Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Am I a bad person? I have asked myself this more times than I can count.
We love to choose sides. We feel good about cheering for the good guys. We stand on more certain ground when we can distance ourselves from the bad guys. When something bad happens, we can become panicked and defensive, wondering am I a bad person? In fact, we all have the capacity to become Olympics-level gymnasts—bending logic, language, and even reality—just to prove that we still belong to the “good” side.
But this compulsion to self-identify as “good” or “bad” is something like only watching the first part of a movie before the characters and themes develop. Even if you feel awful about something you have done, you can surely agree that even the Harry Potter series is more complex than whether you are placed in the House of Hogwarts or in the House of Slytherin at the beginning of the movie.
If you’ve found yourself at the scene of an emotional crime, and you are at all self-aware, it’s impossible not to wonder am I a bad person?
Here’s part of the “am I a bad person?” answer: emotionally unconscious people can do regrettable things.
But finding yourself at the scene of an emotional crime does not make you a criminal. And if you have noticed a pattern of behavior that you question or feel ashamed of—it may be that you are relentlessly returning to the same scene.
Being emotionally unconscious is nothing like being morally unconscious. It doesn’t make you a bad person. We’re all unconscious to some degree – there are times we don’t know why we do the things we do, why we feel the way we feel, and how we can feel so sure about a decision in one moment, only to feel deep regret later on.
I have written about narcissists, selfish people, and how to release a trauma bond borne out of relationships with toxic people. When discussing these topics, it may appear as though we are reducing people to a set of characteristics and a pattern of behavior. The purpose of this is not to vilify, bash, blame or categorize people as “good” or bad”; “right” or “wrong”; or the “aggressor” and the “victim.”
If these characteristics sound a bit familiar to you, you may wonder if you’re the toxic or narcissistic one. If you’re asking yourself, am I a bad person? –the answer is probably no. For one thing, morally devoid people don’t sit around and wonder if they are “bad.”
The reason we identify patterns of behavior is because these patterns are borne of untold stories. While neither of these stories is “good” or “bad,” they both reside in a silent, dormant, and unaware place on the opposite sides of two kinds of pain:
- The pain of compulsively hanging on to relationships.
- The pain of compulsively letting go of relationships.
There are innumerable reasons why you may feel these kinds of pain (that have to do with the beautiful ways your body has developed to aid in your very survival, to this point). These reasons are your stories, your history, your twisty map, and even the very genealogy that got you here.
For people who exhibit a pattern of compulsively hanging on onto relationships, becoming aware of the dysfunctional coping patterns of their partners, makes them more likely to question their own propensity to remain in harmful situations, at the cost of their own well-being.
The hope is that they may peek through a small crack in a very old and fortified foundation that was built on thinking of themselves as undeserving to see: they have unconditionally loved another at the cost of unconditionally loving themselves.
We speak of the other side of this, those with the “toxic” patterns and characteristics, as the ones to cut contact with and to avoid at all costs. For those who compulsively hang on, the cost is just that: an abandonment of the entire self for someone else. That is their pattern and their pain, which gives rise to their own regrets, misdeeds, and loss. In this scenario, there is no room for gray area, for the benefit of the doubt, and for endless attempts to understand another person who has dishonored them.
But what if you’re the one who has dishonored another? What if you’re the one who has mistreated, betrayed, abandoned, ghosted, lied to, or mislead someone else?
What if you’re the one wondering if you’re the bad person? Do you deserve the benefit of the doubt toward yourself?
Of course. The following are some ways to deal with regret.
- Play uncomfortable storytime.
Underneath the mistake, the pattern, or the regret is an untold story. Pathological liars don’t usually come with a narrator who interjects “you’re doing this because you never felt safe enough to tell the truth about what you were feeling as a kid,” every time they lie. If you don’t know why you feel the way you feel, if you don’t know why you did what you did and if it all just feels regrettable now, know there is sense in what seems to be nonsensical. It just may not be obvious to you yet.
We like to believe that we are in control of our thoughts, but our bodies have developed ways to protect us, long before we could think and logic our way through life. What’s more, the way our bodies react to certain situations has a lot more influence on our thoughts than we can ever know.
Sadly, we’re all so desperate to “make sense” to ourselves that we blame other people for how we feel and what we do (even if those people don’t deserve the blame) — all in an effort to remain internally consistent. For example, if your body recoils or shuts down when you get too close to someone who you like, who is not odious or otherwise dangerous, your own reaction will not make sense to you. We are both educated and designed, however, to become very uncomfortable when our feelings are out of alignment with the situation we are experiencing. In reaction to this, we are likely to mistreat, lie to, betray, or abandon others when they set off an alarm internally, even believing that they deserve such treatment.
That’s just an example. If you feel regret, if you notice you are making the same mistakes, and if you don’t understand why you do what you do in hindsight…it’s because you don’t. You are emotionally unconscious, and it’s your responsibility to wake up.
There’s nothing easy about this. There’s usually nothing obvious about this either. The patterns that you become aware of may not even be your own patterns – they may have been passed on to you through generations. There’s not a “beginning” to anyone’s story, so just start somewhere. If you’re very open to this, there’s a book called “It Didn’t Start With You” by Mark Wolynn, that could be helpful. But again, this is just a book, it doesn’t contain all the answers. The onus is on you to become more aware of your patterns, to excavate the reasons, to bear uncomfortable witness to your own reactions – both for yourself and for others.
- It won’t be different next time.
