When entering into a dysfunctional relationship it is not uncommon to have seen the writing on the wall very early. You knew there was something “off” about the person but you ignored your intuition and plowed headlong in. It may be something they said, something they did in front of you or something they did to you.
So why didn’t you run? Why did you remain? How much time did you waste on that relationship? How much pain and headache did it cause you?
The answer to the above is really not complex and only requires a little self introspection. The answer usually lies in mistrust and fear. I am talking about mistrust of yourself and the fear of being alone, unloved forever.
Somewhere in your mind you made the decision to ignore the red flag because you didn’t trust what your mind was telling you. Your lizard brain that exists to protect you was screaming “get away”, but you didn’t think it knew what it was talking about. You probably dismissed your thoughts as foolish or overreacting. You may have searched for clues as to why they behaved as they did. You then convinced yourself based on a reason you concocted.
The person in question was probably glad to assist you with this. If they noticed you were uncomfortable with whatever they did or said they were most likely offering up excuses left and right. You were glad for the help.
I have noticed in working with clients from all types of dysfunctional backgrounds that they tend never to trust themselves. This is one of their biggest problems in life and one that causes them much distress over time. Somewhere they got the message that they were not bright, their thoughts not valid, they were unloveable and all other types of negative messages that were absorbed right into their systems. Therefore the trouble with dealing with red flags.
We all have a “lizard brain” or the part of the brain that looks out for our safety. It looks out for emotional safety as well as physical. It is what makes your hair stand on end and gives you that “gut feeling” that something is wrong. No matter what kind of past you have, you have a lizard brain and in most normal circumstances it works regardless of your background. This is how the species survives. In fact, if you were from an abusive background of any type your lizard brain may work better than most people’s. It may be in high gear all the time trying to protect you. This is called hypervigilance.
Your goal is to learn to trust it. Trusting it comes with far fewer problems that not trusting it. Learning to trust yourself is the only way to live your true life. How to Learn to Trust Yourself When You are from a Dysfunctional Family is a post I previously wrote and can help get you started on this path.
I ask clients to do a cost analysis when they have sensed a red flag. The first chance they get, not when they are in over their head. That cost analysis looks like this:
- I just sensed a red flag.
- Was the red flag from the person themselves or their family or friends? Red flags can come from many directions. They are still a problem. The family, friends and offspring of a potential mate have ruined many a person’s joy in life.
- What do I lose if I end this date, relationship or situation right now? This is where you may make a fearful decision based on the belief you will be alone forever. Don’t fall for it, this belief is a product of a dysfunctional thought pattern. You can work on that.
- What do I lose if I continue down this path? Factor in time spent, difficulty of extraction later, time wasted on the wrong person instead of finding the right one and potential emotional harm or toxicity to you.
- If there was one red flag there will be more. There will be not only flags but full fledged problems to deal with. They are a waste of your time and your life.
If you feel you may suffer from dysfunctional thought patterns that are keeping you depressed, anxious or unable to break free from problematic behaviors, please visit us at Psychskills and get the free resources How to Stop Wasting Your Life Being Depressed, Anxious and Unhappy: The Top 10 Strategies of Emotionally Successful People and/or How to Break Free from 12 Dysfunctional Thought Patterns.