Posts Tagged: God

5 Powerful Practices to Heal From a Toxic Relationship

Are you recovering from a toxic relationship? Maybe you feel betrayed, or rejected or used. Maybe you know you need a fresh start, but just need some help getting there. When your trust is broken in a relationship, your fundamental needs of safety and security are shaken. You may feel on edge, tense, anxious or scared. You may feel depressed, lonely or even hopeless, unable to plan your next steps. The aftermath of emotional or physical trauma can powerfully impact mood, sleep, weight, job performance and overall health.

Here are 5 of my most Powerful Interventions for Toxic Relationship Trauma Survivors


1. Restore Order Through Boundaries

Asserting boundaries can be difficult and intimidating, but necessary. I’ve listed Boundaries as the first and most important practice because getting physically, financially and emotionally safe, is the most basic and necessary step for healing.

What are boundaries?

  • Boundaries are invisible lines between you and someone else. Boundaries help you know where you end and where someone else begins. Boundaries allow you to protect what is valuable to you, allow you to be responsible for yourself, and for others to do the same. However, you will never heal and things will never get better if you don’t say “No” to the things that are hurting you, and “Yes” to the things you need. It may be scary to say, “I want you to leave,” or “Don’t talk to me like that,” or “Don’t call again.” But your heart needs safety, security and peace. It’s ok to follow through with your needs and boundaries until you feel the peace and safety you need.
  • Boundaries are Necessary for Healing. Often times, survivors of trauma feel as though their power and control was taken from them. It is important to restore that sense of empowerment through asserting yourself, meeting your own needs and setting limits through appropriate boundaries. Saying “No” to things that you don’t need, and “Yes” to things you do need will help you feel more in control.

2. People

Women often feel pressure to keep their relationship stress private to protect their partner’s reputation or to avoid judgment from others. Many women don’t feel like there is a safe way to share relationship problems with friends or family, so they keep their stress to themselves. Sometimes the truth of the relationship feels too ugly, too unbelievable, or too dark to share.

But, telling trustworthy people what you are going through is important when you want to heal trauma. Loving people lift us up, speak honestly to us, encourage bravery, cry with us, honor us, and remind us that it’s going to be ok even in the worst of circumstances. Loving relationships help heal the trauma, and give new direction. It’s tempting to keep the painful truth a secret, but opening up and sharing your experiences releases the pent up stress and helps with thinking more clearly, creatively and constructively.


3. Self Care

You may feel like you had to let your own needs go in order to take care of your partner’s needs. Hopefully, now you feel like you can take necessary strides toward taking care of your own needs.

  • Rest: Make rest and recuperation one of your highest priorities. Trauma can keep us keyed up, locked down, and frozen in fear. Now that you are aware of what you need and you are getting yourself free from harm, take plenty of time to rest. Recover. Heal slowly. Watch the seasons turn. Take long slow walks. Waste time. Sleep. Cozy up. Be gentle and nurture yourself.
  • Eat: During your time just trying to survive, you may have been too anxious to eat, restricted food or used food to feel better. It’s time to give yourself good nutrition.
  • Move: Your body will feel better when you start exercising, strengthening and stretching. Your body wants to feel strong again. Sometimes feeling strong on the inside comes easier when we practice becoming strong on the outside.
  • Play: if you’ve ever watched a child swing or swim or play with a puppy, you know that time seems to stop for that child and they are just enjoying the moment. Take time to be playful. Laugh at silly things. Blow bubbles. Paint your toes different colors. Be you, and give yourself permission to laugh.


4. Invest in Therapy

Recovery from relationship abuse, betrayal or divorce is not complete until you feel hopeful and ready for your future. Therapy is a way for you to explore unhealthy patterns, and how to change them so you can attract authentic love in your future. It’s not uncommon to work with a few therapists until you find one that understands your unique situation. When you find a therapist that is a good match, you can address:

  • past or recent trauma
  • the importance of following through on boundaries
  • improved ability toward assertiveness
  • ways to manage depressive or anxiety symptoms
  • effective communication
  • how to avoid attracting toxic personalities
  • setting new life goals

5. Feed Your Soul

When our situation becomes out of control, and the old way of doing things isn’t working, we need God to help us. Relationship trauma can cause isolation, depression and feelings of loneliness. Some of us get so exhausted by our busy, chaotic lives, we are too tired or guilt-ridden to listen to our spiritual needs. One thing I know, is that there is never a bad time to seek spiritual help from God. In bed, in the bar, on the street, in the hospital, or in the car, seeking comfort and guidance outside of yourself is a good thing. Admitting that we need God’s help is a first step in healing and recovery, and often results in a feeling of hope and peace. Here are some practical ways to feed the soul.

