Toxic Experience or Relationship

Do you minimize your negative past experiences? 

Or do you have selective memory, where you only remember the good from a painful relationship or time in your life? Almost like hyper-positivity with past experiences?

Do you feel tempted to return to these toxic relationships or experiences?

If you’re nodding your head, you are not alone. I see this in many of my therapy clients, and I figured if it is happening with them, maybe you are experiencing this, too. 

In this episode, I am talking about euphoric recall – what it is, why it is dangerous, and how to protect yourself from falling back into old, toxic patterns or relationships.

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

What is Euphoric Recall?

Euphoric recall is a state in which an individual remembers the past with rose-colored glasses. It exaggerates the positive experience and minimizes or fails to bring up negative experiences. 

We often hear this referenced in addiction circles as “romancing the high.” You remember the “fun times” you had when you used to drink or use drugs and stop short of remembering how disastrous it eventually became. 

Euphoric recall can also happen in relationships – especially toxic or narcissistic ones. 

Why Does Euphoric Recall Happen in Toxic Relationships?

To understand why euphoric recall can happen in toxic relationships, we need to look at love bombing, which commonly occurs at the beginning of narcissistic relationships. 

Love bombing is when the other person says all the right things, tells you how amazing you are, you have the most amazing sex, and you cannot believe you ended up with this seemingly perfect person. You feel like all your prayers have been answered. 

This is extremely heady and seductive. It can be like a drug unto itself. 

In the same way we might become nostalgic for our party days, we can become nostalgic for the good in a toxic relationship like this. It can be easy to remember the high points like the romantic night you spent wandering the West Village for hours, after which you made love in a beautiful hotel and all the things. 

Why is Euphoric Recall Dangerous?

When talking about alcohol, drugs, or a toxic relationship, euphoric recall is a slippery slope because it is not based on reality. It is based on a false narrative. 

If reality only consisted of the good stuff, you wouldn’t have stopped using or you wouldn’t have ended the relationship. 

Nothing in life is all good or bad, right? There are nuances and shades of grey in everything. 

When you use selective memory and get caught up in memories like a romantic trip to Paris, the fun adventure you had, and how you’ll never have such hot sex again, it’s like walking back towards the burning house you managed to get yourself out of. 

Euphoric recall puts you in danger of relapsing, whether it is on drugs, alcohol, porn, or even a narcissistic relationship because there is an addictive element to them as well. 

Those of you who have escaped any of those experiences know how hard you worked to get out of them.

This is especially true for those of you who have gotten out of narcissistic relationships. There is usually a ‘hoovering’ phrase where, after you leave, the narcissist tries everything to get you back into the cycle of abuse with them. They need their narcissistic supply, and having the power to make you feel a particular way (usually bad) is their supply. 

3 Ways to Protect Yourself From Euphoric Recall

What can you do if you begin focusing only on the good parts of a negative past relationship or experience? 

Euphoric recall needs a pattern interrupt because while it feels good momentarily, it is not an accurate representation of reality. We do not want euphoric recall to tempt us back to a burning house.

Here are three ways you can interrupt euphoric recall when you notice it happening: 

  1. Play the tape forward

Maybe you find yourself thinking about your amazing, seemingly perfect trip to Paris. Do not stop and linger here. Play the tape forward to what happened next, and do not let yourself off the hook. It is important to take responsibility and own up to the truth of your life experiences. 

The guide, which you can download here, includes a list of questions to answer to help you remember the entire picture as accurately as possible. 

Our day-to-day lives are not a weekend in Paris. Our day-to-day lives are: how well are we understood? How well does someone know or treat us? How cared about are we? The answers to these questions are reality recall and help us interrupt our euphoric recall. 

  1. Make an “ick” list

This tip is from Doctor Ramani. If you are into narcissism, I am sure you have heard of her or watched her videos because she is amazing. 

Doctor Ramani recommends creating an “ick” list where you write down all of the crappy, painful things you dealt with in a toxic relationship. When you notice yourself thinking only of the good, you can pull out this list and remember the painful experiences, too. 

I know making such a list might be painful, especially because we want to move on, but it will help you avoid slipping back into the cycle of abuse. 

  1. Choose an emotionally trustworthy accountability pal

My last thought for you is to have a close pal to call up when you feel yourself experiencing euphoric recall. Pick someone who is emotionally trustworthy and saw you at your lowest, who can lovingly remind you why you should stay the course. 

If this option resonates with you but you’re not sure how to ask a friend to do this, download the guide for a script you can use. 

We Are Always Recovering 

When it comes to addiction and recovery, we are never “recovered.” We are always recovering

I feel the same way about surviving an abusive relationship. You are still the same person despite getting out. I want you to focus on building strength, self-esteem, and boundaries, and having the ability to talk true and be authentic in your life. 

This involves looking forward, but we also cannot forget where we came from. 

I can never forget I am an alcoholic in recovery because if I do, I will put everything I have built in this life in peril. Everything.

What do we say in the rooms? “Anything you put above your recovery, you lose.” I believe this to be true. Do not let time and distance make you forget how much this negative experience wrecked the quality of your life.

In an abusive relationship, it is difficult to create any real quality of life. If you live with an abuser, you are likely walking on eggshells, which makes your home life stressful and unpleasant. 

It’s the same with being any kind of addict, too. Even if it looked like you had it all together, your quality of life was probably suffering. No one knew how much I blacked or passed out because I was incredibly high-functioning.

I came to terms with this in therapy, but I do not forget what my life looked like when I actively drank. I also never take the fact I do not drink for granted because it always requires a certain amount of effort and self-awareness. 

I hope you found this episode helpful and valuable. If you did, please share it with the people in your world, and let me know your thoughts on Instagram (@terricole). Don’t forget to download the guide for an in-depth pattern interrupt for when you find yourself in euphoric recall, and as always, take care of you.

 

¹https://integrativelifecenter.com/euphoric-recall-what-it-is-and-how-to-deal-with-it/

²https://youtu.be/06QEn0oTkMQ?t=217

³ https://blackbearrehab.com/blog/how-does-euphoric-recall-contribute-to-relapse

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  1. Thank you… this kind of thought pattern affects me from my husband's side… it describes his attitude perfectly, I call it delusional optimism… I also believe he is narcissistic. Things have become more difficult since I've started standing up for myself and setting boundaries. I am unable to leave the relationship for a number of reasons, so I have to navigate it while holding onto my identity and self respect as much as possible.

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