Some of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard and some of the biggest lies I’ve ever told is that I will know better next time. You will probably not know better. You are a soul made of stardust, but you are also a human who has been programmed for your own survival. Your own survival is a very low bar and does not include your own thriving, much less the thriving of anyone else.
There’s absolutely no guarantee it will be better next time, even if you recognize the mistakes of your past. The pull toward the familiar is powerful. In fact, the pull toward the familiar will feel like fate; the pull toward anything else will feel like a dangerous mistake. A quote that has been attributed to Freud says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Until you gain the responsibility for your story, you will continue to live the same life, claw against the same perils, feel crushed by the great weight of your old patterns, and call that fate.
- How you treat other people is how you treat yourself.
If you have lied, betrayed, abandoned, ghosted, mistreated, and abused someone else. If you have been careless of their feelings, if you have dishonored them, ignored them, shut down, if you have been condescending, judgmental, or unkind – you can be sure you have done the very same things to yourself. A step further—if you have a pattern toward doing these things toward others, it’s guaranteed you do this to yourself on a daily basis.
If you regret your mistakes, and if you now have compassion toward someone who you have hurt—start with yourself first. Pay attention to how you treat yourself. At a basic level, you are simply an awareness of the life you lead. Become a scientist, an evidence collector of your own self-talk and your reactions to your daily life. Parse it down and really analyze it. You can only make changes with other people when you first change your relationship with yourself.
- Stop using other people as prototypes, in an attempt to get closer to the life you want to live.
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as being completely “healed.” We grow and heal in loving relationships with others. If you have made a mistake, this does not mean that you do not deserve love. That being said, no one should be a contestant in an attempt to trial-and-error your life.
If you have gained some understanding of your patterns, even if you share this with another — this story is still your own. Stop using other people to experiment with what will or won’t work for you in a relationship. The most we can hope is that our friends, partners, family members, or coworkers will be supportive of our attempts at introspection and self-awareness.
We are not actually “puzzle pieces,” looking for the right match. Attaining an understanding of your own patterns, fears, and coping mechanisms can be a beautifully compassionate process by which you finally see yourself as a neither-good-nor-bad developed character in your own story. It is not a quest to find other people who can or should mold perfectly to your newly discovered contours in order to make a relationship work.
- How to say I’m sorry.
If you’d like to express regret to someone you have hurt, think about what you would say to yourself after you have hurt yourself. What would you say to yourself when you have betrayed yourself? When you have self-sabotaged yourself, how do you apologize?
When you feel regret toward yourself, you recognize that there is a precious soul inside you who has been hurt, who you should have cared for, and who longs for your love and understanding. You wouldn’t want to hear excuses, false promises, or grand gestures. I would be willing to bet that what you would want to hear is a sincere awareness of the harm that you have caused and an affirmation that the harm was undeserved. When there is a break, a sincere apology will attempt to piece back the love where it should have been, where it wasn’t.
All of this notwithstanding, we all will continually commit emotional crimes against each other and ourselves. It’s part of being human. This fact is intrinsic to the loss, sadness, and loneliness that we all feel — that we desperately try to avoid, as if it can be avoided. It’s normal to reflexively avoid this pain, to unconsciously float through life, from drama to drama, constantly blaming other people, without an awareness of ourselves. It’s a lot easier to be an unconscious human, than it is to be a human who is aware of how their own survival mechanisms cause harm to others. Making mistakes does not make you a bad person. You may be an unaware person, driving a car home every night, with no memory of the trip. Making mistakes can stir you out of this trance, so that you no longer want to blindly drive into your fate. So that you can take the longer, harder, more aware, sometimes more painful way, to your new home
This post was written by Natasha Adamo Team Member, Irena.
Are you done with toxic relationships and ready to attract (and be attracted to) healthy relationships? Do you want to connect with others on a deeper level than the comments below? Click here to become an Emotional Mastery Member and learn more. If you’re looking for more personalized, one-on-one help, you can work directly with Natasha Adamo here.
My boyfriend broke up with me. At first we are in Ldr and i have doubts and chatting men on a dating app we didn’t yet meet. He was honest with me that he also chatted a girl besides me and he is choosing whom. He chose me. We are happy then longing to be together asap. We met for the first time and i gave my virginity to him. He is my first and so he does. After time to time, i don’t understand why he always says to me that i couldn’t give what he want.
We only stayed in a hotel for a month and back to ldr again.
He went to work in Europe and i stayed in Asia to work also. As time goes by, i chat a man whom i met online that i call him a brother which he is a christian and he is like a brother to me. He always pray for my relationship though i didn’t met him. But we both kneq each other that we felt the same way that no love it is like a brother and sister i Christ. My bf found out and he was angry to me. I explained everything and he doesn’t understand. I blocked that friend. I deleted all my insta, whatsapp, that i used before.
He wants that we will be together and we lack money to do that. Because i need a visa to go to Europe it need s alot of money also.
Our relationship struggles but i knew deep in my heart that i only love him. It was my fault that i download a dating app just for friends when my bf is cold to me. He saw that dating app when i gave him my email address. He doesn’t understand my situation. I explained to him everything and he didn’t forgive me. He broke up with me. He said harsh words to me. I felt guilty and i only love him. I only need a friend. But him, he didn’t delete his exes messages on whatsapp and insta, and messenger. Everything is there. Am i a bad person? Till now i am so heartbroken.
Thank you so much for writing. I, of course, can’t fully respond to your question, because I don’t have all the information. I do hear how hurt you are and how much sadness and loss this situation brings up for you. I am so sorry to hear that. Please know that you are not alone. Thank you for being part of this community — by sharing your story — you help others.