  • Journal: Journaling slows your thoughts down to the speed you can write. This is helpful when you feel emotionally flooded or triggered. Journaling helps you see your thoughts and feelings as valuable, and worthy of being expressed. Journaling is especially helpful when you are angry or stressed and can’t focus on anything else but what’s troubling you. Once you get it on paper, you can leave it there, validate it as important, and move on to your next healthy step.
  • Dependence Prayers: When worry and guilt creep into your daily life, it is important to give yourself permission to hand that worry and guilt over to God. There are many matters that are out of your control and worrying over them just makes you feel worse. Depending Prayers sound like, “I don’t know what to do, but I know You do, and You will help me.”
  • Creation: being creative and enjoying creation is healing to mind, body and soul. Experiencing God through creation, gives new energy and perspective.  Gardening, hiking, crocheting, writing, painting, sculpting, and making music are ways to communicate with God, soul to soul, as deep calls to deep. Creating and recreating takes methodical, patient steps. The heart rate slows to steady, the breath deepens, and the mind clears. Our hope returns and our problems don’t seem so overwhelming.

“Come to me… I will give you rest.” – Jesus to the hurting.


Surviving relational trauma is not easy, but it is important work. These five steps can help you not only survive a toxic relationship, but get free and happy again. I know that saying goodbye to a relationship, even if it’s toxic, can be a painful and scary road. Healing from that pain takes time and effort. Sometimes, when I know I’m at the beginning of a long journey, I like to envision what it will be like when I’m already there. Imagine yourself healed, free and happy. It will happen, and these practices will help you get there.

The Key Ingredients to Intimacy

Sometimes, the very thing we crave the most, is the thing we work the hardest to avoid.

We don’t mean to, of course. But sometimes our nature gets in the way. After 15 years of working with people in the privacy of my office, I’ve learned that human intimacy is one thing that is often missing from people’s relationships. I believe that we all wanted to be close, to feel appreciated and to show love. It is our intention to love and be loved, but the noise and the static of life get in the way, and we end up pushing away the intimacy we long for.

Instead of saying, “I miss you and I want to spend time with you,” we say, “Well, it’s about time you get home. Don’t you ever look at your watch?”

We sometimes let pride and ego and defensiveness get in the way of true love. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can learn to love with our whole hearts. We can learn to receive love with full trust. Even though intimacy doesn’t come easily or naturally to us, we can learn it.

Here are the Facts about Intimacy:

  •  Fact #1 Every person needs the Vital Three: to Be Seen, Known, and Accepted Unconditionally.
  •  Fact #2 If the Vital Three needs are not met, Soul-Holes grow.
  • Fact #3 Soul-Holes attract Users, Losers and Abusers that result in deeper Holes.
  •  Fact #4 Soul-Holes fill by being Seen, Known and Accepted Unconditionally.
  • Fact #5 Filling Soul Holes starts with you.

These things may sound simple, but what do they really mean? Being seen is to be valued as a unique and separate individual. Being known is to be understood and intimately trusted with the exchange of emotional valuables. To be accepted unconditionally means to be authentically loved. Soul Holes are explained as natural consequences to imperfect human love and behavior. Soul Holes occur in everyone, and attract the wrong sort of love. But Soul Holes can be filled and the Vital Three can be satisfied by routine Soul Exercise REPS found in the bible. 

