Beams Of Light Stream Down On Person Half-Turning Towards Camera, Eyes Closed And Smiling Widely And Happily. Yellow Shirt, Jean Jacket Half Slipped Down Their Arms, Shoulder-Length Blonde Hair. Very Carefree Vibe.

I found lots of resources for people on the receiving end of a “toxic relationship” (usually a blanket “get rid of them”), but very few to help with my own dysfunction. I write this from a place of love and understanding because I have been there; never judgement. This is what I learned / noticed to get some self-awareness, and what helped me. Your mileage may vary.

Do you like words that rhyme? Don’t they help you remember things better, just because they are kind of catchy? I have a couple of pairs of rhyming words today that might be memorable enough to help you be more self-aware in the moment and less “gosh darn it, I did it again”.

The first set is dudgeon dungeon. You know what a dungeon is. Well, dudgeon means pretty much exactly like it sounds like: “a feeling of offense or deep resentment”.

If you come from a highly critical, absolutist home, if you were raised in a dudgeon dungeon so to speak, chances are your Play-Doh-malleable brain internalized those social patterns into a deeply ingrained version of your very own, for you to stay trapped in wherever you go. One that leaves you self-sabotaging your relationships, reputation, success, and peace.

How You Know You Are A Victim To Your Own Negative Thinking / Trapped In Your Own Dudgeon Dungeon:

  • Anytime you start to let go and have fun…something always ruins it (“Hey, I don’t find trouble, trouble finds me!”)

  • Obsession: You have a vision or ideal of the way things should go, and any deviation from that means you are going to have a problem.

  • You get into a lot of fights that snowball to the point that you have trouble remembering what they even started over. All you know is you’re in it now and you’re mad as hell.

  • Arguments look less like practical communication and more like an emotional war of rage, tears, and stomping off. Getting co-operation IS an operation--it's frustratingly hard work (hence the nagging). You feel like you can't say no, so you resent when other people do.

  • You feel owed or entitled to behave (let’s be honest) ungraciously when you *agreed* to go do something you actually wanted to say no to, felt ambivalent about, isn’t your “cup of tea”, or ended up changing your mind about. You just can't fulfill your commitments maturely, and worse, you feel completely justified and victim-y.

  • You have a hard impossible time concealing your displeasure. Cordiality feels like a mask you wear to be socially functional, but is a hair-triggered moment away from slipping. Your tone becomes contemptuous and nasty, your lip curls, and your stare become an icy glare. In an instant. After the anger of the moment has passed, you feel like a real-life Dr. Jekyll, a victim to a Mr. Hyde that blindsides you (and your reputation and relationships) every time.

  • Past and “forgiven” slights explode with vivid clarity into your consciousness, which you then need to rehash, bring up, and “get closure” (and an apology) for AGAIN.

  • Sometimes you calculate a way to get an emotional reaction or “long overdue” emotional revenge. You feel out of control and maybe even guilty even while actively trying to figure out how to “force” what you want.

  • Even when you get what you want, you don’t really feel happy, satisfied, or fulfilled. There is a sort of emptiness that just stretches bleakly forever. Your desires are mostly for a distraction from it all.

  • You find yourself saying, “If you really loved me…” or “If you really cared about me…” ALOT. Deep down you feel it should be the magic key to compliance because compliance is the magic key to you being okay for a minute.

  • Withholding love, affection, or approval as a statement of displeasure feels familiar and like a reasonable response. You are extremely passive-aggressive.

  • Judgemental. Finding fault in others is just such a relief from the non-stop criticism you have towards yourself.

  • When you are upset or don’t like something, there is no drowning it out or going around it. It is all you can see. And everything, absolutely everything, is ruined.

  • Everything is VERY personal.

  • You invent silent tests only a mind reader could suss out. You bet against the authenticity of people’s care for you with moving goal posts you may or may not even tell them about. You feel let down, insecure, and disappointed RELENTLESSLY, which you try to band-aid with forms of “proof” you consciously or sub-consciously invent on the spot.

  • You find yourself oversharing personal drama to get the attention, justification, and emotional allies that you desperately need.

  • You promise to change (and beg and plead to be forgiven), only to be horrified that the worst of yourself is playing on repeat AGAIN after a few days of being on your “best behavior”.

  • You always feel bad for "ruining things". You either stop looking forward to things because of the inevitable drama --OR-- "This time will be different" becomes the mantra you repeat like your life depends on it.

And the list goes on and on.

I’ve been guilty of all of these bad habits, and the results in my life were exactly what you would expect. I couldn’t make or keep friends (or a job). I constantly alienated people who cared about me and chased after the ones who didn't. I was unhealthy physically, emotionally, financially, energetically, spiritually, relationally, emotionally, career-wise, you name it.

I tried so hard to control the good times because I was always waiting for the boom that ALWAYS lowered.

Rejecting other people or presenting ourselves at our worst so we can hurry and get the abandonment over with (that we dread but just KNOW is coming) is a very real phenomenon.

So how can we set ourselves free from the dudgeon dungeon? How can we break out of negative thinking, manipulation, nagging, toxic behavior, and poisonous talk? How can we save our relationships, our lives, and ourselves?


0.) Realize YOU have the keys. Not the people who hurt you, not your childhood trauma-inducing parent(s), not your crush, not your ex-, not your boss, not this best friend, that celebrity, or the perfect outfit / place / hobby / status symbol, not the “perfect” therapist . YOU and your powerful mind.

1.) Decide that fun means just that: fun. Ease. Relaxation. Joy of being. Appreciation. Let go of expectations and need for “perfection”, and in that vacuum, let life happen. You might be pleasantly surprised that what happens next is even better than what you had in mind.

