Saving Ourselves From Toxic People

Not always easy, but always liberating.

As we change and grow in our lives we may come to realise that some of the people around us are not good for us anymore. Maybe we’ve let them boss us around, belittle us and put us down, maybe we end up drinking too much or taking drugs and doing things we don’t really want to when we are around them. Perhaps their beliefs and behaviours don’t fit with ours anymore and we feel uncomfortable in certain conversations and situations now.

Sometimes we may have hung on in there because we feel sorry for them, or think we can “fix” or “save” them. We hope that they will eventually wake-up and we can still retain our relationship, that we will both be on the new path.

Ask yourself:

How do I feel after I have been around this person?

If it’s not good perhaps the time has come to change. You may not have to do anything dramatic you could simply lessen contact, distance yourself, limit time with them, or be more mindful of what happens when you are with them, what are the triggers that lead to you feeling bad about yourself, and learn how to avoid them in the future.

A few years ago I had a situation with someone where I often came away feeling pretty dreadful about myself. I didn’t understand for ages what was going on but as my awareness grew I realised that it was because I often ended up talking about some of the painful and unpleasant things from my childhood. When this happened it triggered feelings of shame, hurt, feeling defective and not good enough.

After making a decision to be more mindful of what was going on in my interactions with them,  I spent an evening with them and some of their friends. Driving home I felt awful and I saw that I had allowed myself to be lured into talking about some difficulties from my past, yet again. I felt exposed and ashamed; “Poor Mairi with her fucked up childhood.”

This was to be the last time.

I realised that often when I was feeling pretty strong and good about myself they would somehow wangle in a question about my childhood and off I would go talking about it. We could speculate about their reasons for doing this till the cows come home, but its not important, the crucial thing is what happened to me and how I then reacted.

The questions scratched my “Poor Me” sore, which triggered me onto a well worn path I had trodden for years, gathering sympathy from people. But I was waking up to the fact that this was keeping me stuck there. Yes “poor me” it was awful at times, some pretty horrible and unpleasant stuff went on, but I was not there anymore and I was trying to move on from it. Allowing myself to be hauled back there was not helping.

I made a pact with myself; I would not allow myself to be triggered in that way, and I would avoid going down the slippery slope into childhood stuff. 

I started by brushing off questions about my family like a broken record going over and over. “They are fine,  Oh that’s too boring to talk about, they’re the same as usual, all’s well actually.”

I’m pretty sure my friend felt uncomfortable, I certainly did because I was changing the dynamic of our relationship and I had no idea what the outcome might be, but I did know that I wanted change so much I had become willing to take the risk.

It worked. Not only did I leave these interactions feeling better about myself I also felt immensely proud of myself for changing.

Now I can see that friend and their questions as a gift. I needed to move on from the past, to let it go so I could embrace my future more. I needed help and it came in the form of this situation. I would never have chosen that, but I am so grateful now that it came.

Change can feel very uncomfortable, we are entering the land of the unknown, it’s different territory and we don’t know exactly how things work there, but oh boy is it better than staying stuck in the same old land of pain, discomfort and unhappiness. This new land eventually comes to feel more familiar, we get a handle on how it works so that in the end we don’t even know it’s the new place, it feels so normal.

Do you wish you could move to a new place in some of your relationships?

Do you hate the way you feel around certain people?

Are you ready to accept the challenge this offers you, the possibility for change?

If this feels confusing and too difficult to tackle on your own, you could book a free consultation with me here. It is a chance to discuss what is going on, where you would like to get to and how I might help you get there.

“Nothing is predestined. The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.”

Ralph Blum