Everyone has read, heard or knows of internal cleansing programs to achieve a better state of health. Part of the cleansing program requires eradicating toxins from your body, then adding a super nutrient rich diet to fortify the body at a cellular level. Although a physical cleanse is an integral part of reclaiming your physical health, I am referring to other toxins in your life. These toxins, if not faced, and dealt with, in one way or another, can undermine your body, mind, emotions and soul. What I am speaking of is not so easy to eradicate from our life, since they come in the form of interpersonal relationships. I am speaking of, specifically, toxic relationships.
Toxic relationships are akin to an emotional cancer. Toxic relationships can also make you feel like you are going “nuts” in your mind. Toxic relationships can cause physical manifestations over time, especially if ignored, denied or enabled. Try as you might to obtain a happy, healthy existence, if you allow toxic relationships in your life, these things will surely elude you.
Toxic people are everywhere, in our workplace, in our neighborhood, in our own families. Before we start looking for them, let’s define what a “toxic” relationship really is.
Psychology Today, gives these 5 warning signs you are in a toxic relationship:
1. “It seems like you can’t do anything right – The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.”
When this occurs in your life, a tremendous self-esteem issue takes place. You no longer feel safe in being authentic. You begin a process that can take a very long time to undo. Self-confidence surely takes a hit and soon, you may not realize that you are not yourself anymore.
2. “Everything is about them and never about you – You have feelings too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.”
This situation can cause you to feel worthless. It also can cause you to feel that you are wrong all of the time and leave you with utter confusion about what you feel. This is incredibly unhealthy, as you lose touch with your own essence when you doubt yourself, your feelings and the validity of them.
3. “You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person – Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.”
Controlling relationships undermine you in every way. This person absorbs your happiness in life because you have no freedom for yourself. You no longer can be who you want to be, do what you want to do, express the way you want to express. Life is too short to be miserable with a controlling person!
4. ” You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person – You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.”
Again, when you lose yourself, it becomes a rabbit hole of despair. When someone else causes you to question every thought, feeling or expression, you truly lose yourself in their wants, needs and control.
5. “You’re not allowed to grow and change – Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.”
Fear is the culprit here. These toxic people are afraid to see you grow and will undermine your efforts completely. They are so afraid you will “outgrow’ them, they cause you to become stagnant. An exciting, evolving life will elude you with this person.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
My life experience, and in helping others, I have noticed something so incredible. These relationships, that leave us absorbed in the other person, worried about the other person, doing your best to appease this other person, putting their needs above your own, delving into their problems, and being blamed for all of their unhappiness, are sometimes, the most difficult relationships to leave. Why is this?
I have come across so many people in my life that are stuck, and attached to an unhealthy, toxic relationship. I, once, found I was attracting myself to that type of relationship as well. Looking back I see things in a new, healthy light.
The following is what kept me stuck and tied to these people:
1. Obligation/guilt. When someone in your family is the toxic person you are in a relationship, it is terribly difficult to confront and possibly walk away from that relationship. This is especially difficult if this individual is a parent, sibling, or child. We are taught to stay entangled with these family members, no matter what. We all have been informed that, “blood is thicker than water”. I agree. These toxic relationships are possibly the ones we will work harder at resolving. However, sometimes we must love those individuals from afar for our own health, life and safety.
2. Fear of confrontation/Fear of Rejection. Many of us find it extraordinarily difficult to face the toxic person for many reasons. For some of us, we are the people pleasers of the bunch and just loathe having to set boundaries. Even when we know it is in our best interest, we still make excuses and avoid making those necessary changes. We have an innate fear of rejection. The perfect fuel for the toxic relationship seeker.
