Tools to begin the process of letting go
Toxic relationships can come from any source – mother-daughter, romantic, work-place relationships. Likewise, there are many different ways that a relationship can be toxic. Some people can be endlessly demanding; some are even manipulative or cruel. Whatever the relationship, or however the toxicity appears, it can be negative, unhealthy and draining. Sometimes, the best path to self-care is finding a way to let go of a such a relationship – even though it’s difficult.
If toxic relationships aren’t addressed, they can affect your emotional and even your physical health. As we now know, the immune system residing in the gut directly communicates with the brain. So, the stress of a toxic relationship can compromise your immune system – affecting everything from cognitive function to digestion.
While it can be hard to know if a relationship is truly dysfunctional, there are ways to identify a toxic relationship.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix for a toxic relationship. However, there are strategies and patterns you can use to begin to set boundaries, care for yourself and heal.
Identify the difference between “toxic” and “abusive”
While every relationship that is abusive is toxic, every relationship that’s toxic isn’t abusive. It’s important to identify if you are being abused because abuse calls for immediate action. In case of abuse, a person needs to remove themselves from the abuser and end the abuse.
Toxicity in a relationship, however, can sometimes be managed. A person can be toxic to you by demanding that you listen to them endlessly talk, every day. While that’s harmful, it’s not abusive.
Concentrate your mind on what you can do, not changing the other person
It’s easy to focus your energies on how you might alter the other person’s behavior or thought patterns. You may have even tried different tactics over time. For instance, through empathy and unconditional support, you hoped they might stop questioning your level of friendship. Perhaps you even tried setting gentle boundaries, believing your friend would take the hint.
But sometimes, normal efforts to repair a relationship don’t work. Then, it’s imperative to turn all your emotional and mental energy back to the one person you can control: yourself.
Find common ground for support
Having support from other people is crucial, but this doesn’t always have to be a friend. You can also look to support groups that fit your situation. There are groups online or in person, or you can read a self-help book. Dr Joe Dispenza’s Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself is about creating the life you want for yourself.
Whatever your source of encouragement, find a place where you see your desired reality reflected back to you. You need a place where you can feel supported in your decision-making and your needs. Guided meditations centered on change can also be helpful in supporting your journey.
Write down your reasons and inspirations
No matter what amazing insight you come across, you may completely forget it in the hectic pace of daily life. It’s easy to fall back into old habits when it comes to toxic relationships. Writing down your goals and the reasons behind your actions is important. This process helps make you more mindful, ensuring you will continue to move in the right direction.
The act of writing something down also helps your brain recall the information more easily. Many people use sticky notes on a bathroom mirror to keep focused. You can also keep a journal or use notecards next to your bed.
Minimize or stop contact
No matter how toxic the relationship, the hardest part may be the letting go – even in small increments. That’s why it’s important to set yourself up with a strong foundation in the previous steps before taking this one.
Once you are supported, decide how you can set a boundary. Do you want to take a week off? Perhaps reduce the amount of time, slowly, that you talk to this person. However you want to do it, set up a game plan. This way, you can have a response ready if the person challenges your boundaries – which they probably will.)
A simple reason such as, “I’m overwhelmed lately, and feel like I might be getting sick” is fine. If the person pushes, you can listen, repeat yourself, and then use an excuse to get off the phone. “Sorry, E. is calling me, I have to go.” Being prepared will help you maintain your boundaries. If you feel guilt creeping in, refer back to your books or your support network.