As with my response to Noelle’s comment, the ideas expressed in this post are meant to help those who believe that they have done wrong by someone, who feel regret, and who are not sure how to cope with those feelings. I believe there’s a difference between (1) feeling regret and sadness when a relationship is over and (2) feeling regret for a mistake that you made. This post is for someone who truly believes they have wrong another.
Based on what you have written, it sounds like you and your ex partner were in a relationship with a lot of complications and hurdles. Relationships are so complicated — and so much can be misunderstood and miscommunicated — especially when distance is involved. I believe part of the regret you may have is sadness related to the fact that your ex did not understand when you explained your relationship with another person. It is so sad that for any number of reasons, we may not be able to express to others our motivations, our true intentions, and our feelings. It’s a very sad situation, but I hope that you do not confuse your sadness related to him not understand your intentions — with believing that you are a bad person.
Much love to you.
I couldn’t have said it any better ♥️
The tricky part about all of this is that somewhere, underneath it all, if you’ve been bad, abandoned someone, ghosted someone, ignored them, whatever it is, it’s often your intuition guiding your action. So while you might feel like you’re “bad” about it, be intuitive enough also ask yourself specifically what led you to “dishonor” your boyfriend/partner. Make a list if it helps. If there is even one item on that list where he dishonored YOU, and perhaps it occurred more than once, even after open and clear communication that he’d hurt you, then you are not “bad” for finally respecting YOURSELF over all else.
And how do you know for SURE you’re not bad?
Because you realize that it’s not your job to coach someone on how to treat you, two thirds of the way into the relationship after they’d “sold” you on an initial version of who they are. If they don’t have the capacity to consistently practice their initial “pitch” that got you to agree to the relationship In the first place, , then you are not “bad” for removing them from your sphere.
I think we women are too kind, too guilty and too easily empathetic. Take no prisoners. If you have been “bad”, let someone point it out to you (believe me, they will) and THEN you can fix it, but don’t go running to apologize to anyone who was more bad than you to begin with. Let them experience how it feels to be dissed. They will learn from it and don’t spend one minute of your time feeling guilty about being bad. In 99 percent of the cases, they had it coming. Be glad you were bad enough to give them something to think about.
The content of this post assumes that you have asked yourself “Did I mess up?” and you have responded “yes.”
You beautifully lay out how complicated it is to really answer that question for yourself. I agree that so many reactions that may be viewed as “bad” or immature or insensitive (for example, cutting someone off) — are really completely appropriate responses to being mistreated or dishonored. In that case, you have not “messed up.” You
have instead, accessed the situation, stood up for, and protected yourself. Thanks for bringing up that point. It’s very important.
The greatest love of my life at 2.5 years into dating has been cheating and lying on me in the most despicable ways for the majority of this time. I discovered his truth vs him being forthcoming about it. My discovery triggered his self introspection and he trusted me with a painful secret from his childhood that he says he just realized is the reason behind his pathological behaviors. He wanted another chance and I gave it to him because I understand being a flawed human and I love him. He did not get to a place of true commitment and my final plea of boundary restatement resulted in his choosing to move out over text messages after having already disappeared from an argument he incited. I felt devastated, used and discarded. I had helped this man build himself emotionally and financially to better us and he abandoned me at the 1st time in our relationship that I actually needed him.
Spite got the best of me and I regrettably publicly shamed him on social media including direct messages to his family (that became my family). I intended my action to burn the bridge to feel as tho I reclaimed control over the narrative so that losing him made sense.
Now I wish I hadn’t. I wish I let him free without consequences despite what he’s done to me. Now I’m afraid that I’ve lost the greatest love of my life and there’s no starting a new. I have never grieved or been so hollowed out by a relationship loss until him.
Facts of our “love story” and I lost faith in a moment of reactivity but the truth is that I still believe there’s a version of reality where we still choose each other and are strengthened by the lessons we endured.
Am I being delusional?
Why am I unable to be unstuck post breakup even in every prior experience I was able to feel relief from a bad split?
What are next steps when he continues to give me mixed messages and I still chose him?
Morning Natasha. Question “Am I not good enough” similar as “Am I a bad person”?
From #1 part.
“The hope is that they may peek through a small crack in a very old and fortified foundation that was built on thinking of themselves as undeserving to see: they have unconditionally loved another at the cost of unconditionally loving themselves.”
This is finest example why we need to SLOW down! Especially deal with unwanted agonies of betrayals. Because oneself seek “My, Mine, and Me Needs & Wants” and not care the partner’s. You said the best! Thank you.
Part of #3 should help lot of readers too. Again. Thank you. Hugs.
Great article. Aw there you go. ?.
So nice to hear from you! I agree — we need to slow down and really listen to ourselves. It helps us be more honest with ourselves, which enables us to act early on situations that do not sit right with us. Thanks so much for your comment and for being part of this tribe. You help others feel less alone. Much love to you!
