home at the times they alleged: I was out with my parents! Ha! And I have a text exchange verifying all that. But alas, pretty sure the next claim would be that I have a hidden time machine!

I laugh – but my belief that police were there to protect people was shattered.

I can’t begin to express my disappointment in knowing I’m entirely unprotected: by police and our systems.

And now I realise the ugly dangerous world as it really is. This is happening in Australia, what I thought was a safe country. And it’s the scary truth. Particularly for those in domestic violence situations. Now I empathise on a level that not many people can – because not only is it unsafe, but our systems aren’t working to protect anyone.

 

The constable then moved the conversation to directly accuse me of deliberately being misleading in my complaint:

He told me I lied to the ombudsman and I tried to deny all the allegations made.

I looked back at my complaint today – that is INCORRECT. It clearly states my awareness of what I did. There’s not even a slight attempt to cover it up.

I DON’T LIE! But my abuser does. Police do. People do. People lie…

And there is nothing you can do about it.

 

So at the end of the day: what does evidence matter?
People can happily stop your life even without evidence, without reason, without you “deserving” the pain you are set to experience. That’s how life goes.

What’s weird, in reflection on that final conversation, is that that accusation itself didn’t bother me. People make mistakes. People judge. People are just people.

It was the fact that constable made me doubt myself – just like my abuser did – that bothered me most.

It was like being abused all over again.

 

I look at the evidence I gathered and it’s so clear to me.

The abuse I didn’t see before is SO clear. The control. The harassment. The threats. THE WHOLE ENTIRE CYCLE IS RIGHT THERE! And it is a cycle.

The being served with an AVO, the intimidation displayed in the court house, the “act normal” for my birthday – just three days later, the smear campaign when I didn’t respond, the attempt to bring me down publicly via my blog. It’s all there in the evidence collected and it’s certainly evident!

It was there all along. Blind Freddy and his blind fucking cousin could see it!

I can’t look over the evidence anymore because I just get angry (clearly). Mostly at myself for being so naive. And beating myself up … that gets me nowhere, because I am the only one who gets it. I was there!

And if they can’t see it – just on the evidence before them, then why are they working on domestic violence cases?

And if they do see it, because it’s so obvious, and they really are just covering it up … then why are they working with victims of domestic violence?

All you see in the media is RESPONSE. People dying from domestic violence.

I haven’t heard one “Thankfully they had an AVO against that person and so they left them alone and they lived happily ever after?” Why not? Because that’s not how it works. Abuse is soul-destroying.

How much counselling has my abuser got – who claims I abused him. I bet none. He got nothing for his mental health and wellbeing. I put my life on it. He’s just a super-victim, right? And that’s how I can clearly see narcissism. Counselling for both people involved should be a mandatory condition of an AVO – sorry taxpayers but it’s true! Because I can promise you – it would’ve stopped him. He hates counselling as narcissists do because it doesn’t bode well for their perfect image.

One thing the constable admitted was it didn’t sound right. Things I was saying were things a victim would say. Of course that in the end was inferred that I’d just done my research to intentionally sound like that, because I want to help people in my situation. I couldn’t possibly have been the victim, despite the evidence in front of them. No words. No words on how this was managed at all.

I hate police now. I’ve never been like this before. I very rarely tar people with the same brush because they resemble something that hurt me. I’ve never said “I hate men” after a break up. But I hate police. Yup, all of them. There: I said it.

 

Being served with an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order for lifting windscreen wiper blades, is kind of the new form of getting your hands chopped off for stealing a loaf of bread. I can’t imagine this happening to anyone else: how did I get so lucky? :)

 

And my self talk got dragged down to this:

“No one gets it. No one understands. No one can help me.”

But you know what? That’s how it is when life stops!

 

THAT doesn’t just happen to me. When life stops – no matter how it stops – that’s what self talk does.

 

NO ONE does get it!
NO ONE does understand!
Only you because you were there – the whole time.

So my story isolated me just like my abuser planned, targeted and wanted. I can’t believe someone could be so cruel and evil. Let alone someone I loved. Someone I chose to love.

