We have many relationships in our lives through family, work and friends but there comes a time when the feelings towards a relationship start to overrun your life.
Calling out toxicity in a relationship is the bravest move. Your personality may naturally feel responsible to make the relationship work, give the benefit of the doubt or always be the one trying hard to make it work.
Give yourself permission to say NO or in your case NO THANK YOU
Defining a toxic relationship
When a relationship is affecting you psychologically or even psychically such as your mood changes, your reaction, your train of thought and concentration. When feelings of threat, being fearful or the you become so overwhelmed by their presence in your life, then you have a possible toxic relationship in your life. One of the ways to note if a person is affecting you is to do a psychical check. When you’re talking about this person you may note you make excuses for them, dismiss their behaviour or even give them the benefit of the doubt. However, what is your body saying? Are your shoulders up, is your head protruding forward, are you being more animated with your arms when speaking and even to the detail of your breath or holding your breath and blinking rates can be considered. If your body is responding on high alert then your reptilian brain is speaking on your behalf. Saying to you ‘don’t trust them’, ‘you could get hurt’ and’ be careful’. When slouching this can be interpreted as feeling down with low mood but then where is the position of your head? You may find your head is forward, your ears are alert and all your background senses are alert. Even reading this you may be noticing things that you do. So, let’s call it out. There is some one in your life that your conscious mind is tolerating but your body is finding a threat on be half of the subconscious mind, all the way from your nervous system to your inner thoughts.
Protecting yourself from a toxic relationship
Identifying the toxic relationship in your life it is important to give yourself permission to look after you. You do not have to accept this behaviour in your life; you have choices. One of the methods to start making psychological space for you is to hold an image or metaphor in your head where they are safely away from you. This might be an image of a glass door shut and them in the garden or looking out of a window and they are driving past in a car. The importance of this image is to give yourself psychological safety where only you can invite a person into your thoughts, your space. Having them in the image where you can see them gives you control. If we remove them then thoughts of where are they, can they be behind me, come into the room. Making a safe space requires identifying the person, the feelings and your power not to invite them into your life.
In psychotherapy you can begin to remove this person from their hold of you in life but for this article, this method is to identify and quickly start building a safe space by removing them from close proximity.
Now let’s tap into the feelings that this relationship has over you. Where in your body do you feel your emotions when speaking or thinking about this person.
Often reference to the stomach or the pit of the stomach are given or a churning feeling or even a sinking feeling.
This is your body on high alert. That little child in you who could read when something was wrong before you grew up and learnt to ignore, forget or override this intuitive feeling. If your body is talking to you through a powerful physical feeling, then listen. Home in on the feeling and question if its an historic way you used to feel as a child and what’s in that feeling such as scared, frightened, hurt or not trusting. This is an authentic feeling and needs to be acknowledged, given respect. Its only then can you process if the threat is real or if you feel threatened like you did when you were a young child. From this understanding you can begin to rebuild trust in yourself and all that rational thought will just have to rest a little as your body and mind begin to get in cinque. Your resilience in life has got you this far and without your body sensing danger or your mind looking out for you, many an accident could have happened.
So now it’s time to listen to body and mind again and get in cinque.
If someone in your life is giving you psychical responses that are negative, scary or threatening then take note. Give your self-permission to make yourself safe.
Boundaries being identified is the next step. Low boundaries or should I say ‘invaded boundaries’ have probably helped develop this toxic relationship in your life to continue, so let’s take stock.
If invited by the person to get into a game of blame or shame then you have the power to say NO. You do not have to play and can agree to disagree or even say ‘thank you for that information; I did not know that’ and even walk away.
Spot the passive aggressive behaviour and not let it into your world. Spot the ‘familiar’ as it has a way of seeping through boundaries without even realising. This behaviour is very quick to come crashing into your life. The minute you feel churned up from the person speaking to you, maybe even with smiles or tears and a little bit of sugar to confuse you even more, your boundaries have been stepped over or penetrated. Passive aggressive people struggle when called out and you ask “What do you need”, “How can I help you” or even “Can I just clarify what you are saying”, as these lines do not go side by side with the game. If you’re not crying, worrying or apologising, as the game requires especially from those who are forceful in their opinions or thoughts, you may have just learnt to step away.
You can not change someone but the one thing you can change is your response. Not investing your time, your trust, and your friendship is in your power. You can still give respect; you can give love but you do not have to tolerate behaviour that is hurting you emotionally. Making a safe space physically can of course help but also making a safe space psychologically can impower you to move forward with having healthy relationships in your life and nurturing supportive friendships, not toxic ones. Putting your needs and your emotions as a priority or at least equally valued is important in any relationship.