Thank God for your post. I have been struggling for a while now – after my narcissistic ex ended things in the worst way possible, Infact I did not even know he had ended it. I found out from others that he had started seeing /living with someone else. Long story short he kept reaching out to me every few months and I kept thinking we will get back together and he will end things with the new supply and realise how much I love him. I had no idea he was a narcissist, I was clueless. So after a lot of heartbreak when he reached out again a few months back saying he has ended things with the new supply, I was skeptical. So I started chatting and talking a bit only to find out he had gotten back with her. So this time I decided to teach him a lesson and went straight to her and told her what he has been upto. She very proudly told me she had cheated on him and walked away and now they were back together and very much in love. I became the crazy bad person. They both turned against me. Trust me whenever he reached out as tempting as it was I never slept with him as he was still with her. I was very clear about it. A bit of chatting and maybe coffee. Did I make a blunder by going to his new supply? Pls tell me
No I do not think you made mistake for speak out! Way it sound like. Justified! You removed faker’s mask off his face and he shit in his pant! This is who he is! Plus the reality of situation you revealed! Kudos to you. Regardless he’s with that cheating gf that proudly smiled and confessed THEIR dramas which you entangled into their stage unaware. Your message was CLEAR “GAME OVER!” If I were you I’d cut BOTH out of my life! That include ANYONE harbor in this drama to hurt you because they (themselves) are hurt and immature. It’s likely they might want to inflict pain into you because they are miserable people. Sex sex sex sex sex compare compare compare “who fuck best” blahs drama. You want this?
Yes it agony hell lot! Especially being betrayed and cheated. Been there twice. You will thank YOURSELF for speak out and able to move on. (Take time). Be glad their problem is no longer yours. Hang on. You will be ok. You sound like STRONG person than Hulk. ?.
Word of wisdom. In the ocean and there is a pole upward to the beautiful world out of the ocean. There’s bunches of bottom dwellers (crabs) that fight each others and pull down any bottom dweller that climbs upward on the pole back onto the bottom of ocean.
Thank you so much John….you have no idea how much your reply has helped me. Really really appreciate ?……and yes I have cut both of them out of my life, blocked from everywhere. I will admit I get curious about what’s going on with them but I know better now.
Wish you the very best in life and you sound like a hulk yourself ?
Love you Meg. John is a very special person (just like you). I am so glad that you two connected. xx
Thanks as always and love and best wishes to you?
I love seeing this love and support. Thank you John!
You’re awesome, John. Thanks so much for being here and providing support.
Thanks so much for writing. You make others feel less alone. I’m willing to bet there have been a lot of people in a similar situation. We can all become reactive when triggered by someone who has harmed us. We understandably take comfort that there should be a certain sense of fairness and karma in the world — especially when we have been hurt. I think many people relate to these feelings — it’s part of being human. And feeling like you have to take the situation in your own hands, to control and somehow make sense of something that doesn’t make sense — it’s part of being hurt.
I appreciate your comment so much because it brings these very real feelings to light, where they should be. And I so appreciate John’s comment back to you. This may be a bit annoying — but I can’t say whether you made a blunder by going to his new supply. It’s my belief that no one can, really, except for maybe you.
You know your experience, you know your pain, and I’m willing to bet that you often feel like you can’t explain it completely perfectly to others, because it all feels like too much. In my experience, there’s a bit of comfort in that, because it’s a flicker of something beautiful inside: you knowing you; you trusting YOU. Your ex and his new partner may have lot of opinions. Everyone likes to make judgments in order to protect themselves; to convince themselves that they are the real “good guy.” But it’s your own experience and your own thoughts that matters here, and I think it’s really important to focus on that, lest you feel drowned by what you believe THEY may think about you.
This post is meant to provide support for people who know they have harmed another person and who feel regret about the harm they have caused. The situation you are describing here does not appear to be that.
If you are grappling with whether you have even made a mistake, if you are contemplating your own reactions to those who have harmed you, if you are removing yourself from the orbit of those who have harmed you, and if you are giving compassion to yourself even when you question your actions (because you know how much you have been hurt) — then you are a human who is not afraid of feeling, who is not in denial, and who is healing. It sounds like the right path to me. <3
Much love to you.
I ghosted someone but it’s hard to say if that’s the right word. It was someone who I did not want to abandon but he was flirting with inappropriate behavior. The backstory is that due to long distance (and perhaps other unknown reasons) he was not willing to be in a relationship with me so we ended things. The toxic part of the story comes into play when many months later we reconnect briefly over chat and I learn he’s going through a breakup. At some point he suddenly breaks into unsolicited sexual advances (photos) without there being any trace of any kind of conversation in the vicinity of sex. Not even whisper of a conversation about us starting things up again. Nothing. The convo was prob less then 5 min. Anyway, I think he was genuinely oblivious and thought he was doing a nice thing and it didn’t occur to him that what he was doing was not ok. but for me, alarm bells were blaring. I felt disrespected and I had no interest in being his rebound/fallback/doormat – and also ask first. I was heartbroken and could not bring myself to respond. I couldn’t find the “right” words and I didn’t want to deal with anymore pain of what a conversation might bring. I thought maybe I was “speaking with my actions” by simply walking away. I was torn about it but I haven’t responded since and that was many months ago. Since then I have been agonizing over how I handled it by not speaking up. I’ve been feeling like “I’m bad” – not just from this isolated event but I’m wondering if this is part of a pattern. That I am a passive aggressive communicator and I don’t know how to speak up for myself and therefore I contribute to these toxic dynamics. That I am a perpetrator too. I’m having a hard time seeing myself clearly and I can’t tell what’s a distortion. I wish I could see that neither one of us are bad, we are just human. I wish I had just said something simple calm and plain i.e. that he “crossed a line” and THEN walked away. Is this the lesson to take with me into the future? Curious to hear your take…
(Ps. We were never in a committed exclusive relationship if that info matters. )
Thank you for your comment. You absolutely spoke with your actions in this situation. There was nothing else to say. I know we communicate a lot online, so it feels like we have more time to respond and to say something. But I don’t think our bodies see it that way. If you were with someone in person who did something that was disgusting, inappropriate, and completely tone deaf, you would recoil. You might shake or cry. You would back away. And you would hopefully leave. That is your reaction and your truth in this situation. I hope you do not second guess that. There’s nothing really to say because you are not anyone’s mom, empathy coach, or relationship advisor. Maybe this is a bit controversial, but I also don’t think you should suddenly accept the job of teaching this person how to behave with other women and what is appropriate in relationships.