It still shocks me every morning I wake up and my first thoughts are still: “Wow, I’m here, that really happened!” And that overwhelming feeling of betrayal. That’ll fade in time. I can sit with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my new place –  but the move wasn’t under ideal circumstances.

And no, I wasn’t asked to move, but the day life stopped: I made the decision I should’ve made a long time ago, without waiting for my friends or family’s permission this time. But if I moved a month before, I wouldn’t be in the Safe Haven where I am now… everything happens for a reason.

 

So lots of people have come to me recently and asked how I got back up.

What was my “secret” – what could they do?

That’s the weird thing. You definitely know the day life stops.

You experience this soul-shattering crunch.

And it’s impossible to prepare for.

But it’s so difficult to know what to do next.

It’s the broken plate, no matter what you do, it’ll never be the same.

Life will never be the same.

 

So here’s what I did…

The day my life stopped – I stopped.

I stopped dating.

After 14 years of toxic and abusive relationships – I hopped off the dating treadmill with no interest or inclination for getting back on.

I stopped going out.

I go to work, I come home. Repeat.

Once the door closes at either end, that’s where I stay. I won’t even go to the grocery store.

I stopped communicating with people.

I closed Facebook. I stopped blogging. Kept conversations short. I think people find it hard to know what to say to me too. I’m not the same person. I’m broken now. You can see it. I can recognise a shattered soul anywhere now.

I stopped blogging like I’m invincible and I started sharing the reality of what I live.

Surprisingly my blogs have become more popular, maybe because they’re real now? That’s great and welcome to every one of my new supporters, I’m so happy to have you here … but it’s also not the world I want to live in … it’s not the reality I once knew. I kind of liked my cocoon. But it’s alright, I’m strong, and I’m happy to share my lessons.

I stopped feeling safe.

Now I watch my back – everywhere I go. For him. For his wife. For his kids. For the police (like a fugitive). For whoever he sends to watch me.

I stopped eating – overnight.

I dropped from size 10 to size 6. I don’t have much of an appetite still to this day. I never regained my weight.

 

It’s been like a broken bone … I’d say a broken arm but it’s more significant … more like a broken back – without medication to numb the pain.

It’s taken a long time to adjust to the break.

To overcome the trauma. To sleep without nightmares.

To just get on with life.

It’s been hard.

I don’t think I’ve lived a single day since when I haven’t gone over it again and again.

 

My life stopped completely for six solid months.

I even pushed my family away who offer unconditional love and support.

I’m probably the luckiest person in the world to have my family. They’re not perfect, but they’re perfect when it comes to offering that.

They’ve got no fucking idea how hard this has been for me and how hard it still is. No idea. No one does.

And reconnecting has been really hard. Not just with them and other people, but also with myself.

 

I don’t trust anyone like I used to. I don’t love like I used to. I’m not attached to anything anymore.

Take everything you want.

Do whatever you want to me.

Insult me.

Abuse me.

I’ve numbed out to that now.

Like naturally numbed out.

I went from caring about every little thing, little miss life perfectionist straight to: I DON’T CARE!

It’s like since the day life stopped, a glass force field came down and surrounded me.

I know it’s meant to protect me but it also isolates me. Depends how you look at it, I guess.

 

The day life stops isn’t necessarily bad though!

And you’re not alone.

As I said, there’s lots of situations that make lots of people’s lives stop.

You’ll find your own way to celebrate it and when you do, you start to thrive.

That day your soul shatters, you start to see what you haven’t seen before, and you can make decisions.

And you’ll take a stand like never before, because somewhere deep in side you have something that triggers and screams: “THIS IS MY LIFE!” No matter how introverted you are.

