Monday, August 3, 2015

Manipulation Station: Part Two-FLEAS

Manipulation Station: Part Two-FLEAS

When you have been in a toxic situation and have endured emotional abuse, self-doubt can be a very big obstacle. One that I believed I managed to conquer for the most part...but every once in awhile it rears it's ugly head. I was reflecting on my past post, Manipulation Station, and old memories of many heartbreaking experiences began to surface. It started slowly at first and before I knew it I had begun on a dark descent into the shadows of residual toxic grime and I was re-living interactions and began questioning my choices. In crept feelings of guilt, shame anger...ugh. NOT THIS AGAIN! I began battling myself and fighting urges to explain myself to a person I decided to cut out of my life. Logically, I know talking to this person will not fix anything. In fact it would most likely do quite the opposite and open Pandora's Box. I'd be hopping back on that crazy train after bravely jumping off.

We had a great connection and a lot of good times. We had a very unique bond and a similar sense of humor. She was smart, funny and charming. We had a long history. There was a point in time I cut her out before, shortly after high school. I had enough of her criticism and rages. I wanted to be free from her and branched out with other friends. Years later, we reconnected and at first it was ok. It seemed things had changed for the better. I had really missed her but I didn't know why. (Now I understand, apparently I didn't learn what I needed to the first time). I remember talking to my other close friends at the time about the possibility of re-kindling our friendship. I remember how apprehensive I was and uncertain of whether or not this was a good idea. At the time, I was not as educated about toxic relationships and dealing with manipulators. I was very naive.

I know that I tried my best and it never seemed to be enough. I didn't feel safe around this person, I didn't feel accepted by this person. I felt like I was walking on eggshells...(which is what she claimed to be doing with me). I tried to make changes that would please this person. I was apologetic for hurting her when she raged at me or withdrew completely. I felt like I was always doing something wrong or saying something wrong. I was accused of things I know I did not do or say. She would make hurtful comments to me that I would dismiss and make excuses for, which was wrong. I was afraid to confront her about her behavior and so I swallowed my feelings and tried to focus on the positive things.  She was so mistrustful of me I felt like I was constantly having to prove my loyalty.

There came a point in time where I became resentful, angry and I know I did say and do hurtful things. I immediately was apologetic and it was never acknowledged that I did apologize.  I saw that I was acting like her and I began disliking who I was around this person. Because I started reflecting some of her behaviors, it became even harder for me to break free. I doubted myself and who I was. I would blame her and then blame myself and went around and around in my head. I was not being honest about how I felt. I didn't feel like I could be honest because nothing I did was right. Everything felt like it was turned around. I realized this had become a very unhealthy situation for me and I couldn't take anymore. Slowly I pulled away until something pushed me over the edge and it all came to an abrupt halt. I didn't call, I didn't write to try to explain. I felt like I had come to the point of NO CONTACT option. It was too emotionally draining to try and salvage what I thought we had.

After no contact for years, memories and feelings still surface from time to time. Sometimes, I feel like if only I had said..this or that..or did this or that, things would have been different. While this very well may be true, it had come to the point where I just didn't have the energy to try. When these memories and feelings surface, sometimes I think maybe I should write or call to have some sort of closure. I have to stop myself and recognize that I will most likely not get what I am looking for...understanding. People like this are called emotional vampires for reason, because they cannot see their reflection They can't see how their behavior effects anyone and how they push and often times for many, bring out the worst in people.