That said, I completely understand what you mean when you say that he may have been genuinely oblivious as to what he is doing. For some people, intimacy is such a conundrum that the way they “reach out” is to behave bizarrely and inappropriately. I think we can be too quick to just call someone a “f*ck boy” etc., when there are many people who are simply not yet wired to be in an adult relationship.
It sounds to me, though, that you have already given it at least one (and probably more) tries with this person. You feel compassion for him, and that’s a beautiful quality in you. Just because you have this quality and now question whether you should have used it, does not mean that you made a mistake or that there is something wrong with you.
Trust yourself and your reaction. You said what you needed to say, through your actions. I’m sure he “understood” or you would continue to be going round and round with this person. It’s not your responsibility to explain why something offended you or to break down common decency for people. He did something that very clearly showed you that he is not currently eligible to be in your life. It sounds like quite a gift, to be honest, or you might have spent more time trying to explain something, at the cost of your own needs, feelings, and dignity.
I don’t know whether you have a pattern of passive aggressive behavior, but this certainly does not seem passive aggressive to me. If I had to guess, based on what you have told me– I would guess that a part of you maybe feels a bit shut down and muted (in this situation and perhaps others). Maybe you want to give people a piece of your mind and sometimes stop yourself. I would definitely listen for that in the future, but in this case, I would trust your instinct that there was nothing more to say. And if you said anything further, it would have only started a conversation that would have caused you more pain.
Much love to you. <3
Wowwwww!! Thank you so much for your super thoughtful response! It’s crazy because so many of the things you stated were so spot on for what drove me not to respond and I didn’t even spell it out in my post. It has been chaotic in my mind and a lot of second guessing since then, so thank you for holding up the mirror to help me connect with the part of me that knows. You truly have gift for empathy and clarity! I think that’s called clairvoyance haha. Thank you so much for your generosity. I’m screen-shotting this for sure.
Irena* , sorry for the misspell!
So happy to connect with you. You’re so kind, and you’re so not alone here.
Thank you so much for this Irena and Natasha. I don’t know how I’m going to carry on anymore. I have so much shame and guilt for what I’ve done in the past. I promise, I’m not a bad person but I feel like I’ll never forgive myself. I don’t know why I can’t forgive myself. I have read so many articles and nothing has spoken to me like this one and the others on this blog. You are doing God’s work here Natasha. Thank you for saving my life.
Thank you so much for your comment. You help others feel less alone. I am so sorry to hear that you are in pain. I also hear that you are a beautiful human who is probably more self aware than the average human. Feeling sadness, regret, and shame is a part of no longer being defensive and delusional. It’s an unavoidable part of being human, and unfortunately, we live in a society that encourages the avoidance of these feelings, instead of the acceptance that they exist.
Please know that there are so many people who feel this way and who are grappling with the same struggle to forgive themselves. One of my aims in writing this post is to remind people that: you make sense.
For a very long time, I didn’t trust the way I felt and didn’t understand why I did certain things. It can feel very confusing and shameful. And there are plenty of people who can project their own stuff, cast judgments, and act as if they know better. Our bodies and minds act are primed and grooved to protect us. You make sense and you have always been there for you. If there are things you now regret, please know that these may just be the by product of you protecting yourself.
It takes a lot of time, courage, but most of all compassion toward yourself to unravel your own history. I believe that we do most things because our bodies and our brains have our side, even when we are not fully aware. When we become more fully aware, we can have more of a say in the matter. But in any case, you are not the enemy of you. You are and always have been, the friend, the lover, and the survivor. Please remember you are so not alone with any of this.
Much love to you,
“Being emotionally unconscious is nothing like being morally unconscious. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
I am sorry, but I am confused.
As an emotionally unconscious person, you can do and say things that are very hurtful to another individual, especially if that person is emotionally involved with you. Things (like being emotionally unavailable, leading someone on, ghosting, cheating) that you “do and don’t know why”, are still things you did that hurt others, independently on your “why”.
Being emotionally unconscious, as an adult, cannot be used as a justification for mistreating people around you that did you no harm, and it would be highly invalidating of the pain you caused to the other person. Especially if that person made her/his feelings clear to you (and at that point, I wonder if one can still use the excuse of being unconscious..).
So yes, being emotionally unconscious does not make you a bad person *all over*, but it does not make you such a good person either. Being a good person also means having empathy, and being aware that our actions can always affect others around us, and stop rationalising/justifying them with our internal issues: work on them, before looking for others.
Thanks for your comment. I agree with you — the IMPACT of being emotionally unconscious causes completely undeserved harm, pain, and confusion in another person. It is absolutely not a justification for mistreating people. And yes, if someone who hurt you told you “Sorry Andrea, I was just emotionally unconscious” — that would absolutely be invalidating.
This blog post is intended to support those who know they have made a mistake and who don’t know how to cope with the regret or how to move forward. If someone truly regrets hurting another person and is truly open to being honest with themselves, one of the first steps in this is to unearth old ghosts, patterns, and pain to BEGIN to unravel how and why they made the mistake. Many people simply don’t know why they do what they do — their behavioral patterns are old and unquestioned.