 

Since the day life stopped I’ve:

  • Cut the addiction to my abusive partner completely (and no one really gets the addiction to the abuser until you’re in it and have experienced it … that was the WORST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY LIFE. Even beyond the trauma. Because he is a disgusting man in every aspect and logically I knew it but I was so trapped under this spell. I can’t even begin to explain. And my self worth and self esteem were non-existent – that’s why I want to work with people in domestic violence now: because I GET IT! I get that isolation, I get that addiction, I get that pain… I GET IT! And I’m going to use it!)
  • Learned to love myself completely
  • Forgiven myself and learned to trust myself again (that was the hardest part!)
  • Started spending time on my own – because I actually enjoy my own company
  • Started studying despite resistance to the field
  • Come up with new life goals and a completely new direction
  • Made decisions I would’ve been too scared to make
  • Started a business – Relationship Free: facebook.com/relationshipfreepage
  • I wrote to the magistrate who reluctantly handed down my six month AVO
  • Lived for me and only me.

 

So if your life has stopped right now.

If you’re in that pit of despair where life just dumped you off and forgot about you.

My suggestion to you is: STOP!

  • Stop judging yourself
  • Stop doubting yourself
  • Stop everything you need to

And start:

  • Forgiving yourself
  • Trusting yourself
  • Being honest with yourself

 

Many of you may remember Rihanna got THUGLIFE tattooed on her knuckles at some point.

I never understood that. What a stupid thing to do, right?

How “gangster”!

And I judged. Just like people judged me when I put it on my Facebook. Testing, testing…

But you see: now I get it.

Now I understand what she means and why she did it – and I have a new respect for Rihanna because she exposed narcissistic abuse in the celebrity limelight in a way that’s never been done before.

 

The day life stopped: THUGLIFE began.

 

It means: The Hate You Gave Lives Inside For Ever. Anyone, even the most peaceful of people would understand after surviving this level of abuse.

So go do it!

Get a stupid tattoo that everyone judges you by – you only live once!

If the day life stopped impacts you to make you want to do something impulsive (so long as you’re not hurting anyone or yourself), trust it! Do it! Because it was that urge that lead me to study and respect the life I lost for a year to the man who subjected me to a torture known as narcissistic abuse until I was driven to breaking point.

 

And finally I want to finish with this. Three things to focus on from the day life stops:

  • Reconnecting with yourself
  • Figure out what you love, what you’re passionate about, what your purpose really is and do it
  • Set new goals and go about achieving them.

 

On that note – I’m a couple of months off some big changes coming to fruition. I apologise if I miss a blog during this time, but I will be back! I want to thank everyone for following Happiness Weekly and particularly to my supporters (new and old) because it has been a tremendously difficult journey and I couldn’t have got this far without all of you.

 

Love, respect and acceptance,

Sarah xx

 

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Will you fix your relationship?

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There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me? Sam Keen

Think about it. If your television stopped functioning, or three or four months in to purchasing it, it started playing up – would you take it to a repairer? How about your fridge – would you get it looked at? Your oven? Your car?? So what is different about your relationship?! Don’t laugh – but is the reason that you won’t invest in your relationship because it’s not covered by warranty?

Many people sit in unhealthy and toxic relationships not moving in the hope it will fix itself, or because some days it’s better than others, so they’re happy to wait for those better days. Thankfully I did a survey recently of potential Relationship Free clients and 50% of respondents said they would attempt to fix their relationship if it became unhealthy. But at what point? How bad does it have to be, before you seek help? How much denial do you need to process, before you step forward?

Every day, I have people reading my most popular blog post of all time: All about toxic relationships and how to let go and they have come to me for help with their toxic relationship. “Sarah, what would you do?” or “What did you do?” Upon further reflection many have picked up the buzz word “narcissistic abuse” and decided their relationship isn’t toxic but their partner is narcissistic. There’s a big gap there. Toxic is overtly dysfunctional, putting down, emotionally and mentally painful and exhausting. It makes you act out in ways you don’t normally. Narcissistic abuse is manipulative, deceptive, under-handed abuse that it almost invisible, but extremely dangerous and painful. It also generally involves a personality disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

But blame is a fantastic thing, isn’t it?

