After psychological abuse, many people feel that they’ve become a “magnet” for toxic people. I want to be clear that nobody “attracts” or “deserves” abuse, ever. But here are a few reasons you might see this pattern, and some ways to switch things up:
1) The most obvious answer is that you are probably a trusting, compassionate person. But the thing is, there are plenty of trusting & compassionate people who don’t run into this problem. So what’s the key? Boundaries. A big open heart can sometimes place love before self-respect, but healthy boundaries help to ensure balance. So many of us feel guilty or bad for standing up for ourselves, but we must learn to trust and honor our own feelings, even if they’re negative.
2) Narcissistic abuse takes a huge toll on a person’s self worth. Deep feelings of inadequacy and rejection cause the survivor to desperately seek out support and validation. In the immediate aftermath, this naturally attracts people who prey on vulnerable populations (this can happen online, with controlling friends, and even in spiritual communities). I highly recommend finding a non-judgmental therapist trained in emotional abuse, so you can start building a safe relationship with someone who is professionally trained to help.
3) Sociopaths naturally cause a lot of unresolved anger in the target. Between the cheating, the lying, and the humiliation, there’s a lot of leftover blame (and understandably so). But blame breeds resentment, which leads to all sorts of other personality transformations: grandiosity, paranoia, black & white thinking, etc. As we learn to release old betrayals (through acceptance, indifference, forgiveness, or whatever works best for you), our hearts start to open again, and we discover the deep pain that lives under the anger. This naturally attracts people on the same path, who are beginning to dabble in vulnerability, rather than reactivity.
4) This is the biggest one. Long after the abuse has ended, there are likely old beliefs of “not enough” or “unlovable” sitting under the surface. This is why survivors unknowingly keep trying harder and harder in their lives—accomplishing, people-pleasing, and proving themselves. The underlying current of this approval-seeking behavior is that you are somehow “not enough” without it. And unfortunately, this naturally attracts people who keep reaffirming this internalized belief. Exploring self-love will heal these wounds and fill old unmet needs, so that we stop seeking resolution from external factors. No job or relationship or accomplishment will ever heal the wound of betrayal, or the rejection of self. When we realize that we don’t need to “do” anything—that we are loved completely as we are, we stop trying so hard, and start attracting others who have found this peace.
As we do this work, we find our personalities slowly start to restore (or perhaps come alive for the first time). We stop holding ourselves hostage, we surrender our illusion of control. We stop trying to figure out “what’s wrong with me”, and realize that question is the entire root of the problem. Our sense of humor returns, things feel lighter, and life doesn’t seem so serious. We find that missing confidence from the love and peace in our own hearts.