Many times, I short-circuited my healing process because I was completely unaware that I was operating out of a flawed perspective. I had adopted the “dysfunctional indoctrination” as law and it was keeping me stuck in the mud.

There were many damaging beliefs, however, two proved the most harmful.

One, I believed that if I performed perfectly, than I would receive love, and if I didn’t, I deserved to be punished. Two, I believed I was inherently an awful person, a sinner, and there was a God who would save me—rescue me from my evil ways and fix me.

These two beliefs merged together created a disastrous myth. I unknowingly operated in relationships thinking I was only lovable when I did things right, and when I screwed up or disappointed myself or someone else, there was punishment and I needed to be saved, rescued, or fixed.

Thus, I inadvertently put myself in situations to be controlled, manipulated, dominated, mistreated, and abused.

At the time, I was completely unaware how these belief systems were contributing to the types of people I was getting involved with. Further, I didn’t even know the relationships were abusive. I thought it was normal or acceptable.

The extent to which I had been brainwashed was shocking to me. The fog was so thick.

To heal, it’s important to see clearly what was destructive about those relationships, so the fog can lift, and we can ensure we’re never entangled in that way again.

There’s a huge misconception about abusive relationships— especially from outsiders. If someone mistreats you in such a way . . . how can you love them? Why don’t you just leave?

Here’s why  .  .  . intimate partner abuse begins with verbal and emotional abuse. All other abuse is secondary. This is why the focus is on healing ourselves emotionally and physiologically—your head and your heart. All other forms of repetitive intimate partner abuse stem from verbal, emotional, and mental abuse.

For instance, if you go on a first date with someone you’ve just met and at the end of the date instead of a hug, he slaps you across the face . . . would you go on a second date with him?

Of course not! No way! Because you’re head and heart aren’t invested enough in the relationship yet.

But that’s not how abuse happens. First, our head and heart become enmeshed with an abusive person long before any other form of abuse creeps in.

When further abuse creeps in, we may not even know because the preceding psychological abuse had our heads in such a thick fog. In addition, abusers are incredibly skilled at twisting things to their benefit. To avoid pain, we’d succumb to the dysfunctional logic.

Thus, when the abuse expands—whether it be physical or sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, property violence, economic abuse, neglect, power plays, use of children, and so on—we make excuses for their behavior.

They had a stressful day at work. They were just tired. They were drunk. They didn’t mean it. I was just their punching bag—they needed an outlet. If I hadn’t upset him then he wouldn’t have done that.

We make excuses because first impressions are so extremely strong. When someone does something that is inconsistent with who we think they are . . . our minds naturally anchor to how things were in the beginning. We desperately cling to our first impression of them. This isn’t him . . . he didn’t do this in the beginning . . . and we desperately try to get things back to how they were.

This puts us into an emotional tailspin—it’s confusing. We don’t understand what is going on. So, we suppress our intuition—the warning signs in our gut that say something is wrong—and instead, we start walking on eggshells to prevent abuse, or we start bargaining with them to get help.

However, as we both know, neither of these works. I’ve learned to not invest good after bad—it’s a waste of time and energy.

So then, at some point along the way, we have our enough-is-enough moment and get out.

Getting out doesn’t mean we’re healed. It just means we are no longer living in an abusive environment. However, we must do the hard work of healing ourselves. The only way to create internal safety and rebuild trust in ourselves is to do the work.

As we heal, it’s going to feel awkward. Mixed messages will happen daily because our intuition has been ignored and over-powered for so long. It’s normal and it’s temporary.

Physically getting out means nothing unless we take back control of our minds. We were controlled and manipulated because our heads and hearts were fully entrusted to untrustworthy people.

The good news is you’ve started the transformation process. The strongest asset we have is our minds, and we can condition it to serve us and not harm us. We can train it to make choices in our best interest that protect us and keep us safe.

A healthy mind is the foundation for healing that lasts.

Right now, your healing is your number one priority. It’s the only thing that matters. We are no good to anyone else unless we take care of us first. We can no longer sacrifice our well-being to help someone else. It doesn’t help them and it harms us.

This is exactly why airlines say, if there is a drop in cabin pressure, put your oxygen mask on first, and then help the person sitting next to you. Going out of our way to please others at the expense of our emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial health is counterproductive.

Inside of dysfunctional relationships, oftentimes, it’s not that we are intentionally sacrificing ourselves—it’s that we are walking on eggshells to prevent pain. Thus, we’ve become conditioned to value peace over truth.

Operating under the belief that peace is more important than truth meant we had been faking it. We lived each day performing emotional gymnastics to keep the peace. Faking it to keep the peace doesn’t work.

It may seem to have temporarily worked or occasionally worked, but the incongruent feelings we have on the inside destroy us and it’s not sustainable. In addition, we’re just delaying the inevitable.

Continually sacrificing our well-being for the sake of the relationship, for peace, for love, for acceptance, for “family,” for the hopes of something better is what slowly kills our souls and leads to spiritual suicide.

No healthy relationship would ever demand such self-destructive behavior in order to receive love, peace, and happiness. So, let’s not do that again! Instead, let’s heal—it’s worth the hard work. And it all starts with taking back control of our minds.

This process includes acknowledging our right to choose our thoughts and feel our feelings and employing a daily habit to do so.

We are not going to share the same perspective as everyone, especially our abuser(s). What he thinks, the words he said, the actions he took are his—not ours. We are entitled to ours.

The truth is we’re not broken. We don’t need anyone to fix us. There is nothing wrong with us. We are not objects that need to be worked on by anyone but ourselves. We are not someone’s pet-project. No one can own us or claim us as their making. We don’t need to be rescued in order to live a successful life.

The reverse is true, too. We don’t need to rescue or save anyone. We are all individually responsible for creating success in our own lives, deciding what a successful life is for us, and then making progress in that direction.

Maya Angelou says, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”