If we can blame all our relationship woes on the behaviour of our partners then we never have to take action or responsibility. We can just go fourth in our unhealthy relationship, blaming the problems and causes on our partner, rather than stepping out and finding the courage to enter into a new life with the possibility of a healthy relationship.

I am in the process of developing a workshop called “Is your relationship abusive?” which helps people to identify what kind of relationship they are in, and can then make the decision if they want to fix their relationship or not. If you know you’re being abused right now, step out of yourself and ask … do you deserve to be abused? Is there more for you than what you have now? Just because you don’t know better, does this mean that you can’t have better or don’t deserve better than what you have? Rebuild yourself and make a step and keep rebuilding until you’re feeling human again. As many of you know, this year I have been healing from an abusive relationship and the journey to recovery is long and it is challenging. If I stayed longer, it would have been further detrimental, but there comes a point that you have to be your own hero – because as I showed in my story, no one else can or will save you. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make that call if you’re going to stay or go. And no, it’s not an easy call to make, particularly where there is abuse because there will be threats if you go. Let me tell you from someone who got to the other side … not without consequence, but I got there, let me tell you that making that call, stepping out of that abusive relationship was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was the best move I’ve ever made. And it gave me a story which I take fourth today. It broadened my goals. It gave me a message worth sharing … and here I am today.

Recently the NSW government released this checklist for an abusive relationship. Is this a checklist that should be for public consumption? I don’t think so and I feel really strongly about it. In fact, the systems we have infuriate me – it’s not about protecting people at all. Just because you check all these boxes, is that as extremely bad as it could be? What if just one or two of these was really bad, and they didn’t check any of the other boxes – would that then mean it’s not that bad, perhaps the person is overreacting and therefore they should remain in an abusive relationship? In my case, where I was set up, I think this is just a checklist for more abusers and there will be more victims like me as a result of this. I just helped one woman boldly step through what I went through, just because I boldly shared my story … how many more will come to me for support through this as a result of this checklist going online? There is not psychological input to any of this. Abusers don’t necessarily go to anger management classes, and victims don’t necessarily go to counselling. So what is the point of this checklist online and the AVO process? Because right now, it’s going from bad to worse.

And it’s not just the government at fault, but there are often questionnaires released in domestic violence groups. This makes my blood boil. What’s that? So victims can compare notes on “how bad” this piece of paper says your abuse was? Are you more a survivor and thriver if you lived through every checked box? What if you did check every box but it happens you’re a hypochondriac and it actually wasn’t as bad as you say? From my experience, people who come to do domestic violence questionnaires are doing it to confirm “how bad” their abuse is … even once they know they are being abused, even once they know “how bad” it is, they still need to make their choice, will they stay or will they go? So why bother finding out how bad? Why not discover if you are in an abusive relationship, skip the “how bad” step and make your decision. Do you really want to be in an abusive relationship? Do you deserve to be there? What our systems and our groups and a lot of people overlook is that there is a lot of addiction in abuse. I’ve spoken about this before but there’s cycles and there’s trauma bonding, and the longer you stay, the worse it gets.

If you think I’m saying these diagnostic tests are unhelpful for people in domestic violence situations, you are absolutely correct. The temptation for a victim and even a past victim, to decide “how bad” their abuse was based on these tests, is not going to help them. Many people in the domestic violence group I was associated with continued to hinge whether their abuse was bad or not, based on if police take action. If police take action – therefore, the abuse must be really bad. And it’s funny how many people believe this. I think the shattered evidence of a person in trauma speaks louder than a narcissist’s carefully manipulated evidence and lies.

Whether your relationship is toxic or abusive, it’s up to you whether you want to stay and fix it or leave something that is dysfunctional. No one can make that decision for you. So what’s it going to be … will you stay or will you go?

Three powerful questions that will change your life

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The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. Ben Okri.

While working full time in my current role at work, between my friends and I we have slowly but surely noticed that just through word-of-mouth my coaching business is already starting to thrive as I’m full time coaching out of hours.

There appears to be a common theme in the clients I am receiving – aside from they’re all awesome people who have had some amazing adventures, each of them are exceptionally motivated to move forward from their current circumstances and thrive (which is a coach’s dream!) and they are all extremely intelligent and resourceful.

