WARNING:TOXIC LEVELS HIGH
WARNING: TOXIC LEVELS HIGH
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if some people came with a warning.
We have all encountered them. Some are in our lives and some in our homes or our friendship groups. We may work with them, be related to them or grew up with them.
What am I talking about? TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS.
Yea baby, you know it.
That person who swallows you up, dwarfs you, talks over you, interrupts constantly, tells you what to do and huffs if you don’t listen. Plays the blame game, manipulates, criticises or puts you down. Is negative about everyone, jealous of everyone, can’t be happy for anyone. They may be some of that and more.
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is an unhealthy one sided relationship. It is an emotionally harmful relationship. One where the balance of power is tipped in favour of the toxic person. The other person may feel powerless, have low self esteem (especially if the relationship is a close one and has gone on for a long time).
The feelings of powerlessness are often redirected onto the inner self in the form of mirroring any criticism received. E.g. Jane, the toxic person may comment to Jess that she is easily influenced. Jess internalizes this and without realizing uses it on herself when she finds herself unable to pull away from Jane’s ‘friendship’ as she now distrusts her ability to make decisions. Jess now does Jane’s job for her and continues to erode her own self esteem in other ways. This is the power of the toxicity. Like any contamination – it leaches out, spreading silently.
There are many types of toxic people. Some may be deeply embedded in your life, a parent, a spouse, a boss, ( even your relationship with your child can become toxic).
Or they may be part of your general friendships groups, maybe they come as part of a friendship made with someone else, so you have to accept them. It may be a friend of your partner or spouse. You may have moved and this was the first friendship you struck up.
And people stuck in toxic relationships are not necessarily weak or easily led. You can fall in love and be blindsided. You can meet someone and initially enjoy this fun outgoing party person, your new friend/neighbour may have just had a bad run of luck and things will get better. It’s a slow erosion here, a subtle manipulation there and it probably won’t happen again, you think.
Baseline checklist for toxic relationship assessment.
So here are a few signs for you to think about.
Do you dread seeing them?
Do you lose yourself in their presence and hate yourself afterwards?
Do they lie or exaggerate for effect on a regular basis?
Are they hurtful or dismissive of your feelings but expect you to acknowledge theirs?
Do you find yourself adopting their negative views without thinking?
Do you agree with them just for the sake of peace?
Do you invite them to gatherings more out of fear than because you want them there?
Do you come away feeling agitated, down or a general feeling of dissatisfaction?
Do you hang out with them out of necessity, (because of who they know, or their position/authority overrides yours)?
Do you find it impossible to say no, or create boundaries?
Some of these may ring true. If you feel you are caught in a toxic relationship ask yourself what you are getting out of it? What keeps you tied to this relationship? What is it costing you to stay? What will ending this relationship give you? And ultimately do you want to end the relationship? Because nothing changes until you are ready to change it.
It’s worth pointing out what actually is a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship involves a lot of mutual feelings- respect, communication, trust, support, understanding of the need for space and FUN.
If you are having fun, having a laugh now and then, coming away from this person feeling good about yourself. Then the signs are good.
If you are going through a tough time and you come away from a chat feeling supported – good.
You allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable with this person and feel safe – good.
Things toxic people are good at –
Passive aggressive behaviour.
Criticism/contempt. (May be followed up later by pleas for forgiveness or praise if they sense they have gone too far).
How to spot a toxic person.
The Energy Vampire.
These people suck the life out of you. They always seem to need help/support/advice. Something is always bringing them down and misery loves company so they want you down with them. Everyone has their ups and downs and even a run of back luck, but in this case it seems never ending.
So ask yourself is this a mutually supportive relationship/friendship?
The Drama Drama person.
Now in general these people can be fun and great in a social group as they will always have a fun story to tell. But in extreme – it’s only their story that’s interesting. Something is always going on that’s funnier, more dramatic, more interesting in their lives than anyone else’s. They will dominate conversations with stories of their life. (If you are around them a lot you may actually spot the loop). They don’t even want advice when things are wrong, why should they? Their life is far more exciting. Yours just sucks.
Probably the most dangerous. Usually very clever people. Like Narcissus, they love themselves and believe themselves to be superior to everyone around them. If they do admire someone, then by heaven, you had better admire that person also because the narcissist has deemed them worthy. Their aim is to control. They will build you up with compliments and will pull you down just as quick with criticism. It’s how they roll. They made you they can break you. Also just like Narcissus, they have to have an Echo. Someone who hangs onto their every word, panders to their weaknesses.