3. Living in Drama Makes Us Feel Alive: For some, we grew up in an environment that thrived on chaos. I understand this personally, as yelling and drama was the way our family chose to communicate. Instead of becoming a dramatic, I vowed to be the opposite. So I am. As a result, I became a person that attracted the drama to me. Over and over again. Not all of the individuals I have chosen to be in a relationship with (friends or intimate partners), were yellers, but still embodied the characteristics of a toxic relationship for me. I still lacked thriving as an individual and often times, felt emptiness inside my soul. Some out there, are the yellers, are the chaotic kind. Some believe that drama and chaos is real living. I believe it is an addictive behavior pattern, as the chemicals released in the brain and body with drama, are highly addictive. When experiencing intense drama, the stress chemicals are released in the brain, and when the make-up process occurs (the honeymoon phase), there are more significant addictive chemicals released in the brain. One can become quite accustom to feeling this chemical reaction to chaos and become quite dependent upon them.
4. We Are People Pleasers: The title alone here says it all. Many of us that find ourselves entangled in toxic relationships are, in fact, because we are people pleasers. Usually, the people pleasers amongst have a need to make everyone around them happy. I suffer from this phenomenon from time to time. We stay stuck with these people because we are afraid to hurt someone else’s feelings. This is unhealthy and calls for work in the area of boundaries. We have to remember we must protect ourselves as much as please others! It is impossible to totally change from being a people pleaser, in my opinion, but we can learn to choose healthy, functioning relationships in our lives.
5. We are Rescuers: Many of us find ourselves in toxic relationships because we do our very best to rescue these individuals. We just believe, in our heart of hearts, that these people need us in such a deep way. We believe their existence and survival depend on us, so we cannot even think of leaving this relationship. We become co-dependent on this person and entrenched in their emotional drama. We become “needed”, and therefore cannot let go. We become that other person’s lifeline. Fortunately, I am here to tell you, that you can let go, and that person will survive. It is up to the individual to find their way, and become self-sufficient. These people will suck the life force and energy right out of you! You have to believe that taking care of yourself is your priority, and they will learn to live fine without you enabling them!
So, you have discovered the entangled toxic relationships you are enmeshed in. You recognize what it has done and continues to do to you. What now? How do you, with love, set boundaries and move beyond this unhealthy attachment? Here are some examples:
1. Open Your Eyes and Stop the Denial: – How do you feel after spending time with this person? Do you feel alive, happy, energized? Or are you drained, tired, sick feeling after being around this individual? Do you feel obligated to spend time with this person, or you are afraid of their reaction if you choose otherwise?
2. Identify What You Are Getting Out of It – What are the benefits, the “pay-off” you are receiving, even if hidden? Contemplate this. In the end, we all do what we want to do, so think about why you are staying stuck in this relationship. All relationships, even toxic ones, have hidden benefits. Does this person make you feel attractive and sexy? Do you feel sorry for this person, so you put their needs before your own? Do you have guilt over your life and so helping someone else at all cost is the payoff? Does this person remind you of a parent and so you feel comforted in helping them?
3. Put Yourself First: Find healthy ways to nourish yourself. What are the activities, hobbies and passions you once enjoyed and brought happiness and contentment in your heart? When we become dependent on another person, usually we put our own joys on hold, and therefore do not engage in the things that will fill us up! Find what it is that brings you immense joy and do that!! Often!
4. Get In Touch With Healthy Friendships: When making such a big change, support is crucial to stay the course. If this has been a life long pattern, it will feel scary and strange to go through this process. Find support with friends, family, support groups, therapy, counseling, etc. Look for resources such as online groups. There is a plethora of information and easily to locate online! Get informed and become aware of people as you continue to grow.
5. Heal Yourself: Some deep work has to be done here. We all have healing to do in life, and if you are experiencing a pattern of toxic relationships, then some work has to be done to reveal why you are attracting this to you. Where are the root causes? Acknowledging this pattern is the first step in recovery. Identify your patterns by taking stock of your past relationships. Some professional help from a coach, counselor or therapist is beneficial. At least know this, you are worth having healthy, loving, functional relationships in your life from this point forward. You deserve it, and so do I!
May your life continue to blossom in their area of relationships, and may you seek healthy, loving people to share you journey!