Over the years, I have educated myself about these situations for both personal and professional reasons. Even so, when it surfaces I have to take pause and process what I am feeling and thinking to avoid getting sucked back in.  Looking back, I can see how at times my behavior was reflective of hers and that was a very scary realization and it was a hard pill for me to swallow. I had accepted my part in what became a toxic situation and that made it hard for me not to take all of the blame. I really began to doubt my discoveries and seriously question if I made the right decision. So, in order to stop myself from going to an unhealthy place, I began re-reading information that was helpful and began researching more information on the affects of being involved with a crazymaker.  I stumbled upon this sight Out of the Fog
and discovered there is actually a term for what I experienced. It's called FLEAS, which is basically what happens if you board the crazy train. Here is the definition as described on Out of the Fog:

Fleas comes from the adage “Lie down with dogs and you are bound to get fleas”.
Sometimes, when a person has been exposed to an abusive situation for a sustained period, they will look for ways to escape - and sometimes they will experiment or resort to behaviors which are not characteristic but serve as a mechanism to demonstrate their anger.
These behaviors are often destructive and counter-productive and rarely get the abuse victim what they want. These behaviors usually result in regret, shame and apologies from the abuse victim towards their perpetrator. Some perpetrators may seize on such incidents as justification for their own abusive behavior or as a diversion from it.

Wow, I can't tell you how helpful this was to me and shed even more insight into my experiences. I am so thankful that I discovered this and it helped me find my center again and validated what I already knew in my head to be true. This information helped my heart catch up with my head. So, long story short if you were brave enough to jump off that crazy train..DON'T GET BACK ON. I hope my story will help you and I encourage you to visit Out of the Fog for additional information on how to deal with crazymakers. If you are in a situation or trying to recover from one, I encourage you to work with a professional counselor to gain clarity, strength for healing and discover your path to transformation.  Thanks for reading!!

Be Happy and Blessed!
Kesha Martin, MA, LPC, NCC

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It Only Hurts You-Ways to Practice Letting Go of Anger

I Don't Want to Be Angry!!!!:Understanding Your Anger and Ways to Practice Letting It Go

We've all encountered that one person that you feel has really wronged you to the depths of your soul and back again. That someone who you adored and loved to the best of your ability that just kept throwing daggers your way. You know that someone who's brought out the worst in you; to the point where you start throwing daggers back and you no longer like what you have become. The toxic person, the manipulator, the liar, the fake, the shallow, the all about them friend or partner.
So now here you are and you've reached the point of no return. They did or said something that put them beyond the point of redemption in your eyes and you have no desire to reconcile. You might feel there's nothing you can do or say to make things right. The thought of confrontation makes you sick because you believe it will only make things worse; you've tried before. You've come the realization that you no longer want this person to be a part of your life and it's just not worth the pain or angst to try anymore. You've just had enough, you say NO MORE and you've cut them off. Called it quits. Whew..and good for you. At last you are ready to move forward and good riddance.

But wait.... something still realize soon your anger didn't disappear when they did.

Now, here you are, left with all the junk and you are ready to clean house. Ready for peace and happiness. It's a beautiful picture to imagine in this place, no longer being weighed down or held back by something as heavy as anger. Throughout my life I've been told forgiveness is the key to letting go of anger. I have found this to be true, in most cases for me it came naturally and I found peace. Ahhh, and what a relief it was. However, when faced with the pure fire in your belly, busting at the seams, I could turn your bones to ash with one look kind of anger it can become difficult if not seemingly impossible to believe in the forgiveness key. I don't know about you but in this emotional state, I'm not able to find my car keys let alone the magic of the forgiveness key.

If you have gotten to this level of anger, the idea of forgiveness seems to be so very elusive. Perhaps you've used the key before and now it's just not working. It may feel like you've been given a perfectly cut teeny tiny key that is supposed to click, clickity click, to unlatch a 500 pound, double barred, wrought iron covered cathedral sized, medieval door made by dwarves and cloaked in Elven magic. Often times we don't know what's keeping us from the opening the door, it should be easy right? You have the key. You've done it before. So why is this time soooo different?

Does this sound familiar? Have you reached a breaking point? Is your anger making you sick? Are you asking yourself why you can't let it go after you've decided to say goodbye?

HOW do you find the forgiveness key to begin to let go of your anger? Well, there is no one right answer and it is different for different people. One thing I have learned is regardless of HOW you go about it, it requires a great deal of patience, commitment and diligence. This is especially the case when you've really loved someone. With that being said, below are some steps that may help you on your quest.

