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Escaping Relationship Toxicity Unscathed and Healed

By Elise Krentzel August 20, 2022 Family

As a child (and into adulthood), I experienced abuse: sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional. Both my parents were narcissists, one more severe than the other: my mother was an alcoholic, and my father had a sex addiction. As a result, I was highly insecure and had low self-esteem and shame.

I felt alienated, betrayed by those I trusted the most, and came to doubt every feeling of my own. Later on, my three wasbands replicated the unsavory parts of one or both of my parents in life. That resulted in similar emotions, bringing me back to my unhappy childhood (no wonder they say repeating the same thing and expecting different results is “insane”).

You Are Responsible for Your Own Life

Even until my late 60s, I thought my nuclear family and inherited in-laws were the sole sources of my sorrow, pain, and disappointments. Through hard-earned life lessons, therapies – and boy, there were so many I got dizzy – I learned the hard way that we are players in the dramas and traumas of our life.

We are, willingly or not, participants in, whether passive or active, unconscious or aware, every situation in our lives. We are the other half of the cauldron of despair.

Why is it so hard to admit that we cannot blame anyone else for what we allowed? Think about the limited TV series, Inventing Anna. She made no bones about being arrested. She knew what her part in the actuality was. Do you know what your part is in a painful relationship?

Taking full responsibility is no mean feat. It requires deep archeological research. Throughout the years, I tried, sometimes successfully, to see my part in what I formerly considered failed relationships.

Disregarding Your Body’s Signals Is Unhealthy

From the neighborhood kids to my dysfunctional nuclear family, I was a natural ringleader who fought back as best (with fists and later through words) I could, yet continuously felt under pressure. At four years old, I swallowed an entire bottle of aspirin to rid myself of the crime committed upon my little body; from that point forward, I catered to my mother’s needs while forgetting mine.

I was a teenager when my parents announced their divorce on Valentine’s Day. My lungs failed, and I experienced asthma, which required a ventilator and hospitalization, causing one of two nervous breakdowns.

I came to think of the hospital as a safe space. I looked closely at the relationship between physical pain and my emotional state. The writings of Louise Hay taught me how the prowling dog of negative thought corners one into physical suffering, a result of inner conflicts untended.

Lifelong lower back pain and sharp pains in my hip subsided and eventually dissipated as I implemented techniques to cure the emotional trauma inside my cells. Little by little physical pain declined whereby mirroring a progressively healthier emotional state.

Acting Upon Your Emotions Is Not the Same as Acting Upon Your Intuition

I channeled my rage and shame into music and writing through arduous suffering masked by humor, denial, and a tenacious will to achieve external success in all my creative endeavors. How did my intuition guide me? Although I was a firebomb, I wrote articles, reviewed concerts, and submitted my stories to magazines.

This intuitive guidance system told me, “Don’t give up.” At 18, Circus Magazine published an article of mine. At 19, I toured with KISS to Japan as one of 10 journalists on a press junket and made a name for myself in the music industry.

But when someone pissed me off (and that seemed to happen with regularity as a teenager and young adult), I would fly off the handle without any filter. My uncontrolled rage usually ended in fights; I acted without remorse since I wasn’t following my gut.

Looking back at the continued traumas that I normalized and even expected from my family of origin and those I inherited from my 20s well into my 50s, I can recount a blitzkrieg of other things such as suicide attempts, divorces, treachery, drug-addicted brother, a con-man of a father, hysterical mother and her twin, my stepmother… Need I say more?

At 64, I found a new lease on life. The unsettling toxicity of my past shaped me but didn’t knock me out of the ring because I found a way to remove the scars and heal the wounds, not just through therapy! Having a bluntly honest son who calls attention to my infirmities and hypocrisy helped me face my demons.

Risk-Taking Is Necessary for Success and to Expand Your Mental Horizons

Can you imagine what it’s like to be suppressed emotionally while being given free rein to manage your own life from 14? Given might be too generous a compliment to my mother. Although she demanded rigid perfectionism – how to behave, react and speak in public – she allowed me to express myself artistically, for which I am forever grateful.

Likewise, the life or death risks I took were due to her having no boundaries. Crazy as it was, I am deeply appreciative of this “freedom” I had to explore the world, pursuing whatever I wanted. I had three businesses in various countries: a music talent and booking agency in Japan, a cross-cultural marketing agency in New York City, and a digital publishing company in Switzerland and Holland. I took risks that sometimes I was woefully unprepared for, yet managed and succeeded.

We Attract What We Want… and What We Don’t Want

At 44, I became a mother and raised my son independently. I wanted a husband who would be my emotional support and a family man, yet instead found he was an emotional vampire. I tried to communicate deeply with the man who would be the father of my child. Yet my wasband was emotionally aloof and away from the family 40% of the time.

What did I truly want? Why did I settle? It goes back to what I wrote earlier: when you know your part in your life’s drama and follow your intuition, you won’t get involved with people who do not serve your higher purpose.

Alienation from one’s soul is the cause of loneliness, no matter how active or busy you are.

Fill the emptiness by listening quietly to your GPS: your intuition.