Being emotionally unconscious is not a justification for hurting someone else. It is also not an adequate “explanation” for why they have hurt another person. If someone uses it as a justification, they are not at the starting point of this discussion, which is: “I know I made a mistake.” If you use being emotionally unconscious as an excuse, you do not believe you have made a mistake.
So let me be clear: A person who has been hurt, wronged, or harmed by such a person does not have any responsibility to try to understand or to listen to justifications. You have the responsibility to protect yourself and to make and TRUST your own decisions to move on. I would also argue that you have the responsibility to tend to your own pain, anger, and hurt with compassion. To turn inward your love and compassion, because that is where it is needed. To trust that you have reasons to feel this way. You are not required to “understand” or forgive. End of story.
I know it can be hard to read a post that is intended to help someone who hurt you. Please know that my intention is not in any way to invalidate your experience or your pain.
I also know that I have made my own mistakes. We all hurt each other, whether unintentionally or otherwise. It hurts no matter what. I have found that compassion toward self is the starting point to both making change and to healing. If you are in pain because someone has hurt you, I hope that you show compassion to yourself to feel what you need to feel. In the same way, if someone has made a mistake and truly regrets their actions, I also hope they show compassion enough to themselves to break old patterns and to find new coping strategies, so that the cycle does not continue.
Much love to you.
You said the, ultimate, best! Well defined! Hope this help readers tons. I’d like to chime in my experience. Whenever I go through mistakes and I try my best to avoid to make another mistake like that, later then other this, and forth. It’s part of growth. Unfortunately in my world we are a decade or more behind than normal people. (Depend on individuals). Unfortunately for other some. They NEVER learn a thing! Recycling same old shit over and over. Dealing with love one like this is extreme draining, overflow frustrations, heart wrenching, and whenever they betrayed/cheat/ghosted out to emotion conscious partner it destroy their beliefs, spirituality, and other you name it. That called codependency. When you realize after introspect yourself (be brutally truth with yourself. Don’t deny), talk with HONEST counselor. Or attend 12 Step and learn what others are suffering.
Another example. When I learned exgf betrayed/cheated I tried to ride on white horse. Confusion was too greater. Angers formed. List goes on. I exposed her to her mother that she used her mother as core excuses all the time to teach her lesson! Not to hurt another person like that with that excuses! I felt great that truth set free. YES I DID FELT BAD! I fell off white horse. Angers (to myself) worsened. I discussed with counselor, church, and some friends. It was justified because I want truth. Again. Introspect myself to “how have I gotten in it!?!” “How to avoid another cycle like this?” I see why counselor suggest to suspend relationship. Exact reason most of y’all explained/shared above. This is why I imposed friendship first aftermath so I don’t want to deal with what I went through again AND I must figure out how to overcome should I get sucker again. Unfortunately some people treat friendship/relationship like “game and scored to them”. End up hurt another. Some fortunately went through in honest manner and break up mutually. No harms. Or continue friendship. Perhaps. Why must we hop in relationship (bypass friendship) then become an enemy after break up? This is what cause agonies/regrets to many of us. “Am I a bad person?” For emotion conscious people? No. It’s part of our growing progress. For non-emotion unconscious people that do not learn a thing!?! Same old shit cycles. “Are they bad person?” I leave that to you to decide.
For example. Meg. (Posted above). I’m sure she introspect and would do anything to avoid similar (repeat) mistakes that we end up confused, blow out with angers, self-doubts, felt justified (with truth), and then feel confuse/guilts/angers with “am I a bad person?” No no you are not bad person. Especially on right grounds. See? Confusing? That something we introspect try to better ourselves. Avoid recycle of those shits from toxic people to deal with because we don’t want repeat of agonies or deal with another bullshit that we fall off white horse again that THEY DO NOT GIVE A FUCK OF YOU BUT THEMSELVES! I realized to myself that it is not my job to cater toxic partner to satisfy their needs/wants
Learn to let go, surrender, blahs as lecture from 12 step program/daily newsletter/PMS/other program you feel fit in being transformed into you. Codependency, No more book from Melody.
Continue try to betterment us. .
Irene and Andrea, Great posts/debate! ?
Unfortunately you’re booked for sessions so I will ask here and just know I greatly appreciate your time replying as it is valuable. I am a huge player of self Sabotage. I’m aware that I’m a liar, manipulator, and that I don’t like myself. The problem is, that I don’t know exactly what tools or practices to utilize to begin my transformation. I want to kill the person I am today and rebirth into a highly developed person who can be grateful for the ass hat I am today because I know I will be so great. I just do not have a clue where to begin, or how mostly. What is one or two ways to actively begin self improvement and what is one habit to keep to create a moral high ground that I’m lacking or anyone in my situation? Thank you again, you are playing an important and vital role just by doing what you do, I’m so glad I found an ex boyfriend recovery page that dives into the human psyche and not just talk about what to do next in simple forms.
There is SO MUCH I have to say here and don’t have the time to write it all out. I’m so sorry. Thank you for understanding and for being so incredibly kind. I will try to write about this soon (I have definitely been there and you’re not alone). I also address this in detail in my upcoming book (cannot wait for you to read it!). Coaching will open back up again in the next week. Thank you again so much for your patience. If this was a question I could feel good about answering in 5-7 sentences, believe me, I would. Love you soul sister. xo
Irena will respond to you though 🙂 She is fantastic.