Understanding Anger
It's important to understand that anger is not "bad" as many of us are taught to believe. Anger is a pure raw human emotion designed to serve a purpose, it helps to protect us from potential threats, both real and imagined; it's an alert that readies you to fight a perceived threat.

Step 1 ACCEPTING THE EMOTION as just that, an emotion. If you automatically label anger as "bad" you are less likely to accept your feelings. Next time you become angry, remind yourself that it is just an emotion, neither good or bad. This emotion is trying to alert you about something. Now it's time to pause and figure what's behind the anger.

Step 2 DISCOVERY what has your anger alerted you to? Sometimes anger is really covering up shame, insecurity, vulnerability and fear. It's important to understand the root of the problem so you don't stay stuck. This is where it get's tricky. Staying angry can keep you from growing as an individual. As long as you stay angry at the individual or circumstance, you are distracted from healing your self. Have you found yourself rehashing everything about the person or circumstance that caused an angry response? Reliving it over and over again, trying to find an answer? Loving that person and hating them at the same time; and feeling awful about how things went. Switch gears, instead of focusing on the person or the event ask yourself a few questions: What has this taught me about myself or what can I learn from this? How has this situation forced me to grow? What has staying angry kept me from learning?

You might learn something new about yourself, if you pause and switch your focus. You might learn you could work on your communication skills or need to practice boundary setting. Or perhaps you may discover that you need to pay attention to your intuition about people. Maybe it has brought up baggage from past shames that you have yet to resolve. Let me caution you, this is not about fault finding or blaming yourself. This is to encourage emotional growth and to better prepare you to handle similar situations or people in the future. Think of this as a preventative measure.

Step 3 MORE ACCEPTANCE Ok, so now what? You've accepted the emotion is just an emotion, and have discovered a little about yourself; now it's time to accept yourself for having those feelings, thoughts and behaviors. When you let your emotion live under the label of "bad" you may be unconsciously saying to yourself "I am bad for feeling this way. "

What happens when this occurs can go something like this: You don't want to be angry because it's "bad," and you don't want to be "bad" so you fight the emotion and you fight and shame yourself for having the emotion in the first place. In an effort to make those icky feelings go away, you might begin to question whether or not you should be mad, or maybe you are overreacting or maybe if I had said this or did that..on and on and on. Before you know it, you are frustrated with yourself because you feel like you can't let it go, and your sad because you can't change what happened and now you are mad at yourself for still being mad. Now you've got a serious wrestling match going on.


Does this sound familiar? So you don't want to be angry, I get it, it's an unwanted icky feeling, but remember, it's just an emotion. As human beings we all get angry. Emotions do not define who you are, unless you let them. The only referee in this wrestling match is you. Blow the whistle, TIME OUT! No one is immune to anger, it's not a disease or a sickness. However, it can make you sick if you let it. It's the choices we make as a result of the anger that can sometimes be unhealthy.


What are you good at? DO IT. Channel your energy into something healthy and productive. Swimming in anger is a waste of your time, you will eventually tire and drown; sucked into an abyss of your own misery. Being preoccupied with what has made you angry does nothing but rob you of precious moments that are meant to be enjoyed. However, anger, when channeled, just may be the fuel you need to become a better person. Get a hobby, pursue that dream, read that book you've always wanted to. Spend time with those you love and are deserving of your time and can appreciate you and what you have to offer. You can learn from your discoveries and apply, apply, apply. You may not be able to avoid every person or situation that triggers anger but you will know better how to handle things in the future. Every time those icky feelings come back....make a choice. Channel and thrive, don't swim!

When you work through the first four steps, this one will hopefully come naturally. If you can come to understand the emotion, understand yourself and accept yourself for feeling that way, you can begin to forgive yourself. BREATHE...ahhh. You are free if you want to be. What's really magical about this step is once you have accomplished this, you might find it easier to forgive the other person. Wow, what a concept! There it is the..KEY!!! CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FOUND IT!