Are you some ones Echo?
There are other types, like the habitual liar or exaggerator, or people who see every conversation as an opportunity to show off how much they know, or every conversation is an opportunity to brow beat you into accepting their way of thinking. Whatever you do, avoid talking politics to this person.
Overall these people are exhausting to be around. They bounce around life and people and often have no idea of the effect they have on people. They are just so into themselves they can’t see beyond. Some are harmless irritants others are dangerous users.
But what can you do about them?
The first thing to accept is that you can’t change them. They have to want to change, (if in their eyes there is anything that needs changing in them).
But you can change you.............
The next thing is to accept that this is not a healthy relationship and probably not a happy one either.
So what the hell are you doing in this toxic environment?
What exactly do you get out of this? Do you enjoy being treated with contempt, having your life dismissed, or your feelings run over with hob nailed boots?
Would you treat someone like this? What makes it acceptable for someone to do it to you?
The next step.
Acknowledging your emotions. What goes on inside you when you think of removing this person from your life or distancing yourself from them?
Guilt? He/she doesn’t seem to have many friends. I’ve known him/her since childhood. But it’s my Mum/Dad – they must want the best for me.
Fear? I’m new here, I don’t know anyone else. She/he is my boss I don’t want to lose my job.
Lack of confidence? I don’t make friends easily.
Loneliness? I’m stuck at home with a baby, I don’t see anyone else all day, but him/her.
it’s a tough call. And only you can make it.
Something has to change in you.
Start with being easy on yourself. You don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to protect yourself. You don’t have to feel bad for wanting people around you who will support you and make you feel good about yourself.
If anything look at them and feel sorry for them. One day they will crash and burn if they don’t stop and assess their lives. Often toxic people have very fragile egos. They crave approval. They need attention and like a child it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative, as long as you are focused on them. They need to be in control because they are convinced its either control or be controlled. It’s all they have learned.
However, feeling sorry for them does not mean you have to put up with being treated badly or shodily.
By being honest with them you are doing them a favour. You may lose them as a friend or create initial disharmony in a relationship but if this relationship is to continue in a healthy manner something has to change and if they aren’t willing to accept that their behaviour is upsetting, then at least you know where you stand and can make a decision based on that.
Can you talk to this person honestly and explain that when they behave in a certain way you feel angry/depressed/frustrated/not listened to/demeaned?
Can you toughen up and not take everything personally?
When someone tries to humiliate you in front of others’ it says more about them than you. Call them out on it and ask them in front of people why they feel the need to behave like that. If you don’t think that’s something you could do, then can you avoid being near that person in social occasions or if it’s in your control – not invite them?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – you are not alone. You are not the first person to feel like this. There are many others like you. And guess what? There are lots of lovely interesting fun people out there – if you would give them the chance. Join a group. Create a group. Do something positive and proactive for yourself.
Holding on to a toxic relationship makes no sense. But sometimes the familiar is more acceptable than stepping out of our comfort zone. You may even blame yourself or just accept that because of past experiences you gravitate towards these kinds of relationships. Whatever the reasons for the toxicity in your life – acknowledging it is there is the first step.
Well done. When you are ready to make the next step you will do it.
Like I said earlier, being caught in a toxic relationship has nothing to do with your strength of character. But being caught in a toxic relationship can erode your confidence, drive down your esteem, make you doubt your judgement.
And most importantly…
Remember you are more than the sum of one persons evaluation of you.
Don’t accept negative labels. You are not made of Velcro – so don’t let labels you don’t like stick to you. Brush them off. Do it literally. It helps, I promise.
Love and friendship should leave you warm and fuzzy inside – always.
Love isn’t cruel or destructive, dismissive or demeaning. If you are not thriving, growing and flourishing in your environment, then you’ve built roots in the wrong ground. And just like plants we need the right environment to grow strong and flower.
Are you growing in the right environment for you?
ICF Certified Life Coach.
I’m also a Mum of two beautiful people, partner to an amazing man, cat rescuer, baker, quilter, photographer, reader, ex-teacher, aspiring writer, lover of good food and I’m told I make great coffee.
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Contact me on 0097455313895
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