·         Restore order through boundaries: saying no to others, and yes to yourself is often a good start for reclaiming peace. This practice helps us examine, know and validate Vital Three. (Titus 2:12, James 4:4, Proverbs 4:23)

·         Experience God through journaling, dependence prayers and going to where people are talking about Him. By doing these things, God is invited to meet the Vital Three beyond which we are capable in and of ourselves. (2 Cor 5:21, Proverbs 3:32)

·         Provide yourself with safe people: The action of sharing vulnerably with others, and allowing others to share with us, fortifies our Souls and fills the Holes. (1 Cor 14:26, Eph 3:18)

·         Seek Intimacy means knowing and expressing your feelings in non-accusatory language, sharing weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment or control, and validating your partner’s experiences and feelings without judging, controlling or taking them personally. (Proverbs 25:11, Proverbs 16:21, Ecclesiastes 9:17)

 I boiled these concepts down to their bare essence here in this blog post, but each point can be considered separately and at length. And, by the way, each point takes YEARS to implement! I feel like I have strong intimacy with some relationships in my life, and then there are others that are still developing because… well, I’m a slow on the uptake sometimes.

Sometimes my fears get in the way. My insecurities whisper warnings of danger. My controlling nature grips me so tightly that I mess things up.

You too?

Trust God to lead you into greater intimacy with him and with other people in His perfect timing. As you practice SEEING YOURSELF as valuable, KNOWING YOURSELF deeply, and OFFERING YOURSELF UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE, you will have the strength to attach intimately with others. As we connect with ourselves, we can connect to others. This process, when surrendered to God, can be the beginning of something new for you. The process is always worth it.




How to Build Self Esteem Part II: Dream Big

Have you ever had a dream or desire that you kept locked up in a little treasure chest somewhere inside your head? Like maybe you let yourself day dream a little once or twice about what it would feel like to be in that place, accomplishing that thing. Maybe it’s your wedding day, or maybe it’s holding a baby in your arms, or maybe it’s owning your own business, or making your own music CD. Sometimes reality exceeds the fantasy, and sometimes reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. But we just wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have the dream. The way you see yourself affects everything in your life, including your relationships. I know that if I can help you improve your self esteem, your self respect and your self confidence, I am also helping you have the power to transform your relationships for the good. The stronger you are as a person, the stronger your relationships will be too. That’s just God’s honest truth. 

We are in part II of a three part series. These concepts have the power to transform your life and your relationships, bringing you into the fullness of God’s plan and purpose for your life, IF you let them. They will take time, energy, risk and investment. But gee whiz, you are worth every ounce of sweat equity you put out there.

The last post was on How to build your self esteem- by getting out of your own way. I covered the ways you sabotage your own success, thereby reinforcing your low sense of self-worth. That’s bad joo joo. But when you learn how you are getting in your own way, you have power to get out of your own way and to succeed. When you start collecting small successes, you grow in strength and competency, and your self esteem is improved. Sounds simple, right? It is. But it does take some time and effort. But you have what it takes, so keep going!

WORD TO THE WISE: When you start working on yourself esteem, goal setting and making changes, don’t expect the world to throw you a party. In fact, expect resistance. And guess where some of this resistance will come from. You got it, from the people you love the most!  They are used to you a certain way. When you upset the apple cart with your growth and changes, it forces them to change too. Some will welcome this change and adapt easily. But this is not the majority of people. Most people find change anxiety provoking and resist it. However, do not let your family’s resistance to the new and improved you get the better of you. The fact is, when you embrace God’s love for your life and you allow it to transform you, that same love desires to have its way with your entire family- starting with your spouse, your kids, and then your closest friends. If you know the change inside of you is God’s transformative power, then let it run its course in all your relationships! A change at any level of the system, changes the whole system. When you start acting like the person God has made you to be, confident in your loved and cherished position with God, it will change your entire family system. You have so much more power for good, than you are even aware.

This is what Peter says in the bible. Remember Peter? The guy who walked on water, and then fell in? the guy who cut the ear of a soldier who was arresting Jesus? The guy who denied Christ three times the eve of His crucifixion. Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle and knew Him well. This is what he says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  1 Pe 5:8-11 Don’t quit just because it gets hard. Expect it to get harder before it gets easier.