However, the theme in their issues appears to be that their values aren’t aligning with the current situation which is causing them enormous grief. I’ve noticed myself asking three very powerful questions throughout these sessions and I want to share them with everyone today so you can take them away and coach yourself.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we can call our own bullshit – right? I mean, let’s be real. Yet I see people hurting over things they can’t have (which more often than not, isn’t something they need), tears over emotionally unavailable people offering ongoing mixed signals and frustration because it appears to be the never ending issue – and it’s always the same.

Does this sound like you? Be honest. Sometimes it can be hard to admit it to ourselves when we’re chasing our own tail over something that won’t benefit us. I have my hand up, this used to be me all over! This is why I highly recommend coaching – because it cuts through the bullshit, empowers you to draw your own conclusions and helps you take steps in your chosen direction. Coaching made it so I can gratefully leave my hand down.

This blog will be particularly powerful for my friends and followers in toxic relationships – the area I specialise in. I enjoy working in this area because it’s a step up from a failed relationship, which I help with as well but it’s a step down from narcissistic abuse and domestic violence – which is, as I describe, a toxic relationship on steroids. The longer you stay, the more steroids in that relationship’s system, and the more difficult and complex the journey to recovery.

So take a look at your current situation – exactly as it is. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t leave anything out, don’t distort the information in any way – be completely honest. Make it so you can see the situation with you and the other person involved – you’re a spirit looking down. You can see all behaviours, responses, reactions and hear all the words. Now shine a spotlight on yourself – the other person freezes, they’re silenced, they stand in darkness. Watch yourself continue to act and respond for a moment as though the other person is still in full action.

At this point you may come to the realisation that you don’t like what you see. This could be why you have found your way to the blog, you acknowledge there’s a problem but you don’t know how to fix it. The thing is, you probably never suspected the issue was with you. Here’s the thing: a toxic relationship can cause us to act out in ways we don’t usually, and that is because whatever we are trying to achieve is out of our value system and we don’t know how to get it. Meanwhile for those who can identify that they are being narcissistically abused (generally there’s a lot of deception and manipulation, so it’s very difficult to spot), it’s likely that you’re a shadow of your former self, you’re so far removed from the person you were before the relationship began that you struggle to recognise yourself – both physically and emotionally.

This leads us to our first powerful and empowering question: How does this serve you?

This is no longer about the other person – they stand in the dark – so we’re completely focusing on you. There’s no excuses because it’s right there, right in front of you, light up with this spotlight. Think for a moment and then ask yourself again – how does this scenario, that is playing in your mind right now, serve you?

It is likely that you will quickly see you’re not gaining anything from the scenario. You’re probably fighting for the satisfaction of being right, getting revenge or possibly as a defence to how the other person is behaving. Is this how you want to live your life? Honestly? Consider an overall goal – for most of us the ultimate is to be happy and content. How does this scenario playing out under the spotlight right now, lead you to that ultimate goal?

Hopefully a few people reading have had a “shit – she’s right!” shift and you could be starting to think “I knew it – that’s it, I’m leaving!”

One of my favourite movies of all time is A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, and there’s a scene where Landon (Shane’s character) and Jamie (Mandy’s character) are dancing and it goes like this:

Landon: Number 1 on my list is getting out of Beaufort.
Jamie: Um… I don’t think getting out is gonna be your problem. It’s more like figuring out what you’re going to do when you get somewhere. 
Landon: What do you mean? 
Jamie: I mean you can do anything.

For some reason, this scene and these words imprinted in my mind the moment I saw them because it was perfect! We can do anything! We can have our bags packed within the day and be setting sail into the sunset for our new life, far from this dramatic scene … but what’s to say we’re not going to find ourselves in a new relationship, standing under this exact same spotlight in a month or two’s time. And how can we be sure that we can’t save the relationship? What’s bad to one person may not be bad to the other. And it’s possible that you only think it’s bad because we’ve put the spotlight on it, but in reality, it may not be that bad.