2.) When conflict starts to arise, take a pause to form a realistic goal of mutual satisfaction, the kind that will ultimately benefit you far more than an exclusive, selfish “must-win-at-all-costs” zero-sum game. Start to practice whole-object relations (remembering the positives & negatives about a person or situation, in an objective, level-headed, realistic way—even when your emotions are very strong). Start to practice object constancy—remembering your mutual affection and responsibility towards each other, even though you may not exactly feel it at the moment. This is a skill most people learn very young. However, it can be learned at any age, if your childhood environment never modeled this to you (a highly critical, authoritarian, absolutist, disproportionately-punishing home). It takes practice, and you will forget sometimes (ask me how I know), but it CAN be done, and it WILL change your life.

3.) Realize that arguments are a form of communication designed to work through disagreements to come closer together. It is not a pre-cursor to abandonment or enemyship. Depending on your history and childhood trauma, it can feel like just another opportunity to be dominated, controlled, or be the loser (again, ugh), but YOU are in control of and the gatekeeper of YOU. If you need a moment to yourself, respectfully communicate that. A reasonable person will respect you and your needs / boundaries. An unreasonable person is someone you need to respond to with emotional neutrality and self-dignity (not wildly react) .

4.) Learn to say no to things you truly don’t want to do (or consciously object to). In the event you agree to go along, practice putting your self-importance in check. Realize this is an “us” moment, that the sum is greater than the parts. When you amplify that shared experience (instead of needing all the attention and the last word of approval on everything), the magic of a bonding experience can happen.

5.) The outside is *going* to reflect the inside. There is no permanent poker face—people always reveal what’s going on Below the surface. If you struggle with a contemptuous countenance and a terse tone, the issue is the underlying bitterness, powerlessness, & the discontent. Start having some compassion, patience, and consistency with yourself, and only then will you be able to pass that on to others. You can’t give what you don’t have. How? How do you start seeing yourself as a person of worth and esteem? Doctor Elinor Greenberg says it is easy: choose some things you esteem, and do them. Natasha Adamo puts it a different way: keep a promise to yourself, every day. James Altucher wrote: get 1% better every day. That compounds to 3,800% improvement in one year. Neville Goddard taught: everyone is just yourself, pushed outward. Learn self-respect in order to be able to be respectful. Classiness is a way of living. A modus operandi for the rest of your life.

6.) Learn to really forgive. Not for them, but for your own peace.

7.) Realize emotional revenge and brute force is NEVER a good look. It’s a form of disloyalty and relational tension / subversion that *always* boomerangs right back in your face (at the worst possible moments).

8.) YOU are responsible for YOUR joy. A spiritual practice can help, but ultimately YOU are the only one who can fill the “bottomless pit” of your emotional needs, desires, fulfillment, life. Everything and everyone else is just a cherry on top of the already-delicious sundae that you make of your reality.

9.) “If you really loved me, you would…” isn’t cute, it isn’t a magic spell to get your way—it’s emotional blackmail, and it is exhausting. It’s also a chaotic, ever-shifting definition of “love”, where the foundation is as stable as jello because you just changed it with another demand—AGAIN. I’m not talking about non-negotiable values and standards like mutuality, respect, accountability, honesty, loyalty, etc. that should be a given. I’m talking about a false equivalency where love = wish granting genie.

10.) Remember the Golden Rule of empathy. Withholding love as a “punishment” is so cruel because it is indeed, a potent, often unbearable weapon. You would never want the tables to be turned. You can’t hold other people to standards you won’t have for yourself. Stop setting yourself up for a bitter failure, no matter how “delicious” and powerful you feel for a hot second. Practice practice practice whole object relations and object constancy and reinforce your boundaries—ones you don’t feel you deserve to let others cross because you cross them all the time yourself. **Obviously I am not talking about a genuine situation, done with no intention to get a rise out of someone else, such as no-contact or emotional space that you need for your mental health and to heal your heart.

11.) Need to stop judging others? Stop judging yourself and work on the person you always wanted to be. Here is the second set of rhyming words (as promised): regret oubliette. An oubliette is a kind of dungeon that prisoners are lowered into. The only way out is up. What a metaphor for self-forgiveness & improvement! You have to start inside and rise. Your thoughts (including your self-image) become reality:

“Being unhappy in your own unhealthiness and destructive patterns is bad enough. Talking yourself out of your own proactivity is just spitting in the Universe’s face.”

--Natasha Adamo

12.) Change your gestalt (focus). If you focus on the pain and negativity, guess what you are training your powerful brain to be on the alert for more of? Yep. And gain a sense of proportion. How many things were a “huge deal” that in hindsight are barely a memory?

13.) STOP.TAKING.THINGS.SO.PERSONALLY. Just because you happen to be there or be involved doesn’t mean it’s really all about you.

14.) STOP BETTING AGAINST YOUR HAPPINESS AND THE PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT YOU with constant “tests” and need for “proof”. Stop working against yourself and your relationships and believe your “lying eyes” when they observe the consistent patterns of behavior people present you with!

15.) Protect your privacy like the priceless jewel it is. Remember: even after the moment has passed and you’ve forgotten about it, you can’t get those words back. You just branded yourself and whoever you just gossiped about, to whoever you told and whoever they tell. That kind of damage control is exactly the kind of complication and drama you no longer need. In the moment, remember: it is enough that you know.

16.) Keep your promises to yourself consistently and you will be able to keep them to others. You won’t have to be on your “best behavior” because it will just be your regular behavior. No second-chancing required.

It’s okay to start fresh today.

All My Love,



Want to work together one-on-one? I'm here.

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Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

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