Christians sometimes squelch their dreams because they worry about being too self centered or too prideful. If they see themselves in a powerful or admirable position, they wrongly consider this to be ungodly or carnal or too “of the flesh.” If you have been one of these Christians, let me put your mind at ease. Here is the secret to your success. Humble yourself and be completely dependent on God.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:13-15

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

You humble yourself by praying, “I don’t know if this dream or this desire is from you, but I lay it at your feet. I know that faith pleases you, so I am going to take a big risk and say that this dream is from you, that you put it in my heart, and because I love this dream, I am going to surrender it just like Abraham surrendered Isaac. I don’t have to make my dream happen, You do, and in due time as I humble myself before you, I know you will lift me up.”

Simple right? As you submit your dreams to God, watch how He provides exactly what you need when you need it. Like the ram in the bushes. God didn’t provide the ram in the bushes until Abraham surrendered Isaac- his dream child- his promised child. Once Abraham surrendered his ownership and responsibility for Isaac, God provided exactly what was needed.

Your dream may shift a little, depending on the circumstances of your life. What you thought you wanted, you may determine later that you want something different. The essence of what you want is probably the same- and I believe that the essence of your dream is God given- so dream it in the form that you have it now, and trust God to change it to His will as you go. God’s got it in His hands. He cares more about the dream He’s put in your heart than you do. He’ll be faithful to see it through.

What we know about self-esteem, is that it has a lot to do with who we are, what we think, and what decisions we make in life. Here are some examples:

A person with healthy Self Esteem:

  •    Take educated risks in professional and personal areas of life
  •    Have bounce-back-ability. They are resilient after set backs
  •    Seek understanding of other’s points of view because they are not threatened by diversity
  •    Are Not easily offended or take criticisms personally
  •    Are able to separate behavior from identity
  •    Are able to bless those who curse them- that take justice to the next level and instead of repaying evil with evil, they seek to give blessing.
  •    Are able to assert their needs, opinions and desires.
  •    Are able to verbalize their opinions with respect and love.
  •    Able to empathize and care for others in need


A person with low Self-Esteem:

  • Will be dependent on other’s approval before formulating thoughts and ideas
  •  Will be avoid making decisions independently
  • Have a pessimistic view of self and his influence in the world
  • Will feel powerless over his life and circumstances
  • May become overwhelmed with shame and guilt over mistakes or failures.
  • When they experience a failure, they internalize it to mean they are a failure.
  • Unable to verbalize or assert their needs, desires or limitations.
  • Will tend to be overly guarded and distrusting or overly trusting, needy and naive
  • Engages in negative self-talk and negative predictions

The reason why we want to talk about the behaviors and feelings of people who do and do not have healthy self esteem, is because we want to emulate those who got it. Those of you who say, “I need to improve my self esteem,” then I’m here to help you know what that looks like, so you can recognize what areas you want to work on.

                One significant difference between those who have healthy self esteem and those who do not, is their ability to DREAM BIG. For the person with a healthy self esteem, they really believe that anything is possible. Maybe because nothing in their family past has informed them otherwise. Or maybe because they have overcome so many obstacles in their life, they can’t help but believe miracles are possible. Whatever the reasons for healthy self esteem, an exercise to help you improve yours is to practice dreaming big, writing it down and saying it out loud. Now this next part, you are going to want to work through slowly. Don’t worry, to those of you who are listening to this live, I will have the podcast available to you on my web site. You can stop and pause until you are ready to move on. Take your time, write these things down.

A common problem to improving self esteem is that we don’t allow ourselves to imagine something different, something better. So let’s do a couple of exercises that jog that imagination.