So we’re drawn to our next powerful and empowering question: What lessons did you learn from it?

I can promise you, in every situation there is a lesson to be learned – but it’s up to you to establish what it is. If you’re resistant to learning and seeing the lesson, then refer back to question one, because I can already assure you: that is not going to serve you. In fact, in not being open to the lessons from the scenario, you’re holding yourself back and:

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Pema Chodron

If you think you can get out of it easily by going to a counsellor or psychologist and having them tell you the answer and therefore you’ll change: you’re wrong and you’re going to be bitterly disappointed if you try this (and if you have tried it … you’re probably going – wow, she gets it! And the reason I get it is because I’ve been there! I was one of those lazy people that just wanted the answer thinking it would change me … no – you have to put the effort in and change yourself.) The other day a friend of mine said something in general conversation which really highlighted this point. She said: “You can tell a person a solution to their problem, but if it doesn’t fit with their values and beliefs and their experiences, it won’t be acted on”. How can anyone know exactly what someone’s values, beliefs and exact experiences are better than the person themselves? And this is another reason why I believe in the power of coaching – because coaches guide but they don’t advise. And the direction you take with the coach is entirely up to you.

Which leads us to our final powerful and empowering question: What are you going to do now?

The million dollar question, the hardest one to nut out of all of them is this. What are you going to do now? Now that you’ve established that whatever you do must be aligned with your values, beliefs and experiences to motivation action, it will also make you feel better if it’s aligned with your values and now that you’re equipped with the lessons from the past scenario you’re in a better space to move light years ahead from where you area now…

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to relationships – these three questions can apply to all areas of your life! They are very, very powerful and very empowering – and you can do it all on your own. So, keep your overall objective in mind – whatever it is, in our scenario it was to be happy and content.

Now I want you to do a brainstorming session – without censoring anything – and write between 10 – 20 ideas that you could do, to move you just one step towards being happier and content in your current circumstance. Don’t stop writing until you have about ten to twenty ideas in front of you.

Now pick one – and remember, whatever you pick needs to align with your values and beliefs and it has to serve you, it must take current lessons into account and it must be moving you forward in a way that is peaceful and keep it relatively simple.

Once you’ve chosen one of your options, list all the steps you need to take in order to achieve this one tiny step – even the most obvious things.

And there we have it – three powerful questions and one step and your life is already changing! During this blog you were actually able to create your own pathway to resolving your current issue.

Now you’re probably asking: can it really be that easy when the situation feels so complicated?

Taking a single step outside of the usual pattern or cycle, will change the direction and the outcome. You can move in any direction you choose – your options have become limitless.

Now you can do anything – go anywhere, be anywhere – in fact, this is your opportunity to be anyone you want to be!

Today we start a complete fresh slate.

Now turn your spotlight off.

Turn both spotlights back on. Press play.

What are you going to do? Tell me in the comments.

Part 5: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – laughing through the tears

Girls

People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer. Dan Pearce

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have one sole mission: to evaporate the fun from their victim’s lives. I wanted to wrap up the series with some fun memes I came across about narcissism. Although these memes shed light on a very series issue, it’s important for victims in recovery to laugh at their situation or they will have difficulty moving forward.

Over the past five days I released a mini post series about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Abuse – to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can find it here:

Part 1: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse

Part 2: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – my experience

Part 3: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – recovery

Part 4: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – life through the narcissist’s eyes

So today we look at the things that kept me smiling through my tears. This is some fun for those recovering from narcissistic abuse and I hope you have all enjoyed my narcissism mini post series. No one wants a narcissist. So I believe the only thing worse than having a record on file for the rest of your life detailing things you never did, is having an incurable personality disorder. I was the only one to see behind his mask and the stripes on his shoulders … and what was revealed made me understand why he is so determined to hide it behind lies, deception and manipulation. My relationship with a narcissist will never be worth the trauma I suffer from it today, but I will continue to smile through the tears and lead my best life.

Thank you for tuning in!

 

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