Updated: Mar 26, 2021
During my time of recovering from the unhealthy relationship that I had with my ex-husband, I found that it was more about conquering my thoughts and beginning to make new choices.
You see, I believed the things that I was told by him, I believed I couldn’t do anything, that I was solely dependent upon him and had no independence at all. Once I made the brave decision to leave him, I had to survive in the big outside adult world, on my own. This meant that I needed to make some different choices, or I might not have made it. When I left, at first, I felt like I had a crazy mind that did not mix well with healthy living and thoughts. I felt like my mind wanted to destroy me. I needed freedom from it. What I found was my negative thoughts were robbing me of the present and drained my energy. The more the thoughts rolled around my head the more they collected, and they became bigger and bigger they became, a bit like a snowball collecting snow, until it was one big ball of ugliness.
We all have thoughts that we believe that may not actually be true. ‘I’m not good enough’ ‘I’m bad’, ‘I can’t do this’ are just a few that we tell ourselves. They obviously come from somewhere and sometimes we don’t exactly know the source, they are just deeply rooted lies that we have believed over time. Of course, there are other times we know exactly why we believe these lies. These lies seem to hone in on us like a guided missile and when we need to believe ourselves the most they hit us the hardest, and we go down, deep down.
Wherever they come from, how do we take them, refute them and begin to believe the truth?
There are ways we try and ineffectively stop negative thinking, such as, distractions, diversions or simply ‘drowning our sorrows.’ These may work for a short amount of time but as soon as the effect has worn off then we are back into the negativity. Now, on top of the lies, we are now beating ourselves up for getting drunk, taking the drugs, etc. etc. The original negative thoughts have just been confirmed to be true, ‘I am no good’. It feels like a constant internal battle that you are exhausted from. You are not alone, these common short-term fixes that only makes things worse in the long term but they don’t fix the problem at its core.
I want to give you some practical advice of what has helped me and things I have to remember to do even now, when the negative feelings attack me again.
As a Christian, the bible speaks about taking our thoughts captive, in other words, having a thought is just a thought but if you dwell on them you begin to expand them, let them grow and they take over your every thought. We then allow them to become a belief.
According to a study by Concordia University, 94% of adults find themselves dealing with negative thoughts, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7cd7/f8b1ab2fd2dcb011bef00c38f233d9614fc1.pdf that’s a lot of the population. So, here are some practical tips you can do which helps me get out of my crazy head.
1 - Don’t compare - the grass is not always greener, it’s greener where it is watered the most. Start to notice the good things around you and become content with what you have.
2 - Focus on your strengths - find one of your many best traits and find a new way to use and cultivate it.
3 - Take a walk, get out and spend some time in nature. Even a 10-minute walk can help you get out of your negative headspace.
4 - Breathing exercises - find a comfortable spot, breathe in through your nose whilst counting to 5, hold for 5, breathe out through your mouth. You may only be able to count to 3 at first but that’s ok, start where you can. There are different ways of doing this so find the way that suits you.
5 - listen to some good music, the type that make you smile and calms you.
6 - Targeting negative thoughts, writing it then destroying it. - jot them on a piece of paper, tear it up then throw it out. If you write about something that is stressing you, it can actually help you to rationalise it and think about it less.
7 - Healthy eating and exercise.
8 - Avoid generalising - if I made one mistake, I would clarify myself as hopeless in all things. Generalising doesn’t help.
9 - Spend time with positive people. Negative people will increase your negativity.
10 - Smile, just for the sake of it, even faking a smile uses less muscles. Think about something that makes you laugh or watch a comedy.
If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, please feel free to contact me or find someone you trust to help you. Some organisations will support you, so google organisations near you.
Read my 'Great Safe Escape blog for more information on leaving an abusive relationship safely.
If you have found this helpful to understand trauma bonding, then please share and link this blog. If you would like to know more about my own personal story, you can buy my book 'Broken To Be Beautiful' here.
Author information: Xenia Schembri
Along with her husband, Simon, are the founders of the charity At the Ark based on the Gold Coast Queensland Australia. Since 2010 At The Ark have supported families whose children have been abused and families impacted by domestic violence.
Previously, Xenia was in a 15-year domestic violent marriage. Xenia has become a voice for the voiceless and has a passion to prove that the past does not have to negatively impact the future, but positively propel anyone to change to their future.
Xenia was Woman of the Year 2020 on the Gold Coast Australia and one of the Westfield's Local Heroes in 2020. She is an international speaker and author of 4 published books. The Brave Little Bear series that equips families with self-protective behaviours and her own story Broken To Be Beautiful.
Here are links to some of her other blogs that you may find interesting.
Remember, that learning to challenge your lies and negative thinking will take time so be patient and forgiving yourself and don’t give up.