I’m not one for labeling people. However, there are some people that tend to behave in ways that are considered toxic. By toxic, I mean someone who tends to behave in ways that cause you to feel emotionally drained, beat up, or upset. Another word for toxic is “unhealthy”. The following are signs of someone who may have toxic characteristics.
Likely, those who are displaying toxic behaviors are struggling with inner turmoil. They may have experienced little or big trauma throughout their lives and this caused them to head down a path where they picked up toxic attitudes and behaviors.
Still, hanging around those that tend to display unhealthy behaviors can cause you to feel upset, drained, imprisoned, unsafe, etc. If they are not willing to address their toxic attitudes or behaviors, you have a choice to make.
It’s not always an easy decision.
For example, let’s say you’re in an intimate relationship with someone who displays unhealthy behaviors. Maybe they belittle and put you down all the time. Or perhaps they get drunk almost every night and can’t hold a job, leaving you to take care of the bills.
You’ve had talk after talk to no avail. They just aren’t interested in trying to change.
The attachment is unhealthy. The longer you stay in the toxic relationship, the more you give away of yourself, your power, self-esteem, and self-worth.
You may back yourself into a corner. You imprison your spirit. Maybe their approval of you is pretty much the only thing that matters. When you don’t get it, you’re extra sad, you self-sabotage, and you resolve to try harder.
Or maybe you just don’t want to hurt them by leaving, so you stay – and are miserable.
It can become a toxic cycle.
To detach from someone who is displaying unhealthy behaviors that are causing you problems isn’t easy, but it may be necessary for you to enjoy peace.
Granted, detaching doesn’t always mean you have to fully cut ties. Plenty of people stay in contact or stick in the relationship, yet they detach in a healthy way. They go on about their life and do their best not to let their loved one’s behavior get them down. Many find the strength to do this at a support group, such as Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous.
If someone in your life is acting in ways that are causing you great distress, it may be helpful for you to learn to lovingly detach. I say loving because you’re learning how to step into YOUR POWER. And, in doing so, you’re not taking their behavior personal. Their behavior is on them, and you’re just not willing to let it affect your emotional well-being anymore.
You could say you become unattached.
Detaching can mean different things to different people. For some people, letting go can cause a lot of anxiety. This is likely the case for those that have loved ones struggling with alcoholism or addiction.
But to live in freedom and joy, it may be necessary.
Detaching can play out in different ways. For one it may mean completely cutting off all contact for a while. For another, it could mean limiting time spent and time thinking about that person.
The best approach is to sit down and discuss your issues with the person you’re struggling with first. If your partner’s drinking behaviors cause them to be mean, lazy, and unreliable, sit and discuss this with them. Let them know how you feel and lay down some boundaries.
If a co-worker bends your ear every day whining about their life and you go home drained every night, let them know how you feel. They may not want to hear it, but you could be doing them a favor. Maybe they’ll try changing some things about their life. If they continue, you can lovingly detach and spend less time with them at work.
The same goes for others in your life that tend to display toxic behaviors. You can be honest with them and share with them how their behaviors are affecting you. Be sure you show compassion, because if you go at them in an aggressive way, it’s likely they’ll get defensive or may be aggressive too.
If you find yourself struggling with being able to lovingly detach with someone or break out of a toxic relationship, it might help to see a counselor. You can work on the underlying conditions there, as well as learn more about setting and keeping boundaries.
Lovingly detaching does not always mean “breaking up”. However, some people do break up, especially when the person displaying the toxic behavior just won’t try to change. Others remain in relationship, but learn to go about their lives without letting their loved one’s behavior bring them down.
Still others find themselves contending with toxic family members. They may or may not cut ties, depending on the level of toxicity or how badly it’s affecting them. If their behavior is increasing mental health symptoms in you, it may be necessary to distance yourself from them.
Or, you can learn to set appropriate emotional boundaries with them, letting them know how you want to be treated and not accepting less than that.
The reality is that some people have learned unhealthy ways of relating or choose to engage in toxic behaviors. It can be painful to be around such people, especially if it’s family. However, you are not powerless in the matter. You deserve to have people in your life where you feel safe, secure, and loved unconditionally.
Keep learning how to set boundaries, how to keep them, and give yourself permission to lovingly detach from those that continue to abuse those boundaries.
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