Thanks so much for reaching out. You are so not alone! You seem to be very self aware, and I completely understand feeling the need to turn the page on your old self, heal, and be a better person moving forward.
First, I’ve never seen a personal transformation occur that does not start with self compassion. Natasha’s upcoming book so beautifully lays this out. You point out some aspects of yourself that you want to transform (self sabotage, lying, and manipulating). Please know that every single part of you makes sense, even the parts that you want to now transform. All of us have, over time, developed ways to actively self protect ourselves. At some point, you were in a situation where you believed that these behaviors were necessary for your survival. While I don’t believe you have to completely unpack all of this to transform, I hope that as part of this process, you get on your own side. Because that is where you have always been. Transforming these behaviors begins with knowing that they don’t exist because you are a bad person or damaged or there is something wrong with you. They exist because at one point, they worked to meet your goals. Now that you are aware of how they are also damaging to yourself and others, getting to know them, being compassionate with yourself, and loving all your parts is the baseline for how to change habits.
But you ask for a few ways to actively begin changing your habits:
1. Feel all your feelings
It’s not easy to feel “negative” feelings at any time, and I know it’s especially hard when you already aren’t feeling great about yourself. One of the things that has helped me the most is realizing that “negative” feelings are a completely normal part of life, even in the seemingly perfect life of others. This will happen every day. When you develop a capacity to sit with yourself and to hold your own hand as these emotions flow through you, you will have even more compassion with yourself. And specifically, in terms your question, the more you know that you can handle these feelings, because YOU are there for YOU, the less you will depend on all those things that you mention (self sabotage, lying, and manipulating). In my experience, we use those types of habits to manage and avoid feelings. This one is not easy. I’ve found that people need support to do this, in the way of a grounding practice. People do yoga, meditate, go for walks, spend time with pets, cook, wood work, fish, do tai chi, ANYTHING that creates an environment when you feel free to exist in the present moment and feel, for however long you can tolerate, close to YOURSELF. Doing these things doesn’t help you feel your feelings. They do, however, help you practice what it feels like to be close to yourself, so that when you do feel negative emotions, you can feel the support you have in you (that has always been there), and you can manage these feelings without resorting to the behaviors you are trying to change.
2. Make one promise to yourself a day and keep it.
One part of working on your relationship with you, is developing self trust and autonomy. Just as in any relationship, we make amends with ourself through action (instead of words/categorical statements about intentions). Make a promise to yourself that is completely manageable. This is not the time to make promises to work out every day, learn a new language, or anything that in any way requires you stretching your current life to meet this goal. It’s a symbolic gesture that no matter what kind of day you are having, you show yourself that you have your own back, no matter what. Examples of small promises: drink a glass of water in the morning, floss every day, journal for five minutes, make your bed, put on sunscreen, etc. Pick ONE thing. Do it for a few weeks. Feel how good it feels to be a trustworthy partner to yourself. Natasha has a great blog post on this that goes into far more (and much better) detail.
3. Evaluate your current relationships
As you develop self trust and self compassion, your perspective on your current relationships will change. Take note of how you feel and how you react to people in your life. Transformation and healing is possible in an environment that is conducive to healing. Just like it is not possible to transform and heal when you are operating in a toxic environment with yourself (one that is triggered, unempathetic, defensive ), it is very difficult to do so if this same environment exists in your relationships with others. One of my favorite quotes, which has been attributed to Freud says: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by A holes.” 🙂
Hope this helps. Please take good care. <3 Much love to you.
I absolutely love this <3 and you. xox
I read the article and the replies, and none of them seemed to cover my story. So I had to write a reply myself, and ask for your help.
My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 months, we almost were living together. He was always around and so were I.
Fyi, my ex boyfriend and I are now best friends, the spark of the love vanished, but the genuine unconditional support is still there. And that makes my bf a little jealous.
A misunderstanding happened between my lover and I, and I couldn’t stand how distant, cold and numb he became, I know that initially the mistake was mine, and that all he has to think about are mostly situations where I did him wrong. But I realized my wrongdoings, admitted them, apologized, and asked for a chance to just act on what I learnt..
But he decided to back off, I clearly was too much for him to handle at that moment, he started being pretty harsh on me and when he realized it he stepped back …. it has been two weeks since we last spoke to each other. It burns in my chest how bad I miss that guy. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Should I remain silent until he comes back (knowing that I texted him once saying that I miss him and that I would wait for him to get back) ? Or should I go to him now that it has been 2 long weeks.
I acknowledge how wrong my behaviour was towards him, and I now realize what it could do, and why he could not handle it. I do not want to lose him.
I just want to make things right again, I love him.
He was not perfect, he made his mistakes as well, and triggered some of my insecurities, but I guess that we learn. And that’s just how life goes.
Please help me decide, i am very lost.
Be safe, and healthy. xxo
I’m so sorry you are going through this. First, please take care of yourself. These kind of situations bring so much pain, and it can be all the more so painful if you are constantly thinking of how the other person feels, at the cost of avoiding or ignoring your own feelings. Just because you partly blame yourself does not mean that you should bypass your own feelings. I don’t want you to lose yourself in this process. Even if you believe you made mistakes, you are still worthy of being care for and loved. So please take care — please eat well, sleep well, and treat yourself well. No matter how this situation plays out, please promise that you will give yourself the self compassion that you deserve. You are not alone. We are thinking of you and can relate to your story.
