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What is a Toxic Relationship, and How to Bounce Back from One?

Inner peace and relaxation
Understanding Toxic Relationships

There are two terms these days that seem overused in describing challenging relationships of all kinds, be it coworkers, friendships, or lovers: toxic and narcissistic. Not every uncomfortable relationship is toxic or narcissistic, but toxic and narcissistic relationships do exist, and often they go hand in hand.

The term "toxic relationship" is pretty new. Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert who says she coined the term in her 1995 book Toxic People, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” (Time Magazine)

To me, that definition sounds pretty simple - as if both sides, if they wanted to, could change, but don’t for various reasons. It sounds like a situation in which two people lack shared values and simply don’t understand how the other operates. Toxic relationships, to me, go further than that. A toxic relationship has the power to seriously effect emotions, creating extreme highs and lows. One or both parties may behave in a manipulative manner or they may be co-dependent. These constant swings in emotion or obsession over behavior cause one or both to produce more adrenaline than in a peaceful, respectful partnership - and that’s why the word toxic feels so appropriate. The relationship has the feel of unhealthy chemicals coursing through the system.

How to tell if you’re in a toxic relationship?

Here are some signs: 1) Everything revolves around them. They like to be in control and generally put their needs first. 2) They are jealous or controlling. Such people are extremely insecure and project their insecurities onto their partner’s behavior. 3) Spending time with a toxic person is draining. You feel like you’re the one making the effort, without getting anything in return. 4) They have few boundaries and don’t perceive yours, let alone respect them. They push in and start fights, take credit for the good and assign blame for the bad. In a love relationship with such a person, you might come away questioning your own strength and values. 5) They isolate you from others. Whether it’s a co-worker manipulating you away from the boss or a lover who takes pot shots at your family, these people seek control. 6) They’re manipulative. In making a decision, they dismiss your opinions and feelings so you serve them and not yourself. 7) You feel trapped - simply because nothing you do is right.

There are many reasons a person might behave in a “toxic” manner - insecurity or physical imbalances (living with a person with unchecked diabetes, for example, might make you the target of mood swings).Not everyone is a narcissist; but if your toxic co-worker, friend or lover has a grandiose self-perception, lacks empathy, feels entitled, and thinks they’re just better than others, you might be right in making such a guess.

The concept of anxiety as a mental state and how it affects thoughts and emotions.
Recognizing Toxicity and Warning Signs

Should I stay or go?

It’s up to you if you stay in such a relationship. There might be dozens of reasons why staying is a good idea. If the behavior is new and you suspect there’s a physical cause, you might stay to try to help the person become aware of the change and take action. Or, if you have a toxic boss, for example, it might take you a while to find another job - so you might have to get along while you put your resume in order. Or if you have a toxic spouse, you might have children together or even share a business. The toxic person in your life might also have wonderful qualities; face it, you walked into this relationship for a reason. Perhaps you work for a genius or a philanthropist, or someone who has much to offer or share. So long as the abuse isn’t physical, you might feel you would gain much more from staying than leaving. But no matter the situation, if you stay, you must be strong and not feel the need for emotional support from this individual because you’re not going to get it.

If you leave, you might be surprised to not feel immediate relief. If you’ve been with this person for a while, you will most likely experience some level of grief - grief for what might’ve been, grief for letting go of dreams or ideals, grief for having to start over again, or even grief for those potential good qualities you now must live without. If you leave, your mind might make you crazy with thoughts that don’t make sense - alternately wishing never to see this person again and wishing you could go running back. You might have to accept that you were attracted to this person for good reasons, and leaving - though it might be better in the long run - is going to hurt.

Of course, if there’s physical violence involved, this person is abusive, not just “toxic.” So, get out fast and find protection.

How Can Hypnotherapy Help?

Whether you choose to stay or go, hypnotherapy can help reverse or neutralize limiting beliefs and the emotional relationship to trauma. It can help you realize what your personal boundaries are, and then make it feel easy and natural to enforce them. It can also help you behave differently around this person - in ways you approve of.

For example, let’s say you have been working for a toxic boss for 5 years. You’ve seen how vindictive the boss is, and you’re afraid to apply for another job because you’re sure you won’t get references. Hypnotherapy can help you see the boss may verbally berate you, but treats everyone the same. It’s not personal. Hypnotherapy can provide you with inner resources that help you cope while you sort things out. It can build your courage to network and really sell yourself in your resume. Combined with career coaching, it can help you follow through in taking daily steps to place yourself in a happier situation.

Or, let’s say you want a divorce, and to move out, you can’t face all that it will entail. As above, hypnotherapy can help change your relationship to the situation and the person so you don’t feel stuck. It can help you follow through on plans, like finding a lawyer, and behave in a way you admire. If there’s a reason you might have to continue seeing this person - like you have a child together - it can help you put the child’s needs first whatever that might mean. It can help you accept that this person will be in your life for years and help you implement strategies for handling interactions with as much grace and ease as possible. It can help you stop blaming yourself for being in this situation, and instead focus on building a new life.

So, while there usually is no quick fix to a toxic relationship, even one that’s over, hypnotherapy can help make those subtle shifts in projection and personality that will make a difference to your self-perception. After all, life sends us all kinds of challenges and problems, it’s how we handle them that matters. If you behave in a manner you approve of, if your health stays strong and your attitude positive, you will feel good about yourself and you can break free.

Support and Comfort represents the role of a hypnotherapist in providing guidance and support.
Find Your Way to Healing

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