This step is pretty self explanatory. You've found the key, if you loose it you know where to find it. Retrace your steps then RINSE AND REPEAT 1-5. You might have to run through these steps a few times depending on what happened and how much you had to deal with. Remember time does take care of many things, so use your time wisely. Commit to letting it go, commit to forgive. Sometimes forgiveness has to be a daily choice. Practice acceptance, discovery, channel and thrive; most importantly forgive yourself. Practice, practice, practice. It might be hard at first but soon it will be second nature. Remember anger has served it's purpose when it has taught you what you needed to learn. If you find yourself still angry, then rinse and repeat.

Kesha Martin, MA, LPC, NCC

Friday, October 11, 2013

Manipulation Station

Realizing you've been manipulated or are currently being manipulated by someone you love is frustrating to say the least. Sometimes it takes knowing these people and having them in our lives to show us what we don't want to become, what we are capable of becoming and who we really are. 

Manipulators knowingly and often times unknowingly provoke others to behave in ways they would not normally behave. It offers them some sense of control and satisfaction to get you to the point of acting uncharacteristically; so they aren't the bad guy. At times they might even say, "You are making me look like the bad guy"..implying that you are the problem.

If you are like me you'll try to see past their issues and love them anyway. If you don't see through their tactics or ignore them, it will inevitably take a toll on you and often times drive you to the point of questioning who you are. Constant criticism and fault finding for not meeting ridiculous demands and expectations can leave you feeling worthless and insecure, this is what manipulators thrive on, insecurity.

They criticize relentlessly and even go as far as saying others are asking what's wrong with you, or so and so said this about you too, in an effort to justify their behaviors and "needs". This can be disguised as trying to help you be liked, he/she will say or do anything to make you feel insecure. So you make an effort to understand their perception of you and your behavior towards them. You may see where you have gone wrong and admit to hurting their feelings, ignoring them or snapping at them (which is sometimes the case and likely a reaction to their manipulation) but more than likely it's projection. Whether it is true or not you may make every effort to change, to adjust to, accommodate, but it feels like it is never enough. To further complicate things, their expectations are constantly changing so you never know what to do, what's ok and what's not ok or how to handle it.

Then comes the feeling of being powerless to change anything to keep the peace and make them happy. Thoughts like "What's wrong with me?, What did I do wrong? I'm trying, I don't know what else to do. Maybe she/he is right about me" can begin to fill your mind. These unwanted feelings and thoughts can be perpetuated when you are shamed for not meeting their needs. You are the bad friend, spouse or parent because you haven't changed into what they want or aren't doing what they want when they wanted it. It can be big things or little things..not siding with them in a dispute or disagreeing with a judgment about another person. You may swim in guilt for this and may profusely apologize to no end and sometimes accused of being insincere with your apologies. It can get to the point where you feel unappreciated for your efforts, your time your love and your attention. You may start to become angry, resentful and bitter. If you have come to this place, you've been sucked into their game, you have given them control and the poison sets in. ALL ABOARD THE CRAZY TRAIN, they've got your ticket.

When the poison sets in chances are your behaviors may begin to mirror theirs, subtly at first but then it gets messy. This hopefully will force us to acknowledge what we historically and presently try to deny about ourselves; we are capable of becoming just as toxic as they are. Scary thought huh? If you are to the point where you are questioning your loyalty, your love for the person, what you did or didn't say, your've arrived at your destination. MANIPULATION STATION. This is where the person wants you and he/she has now been given the green light to define who you are. It's time to get off this train and recognize where you are and what you've been dealing with. Forgive yourself, forgive them and move on. Learn from it and stop it before it starts next time.

Have you experienced similar interactions? How did you come to terms with the realization that your loved one had been manipulative? Please feel free to comment or post your thoughts. 

-Kesha Martin, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, NCC

Check out this Article on How to Spot and Stop Manipulators

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