My willingness to face the darkest parts of myself required finding the strength to admit my role in the horror show of my life. It was an excruciating process, where I found myself lonely and alone for long periods. Yet I chose that. I took it on.

I had to do deep work to face the world again. I didn’t understand that the shadow side was a friend, a helper. As I practiced sitting quietly with my demonic emotions, I found that self-remorse healed my heart. I peeled the layers away from the mental mind that prevented me from hearing my intuition. Now I can say that I’ve come out unscathed and you can too.

What trauma have you experienced in your life? Have you conquered it? Do you think that trauma has been dictating your life ever since or have you come out unscathed?

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While I don’t want to disrespect the trauma this author has been through, I find it all a little over-the-top.
She has businesses in THREE countries, (how many people have that?) & her lungs failed when her parents announced their divorce, (however she calls one an alcoholic narcissist & the other a sex addicted narcissist). With suicide, treachery, drug addiction, a con-man & hysteria within the family, & swallowing an entire bottle of aspirin at 4 years old, I wonder how she can still be alive.
Maybe she could have followed her intuition, & taken her own advice in regards to not getting involved with people (her husband) who do not serve her life’s higher purpose,
I left an abusive marriage. I did NOT play a role in this, except as a victim.
NOTHING I did or said nor how I lived would have changed his behaviour.
I did NOT play a role in the horror story of my life. It happened to me. Nothing more, nothing less.

Connie Moore

Jen ~ I am sorry you also found yourself in an abusive relationship. I, too, have lived through that experience. Just because my experiences were not exactly the same as the authors, doesn’t discredit the reality of the author’s experiences and certainly doesn’t equate to less than credible.

Because I spent a career in global business, it’s highly likely she had multiple businesses and led a highly global life. One must remember that in Europe, going from country to country is much like traveling to Dallas from Austin via commuter planes or rail. If you are really traveling far, Spain to Germany in 2 1/2 hours. People fly that and back daily in the USA. My personal experience says that we can both have the exact same outcome but have traveled diametrically opposed paths to arrive at the same destination.

We also choose how to move forward with our lives once removed from the abusiveness and all the minutiae that comes with it. Perhaps this is an area that we all need to invest more brain trust to vs discounting someone else’s experiences simply because they differ greatly from my own.


Connie, of course! With “three countries”, I was imagining Argentina, Egypt & New Zealand. But, as you point out, 3 countries could be next to each other in Europe or South America, etc. When my daughter lived in the Netherlands, she would go on a weekend away to Greece. I live in Melbourne, Australia, so even travelling to another capital city takes one day by road, or an hour by air. There is a lot of space in this country.

I didn’t mean to disbelieve the author’s life situation, maybe it was just the way I read her story.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Elise Krentzel

Jen, I am glad you left the abusive marriage, as I have left several. All three marriages were with non-Americans and took place in the countries of their birth: Japan, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, where by the way, I had businesses before I met them. My ability to thrive externally and suffer emotionally are not incompatible; men are renowned for it, and we accept that as the norm in society. The same was true for me, not that I condone this normalization of emotional suffering inside. I hope that we all, women and men, realize our divine feminine and allow our emotions to take their rightful place in ourselves and thus in the world as fully integrated human beings.

Patricia King

I can relate to 95% of the authors life story. I sort of rushed through the trauma portion because I’ve lived it and worked with 100s of women in crisis.
I would’ve liked to have read more about HOW she triumphed, even though the process is ongoing.
I’ve been pretty depressed lately with it manifesting in exhaustion, unable to get out of bed, and cutting off relationships. I’ve been isolating for over a year now. I used to be fierce but I feel “de-clawed” now. Life has been a battle to stay in the fight.
Post-Covid I haven’t been able to find professional help but I too have been battling for my life since before kindergarten.. I just hope for a better quality of life- I want my end to be better than my beginning!
Thank You for sharing your experience.

Elise Krentzel

I would love to carry on the conversation about how I triumphed in the hopes of alleviating some of your pain. There’s a FB group I am a member of called ACoA (adult children of alcoholics), but I am not sure that relates to you. Dr. Gabor Maté is someone to google as he is a renowned licensed trauma expert. Please connect with me on social media using the links beneath the blog.

Randy Woolf

WOW, life gave you the ‘adult portion’! So glad to hear you found the way out, and bless that honest son of yours. Now your writings can help people, which should heal you even more.

Connie Moore

A brilliant review of self examination, accountability and the painful work poured into yourself. Congratulations for coming out unscathed. Your effort and time were well invested. Welcome to your new world, beautiful Elise. My friend and soul sister on so many levels. Different parallels but basically, same trauma. The Phoenix will always rise from the ashes. Welcome to the Phoenix Club, Sister. ♥️

Elise Krentzel

Thank you Sister <3

The Author

Elise Krentzel is a book coach, non-fiction ghostwriter, and communications entrepreneur. She offers online writing courses and helps authors market their books. Her memoir Under My Skin - Drama, Trauma, Rock n' Roll is on sale, and she's busy writing book two in her memoir trilogy. She's lived in 5 countries for 30 years and is based in Austin. She's over sixty, and her son is 22!

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