1.  Now, thinking about your interests, what comes naturally to you that gives you an “unfair advantage”? 

2. When do you feel so immersed in something that you forget that the rest of the world exists? 

3. What do you do that brings you pleasure, piques your curiosity and gives you more energy than when you started?

4. If you could do anything without fear of failure, what would it be?

5. What was the happiest period of your life?

6. What was a turning point in your life?

7. Was there an event in which you demonstrated great courage and perseverance?

8. Are there any values that you would like to establish?

9. What are some weaknesses, things you do poorly that you will need help with?

10. Project yourself into the future. You pick the time frame, two years, five years or ten years. Don’t filter this exercise with shoulds and oughts. This exercise is meant to inform you. Just let it flow and see what comes. Now close your eyes and use your imagination to see what your ideal day would look like if you had your dream. Imagine that anything is possible, fantasize what you are wearing, what you are doing, where you are and who you are with. What kind of people are around you. Now, this is an important part. As you imagine yourself, now ascertain how you are feeling in that scene. How do you feel about what you are doing. What is the expression on your face? What is the impact you have? One more thing, now, imagine God in the dream. Where is He, how does he feel about this ideal day of yours? Where is He? Looking down from above, beside your working, in the crowd judging your performance or smiling with delight? Now imagine a conversation between the two of you. You talking to God and Him talking back. Don’t filter this conversation with shoulds and oughts. Just let it flow. When you’re done, write down what you saw and the conversation you had with God.

There are many good things in our lives.  However, “good” can be the enemy of “best”.  When thinking about your passions and your values, you may find that the many “good” things in your life may be crowding out the “best” things in your life.  For example, if one of your passion is “writing” but you never seem to have the time to do it because of your involvement in other “good” things, then it is time to discard the “good” for the “best”.  It is out of your passions that real potential flows.

1.            What is something that you would like to discard, so that you can allow more time, energy and investment for something better?

2. What will be difficult about discarding that thing?  What will you lose?  What will you potentially gain?

Progress requires sacrifice.  To win the race, we must lay aside everything that weighs us down.  To make it to the top, we must slough off the heavy weights that keep us from climbing.  These weights are mere distractions from the ultimate goal.  They are rabbit trails and red herrings.

God Is Love, But Not The Kind You Are Used To

“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?Exodus 15:11-13 NIVIt had been 6 years and two children since I’d gone SCUBA diving, and I knew from the raised eyebrow of the dive master that I should have taken a refresher course before signing up for the coral reef. Sensing my inexperience, she spent the boat ride to our dive destination shouting crash-course instructions over the noise of the engine. I kept thinking to myself, it’s just like riding a bike- it will come back to me. After sinking 25 feet below the surface, I discovered that it wasn’t just like riding a bike. I couldn’t remember what button deflated my jacket, and what button inflated my jacket. No big deal really. All I had to do was calmly pump one button and see if I floated up or down. But “calmly” wasn’t something I could master at the moment.
Panic took over instantly and my only thought was, If I push the wrong button, I will sink, drown and die! That wasn’t really true, but seemed rational enough at the time. I flailed my arms to the dive master, with wild eyes, and signaled to go up. She signaled confusion. Since I didn’t know SCUBA sign for “I’m freaking out,” I signaled with my thumb the strong desire to go back up. She took hold of my jacket and pumped it a few times until my buoyancy was stabilized, and slowly signaled with her hands for me to calm myself down. She waited about a minute and then with an extraordinary gesture of kindness, she held out her hand so we could dive together.
I completely expected that after reacting the way I did, she would escort me back to the surface, chastise my foolishness, and terminate my dive with a “Hmph!” Instead, she held my hand and gave me the security I needed until I could do it on my own. With only the sounds of bubbles and breath, we swam together as she pointed out the things she wanted me to see. Like the activity backstage of a play, I was amazed by the colors and creatures and coral alive with anemone, hidden by the curtain of water. . After we surfaced she told me that she just couldn’t let me leave the reef without experiencing it first. She didn’t know me, or owe me anything. But she stepped into my past to reclaim a lost picture of God- a God that wanted me to know and enjoy him without the fear of falling short- a God that didn’t cut me off for my mistakes but helped me overcome them in grace. God used that experience, among many others to replace the distorted ideas of who I thought He was.
Why did I think my dive master would be disappointed in me? Why did I care? Furthermore, why did I panic to the point of not thinking clearly? Why was I surprised by her outstretched hand? Why do people question God’s infinite love and care? Why do people doubt Him when He’s done nothing to earn their distrust?
Various misconceptions about God are closely linked to the god-figures in our lives: our parents, coaches, older siblings, bosses, teachers and pastors. We understand God based on what we already know. We formulate who the Heavenly Father is and who we are, because of our childhood experiences. Our authority figures while growing up leave the most influential mark of who we understand God to be. We were parented and groomed by imperfect people, and have automatic assumptions of an imperfect God.
We need a bold new approach to know Him.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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