As far as your question, I’m afraid I can’t really contribute in terms of helping you to make a decision. I don’t have enough information, but what’s more — I don’t have your intuition, history, or heart. You are the person who knows best (even though it may not feel that way in this moment). Life can be really destabilizing when you feel you have made a mistake. It may even make you feel like you can’t make good decisions or trust yourself going forward. it sounds like to me, though, that you have done your part — you have looked within yourself, communicated your regrets, and apologized. You also do not see your partner in an unrealistic light — you state clearly that the way you interacted toward each other created insecurities in each other.
Trust yourself here to know what the next step is.
And I’ll add one more thing here, that may or may not be applicable to your situation: In my own life, I’ve found that sometimes my obsessive need to get to the next step or to decide how to move forward is simply a manifestation of my anxiety about the situation. It has just meant that I am in the process of feeling all of the feelings that naturally arise when I am in stress or conflict. This can feel very uncomfortable, and I think it’s our natural tendency to try to avoid those feelings by “doing something about it.” Or overthinking about how we can fix the problem or resolve the situation. When in reality, this need to immediately know what to do next is really just how our brain interprets these uncomfortable feelings. Does that make sense?
Please take care. You are not alone.
I love how much you love and care about everyone in this tribe. Your posts are just as incredible as your friendship. I love you sister. xox
I met this boy after having an awfully toxic relationship and a friendship, I was suicidal and I would self harm, I hated myself more than anything but he spent day after day getting me out of that place, he saved my life more than once and gave me confidence and self respect and then I lied to him, I abused him, manipulated and hurt him, we broke up a few weeks ago because I failed to prove I was different and he couldn’t take it and I talk to him everyday and i’ve proved I loved him and that I care but I still have a lot of work to do and he is struggling with suicidal thoughts, self hatred, no self worth, believes himself to be scum and he gets closer to giving up everyday and i’m scared to lose him, he doesn’t think he’ll ever find love again he thinks nobody will ever like him and he says theres no point in staying and the only reason he’s still here is because he’s a coward, he is the most amazing guy i’ve ever met, he is tall and handsome, extremely intelligent and interesting, he’s loving and he’s kind, he helps everyone around him and he works so so so hard and he dense raise his voice or hurt me ever he’s too good and he needs help so if theres anything you think can help with that please let me know
I really enjoyed your article “am I a bad person”, it was very insightful…one of the best that I’ve read.
Do you have more writing that I could explore?
If possible, you could let me know via my email.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed this article Krista! Your email is not shared with anyone; I am the only person who can see it on the backend because it is my website. Irena does not have any personal websites or other writings (she is an attorney). She is a phenomenal person and writer! Thank you for your love and support! xo
This article was super helpful. I have been struggling with this exact thing. I was an unconscious person. I’m still trying to forgive myself for all the drama I caused and all the people I have wronged.
So happy it helped! You are not alone, Candice. I feel the same way about my actions in the past; I get it.
Forgiving myself allowed my past actions and behavior to be the catalyst for a better me and a better life – instead of an irrefutable definition of my worth.
You got this.
Thank you for being you and for being a part of this tribe. xo
Thank you so much for this post Natasha. I was recently directed towards your blog and its helped me so much already.
This post really hit hard.
I have really hurt my best friend recently. She introduced me to her new boyfriend and we all got very drunk – I ended up out of control and said some hurtful things, I tried to make it all about me, (and I know that’s because I don’t have any self worth or love. I am working on that.) I though my god I am a narcissist?
I feel so awful about the whole thing and I hope we can get past it eventually, but her boyfriend now thinks I am the worst person ever.
I am trying to work on loving me and not needing other people to validate me or tell me how great I am.
Thanks for all you do xxx
I’m so happy and honored that the posts have helped in any way. You are not alone, Lisa. I’ve been there before and I can tell you, the fact that you are self-reflecting and feel so awful… THAT is WHO YOU ARE. You can let your actions be an irrefutable definition of your worth, OR, you can ALLOW them to be a lesson, a warning, and a northern star for a better you; a better existence.
You got this, sister. xox
You are truly gifted Natasha! This article can be my biography.
Unfortunately, I did not take a breakup too well even though deep down I knew he did us both a favor. I fell off my white horse over and over due to anger (a hit to my self-esteem that he ended it). Now I’m upset at myself for demeaning myself.
1. I’m ashamed of how I acted (damage to my own
2. Ashamed of the impact my poor judgment and negative actions had on my ex all because I felt rejected by him after loving him unconditionally
It’s difficult to have not only one but two sources of emotional negativity. It’s exhausting.
I’m so glad that you love this article as much as I do, Stacy. Thank you for being here and for being you.
I know exactly where you’re at and have been there too. Will try to write more about this very soon.
You’re not alone. All my love to you, soul sister. xox
I did a horrible thing to one of my friends, I slept with her ex boyfriend who after they broke up continuously tried to undermine her. He said horrible things and continued to spread horrible rumours. They were both my friends from the beginning I saw the good in both regardless of their situation. I had started a little flirting phase with him, she found out and broke down in tears. From that day I promised to never engaged with him again. Until I slept with him as our friend group lost touch. I decided to tell her and she was devastated. She was so emotional and I didn’t even flinch. I never had wanted to hurt her and I can’t tell if I’m remorseful or not. I don’t know if I regret it because it’s just causing me issues or if it’s me generally feeling horrible about hurting her. I know this was a bad decision but I had kept this lie going about our flirting for years while we still remind close. I’ve never understood how I could feel okay with myself, how I can lie for so long and it doesn’t feel bad anymore. Do I deserve to have friends anymore? I can’t even trust myself