There is a trauma that often goes unseen. It is not obvious to the naked eye. Sometimes it only occurs behind closed doors. It may only exist in subtle comments, but its effects linger long after the abuse ends.
And yet, many people fall prey to it. I am talking about abusive relationships.
While we may not consider relationships traumatic, our body does.
“At the end of my previous book, Psychopath Free, I described a ‘tight feeling in my heart.’ It wasn’t painful or sharp, just a constant numb, squeezing sensation. It started immediately after my first relationship ended, and I felt it for five years straight. All day, every day, from the moment I woke up to the second I feel asleep,” writes Jackson Mackenzie.
In his new book, Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse, MacKenzie offers a heartfelt, empathic guide to once again reclaim your life, your spirit, and your soul after an abusive relationship.
Mackenzie describes trauma as an unresolved message living in our body that distracts and separates us from our true self. He writes, “At some point, the body locked your feelings away because they were too painful and intolerable to experience at the time. Your true self is still there, it’s just cloaked by obscure, frustrating sensations like ‘numbness’ or ’emptiness’ or ‘boredom.'”
Instead of trying to secure love, validation, and approval from others, what we need to do is offer ourselves love.
“When love flows freely from within, our infinite source is restored and all other behavioral anomalies melt away,” writes Mackenzie.
The first step is to get comfortable with discomfort. Instead of judging ourselves harshly, trying to force forgiveness of others, we need to learn to simply accept what we are feeling and thinking — without judging, changing or trying to avoid it.
Mackenzie writes, “This lets you build a friendly, curious relationship with the stuff going on inside your body and mind, even the stuff that feels awful.”
Our feelings are our own responsibility and by learning to stop expecting the external world to change for us and help create the feelings we want, we can begin the process of doing the hard work to change ourselves.
“We live in a world where people want others to validate and accept them for exactly as they are, but once again, external validation will not make you any happier,” writes Mackenzie.
The love we need to heal, Mackenzie tells us, has nothing to do with other people. It requires us to do nothing. It also is not about thinking love. It is simply about feeling love.
“Most people are born with this intact, and they do not need to be spiritual to experience it. It is just the innate sense of being good, having purpose and joy for no external reason,” writes Mackenzie.
However, for many people, the feelings of rejection and abuse are too intense, and instead of feeling them, they think about them, and develop a protective self to compensate for them.
The first priority is to understand that the abuse we suffered had nothing to do with us, and yet it left an internal void.
Mackenzie writes, “The most important thing you can do is release the message they left behind (not enough, worthless, bad, inadequate) and learn how to love yourself.”
In doing so, we will likely find many issues that need our attention, like low self-esteem, shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety.
Learning how to create a healthy, loving relationship with ourselves is how we learn to create healthy, loving relationships with others.
“I spent so long focused on the red flags and warning signs, obsessing and ruminating about the misbehavior of others, I didn’t even notice I was still completely distracted from my own issues,” writes Mackenzie.
It’s not until we are willing to shift our attitude toward discomfort — to see it as a good thing that offers the possibility of finally feeling, understanding, and letting go of painful emotions — that we can begin the process of feeling whole again.
Instead of tuning out painful emotions, we should be tuning into them. Mackenzie describes the mindfulness method called R.A.I.N., which stands for recognize, allow, investigate, and nonindentification.
“By developing a kind relationship with yourself, you can slowly agree to experience these feelings fully, staying with them as long as they need (this can take months or even years) before they lose their potency,” writes Mackenzie.
Feelings do not define us. They do not determine who we are, or whether or not we can find love. But, how we relate to them holds the key to how we feel. When we avoid, hide, protect, or deny our feelings, we deny our true self, and we also deny ourselves the pure joy of simply feeling whole.
Whole Again is a profound and deeply moving book that will have you thinking and feeling differently about the most important relationship you will ever have — the one with yourself.
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse
Tarcher Perigree, January 2019
Paperback, 304 pages