CA086: Emotionally draining vampires - dealing with toxic relationships
Last week we gave you the ultimate guide to recognising toxic people and relationships. Now it’s all very well recognising toxic people and the characteristic behaviours of these relationships, but it’s not much good if you can’t deal with them. So this week we thought we’d look at those emotionally draining vampires and the process of dealing with toxic relationships. “You let go of a toxic and unhealthy relationship not because you are weak, not because you no longer love the other person, but because you are strong enough to understand that there are times when two people will be a lot happier if they go separate ways than if they stay together.” Dealing with toxic relationships and people So how do you deal with toxic relationships, toxic people and their behaviour? By literally detoxifying! Or as the dictionary would define it: “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.” And we like that definition of ‘detox’ for that is sort of what you are doing here. Taking time out: “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of the toxic source” (in this case the person). It’s a process of distancing and this can take the form of mental, physical or emotional detachment. But what if these are people that you can't necessarily extract from your life or your situation? So this could be someone you work with, or a member of your family. And in this instance, the approach would be about how we manage these people and their behaviours. Essentially a process of controlling what you can and eliminating what you can’t. We’ve identified 15 ways that can help you can do just that. 15 ways to deal with toxic relationships or emotionally draining vampires Realise that you are more in control than you might believe. Toxic people will typically focus on problems rather than solutions. And what is it that they want from you in that situation? They want you to join in this conspiracy, so you can typically find yourself listening to these negative people and being sucked in to their negativity. To overcome this, set limits in your mind to this type of behaviour and then at the end of that time distance yourself from the behaviour or person. You can combine this with another useful technique, which is to ask the person how they would solve the problem they are complaining about. This redirects their attention in a more productive way and makes them more responsible for their actions and resolving them. Rise above the behaviour. Rather than reacting to the irrational behaviour, or finding yourself getting caught up in the emotion of it all, view it as an experiment with you as the experimenter and the toxic person as the subject of the experiment. See in your mind if you can identify some of the behaviours we identified last week – as a scientist noticing and noting down the subject’s response. This will keep you more distanced from the toxic behaviour and less likely to be drawn into the drama. It’s a sort of emotional distancing. So in this dispassionate state you can have thoughts in your mind like ‘O look, there’s that person behaving, negatively - or look they’ve just tried to manipulate or exaggerate the situation. And if you want to get really scientific, you can mentally observe your own behaviour – observing how you might go about trying to justify your own behaviour, for example. Establish your limits. Just because you live or work with a person doesn’t mean you have to put up with every aspect of their behaviour. The first key to this is to recognise a toxic person’s behaviour patterns and then you can go about establishing what you do or don’t put up with. In any situation we interact more with some people than others (often on the basis of how much we like that person’s company) – so have limits on the amount of interaction time you’ll have with that person and then stick to it. This can be quite tricky but do it consciously and on the basis of you being in charge of it, as almost certainly your limits may well be probed or tested. Stop trying to please the person and pretending their behavior is ok - in your attempts to get them out of their mood (whatever that is) or gee them up. Toxic people recognise that decent people like you will go to great lengths to ‘please’ and if your attempts aren’t working or lasting long then maybe it’s time to stop. So distance yourself from them and come back to them when their mood has shifted. Don’t continually justify your actions. In inappropriate toxic behavior the person will often project their own feelings onto you. For example, they might say – Why are you in a bad mood today, when you certainly felt you weren’t in a bad mood. In this situation remember - you don’t need to justify or defend yourself or deal with a false accusation. Be aware of the characteristics of a person’s toxic behavior. In so doing, you can spot more easily the manipulations and can name them. That way there will be less chance of you tying yourself up in knots trying to please them or excessively defending your actions. Know that it’s them – not you! We’ve said it already, that toxic people like to project guilt or imply you’ve done something wrong and guess what, as decent people we feel that guilt. But it’s important to understand this is not about you in this instance, it’s about them projecting their feelings onto you. Evaluate the relationship – ultimately, in any relationship you need to see if it’s doing you more harm than good. So evaluate the relationship, embrace the ideas that come from this evaluation and take action on that. If it really isn’t good for you, chances are you’ll know that on some level. Discuss your feelings with the other person – Tell the person how you feel in an assertive (not aggressive) way. So for example you could say something like: “When you do/say/act ________, I feel ________. What I need is ___________ (and here you would lay out the boundaries you would like from that person). It’s also helpful to add something such as - the reason why I am sharing these feelings and needs with you is _____________. (Because I love you, I want to build a healthy relationship with you.) Set and maintain your boundaries. Once you’ve set those boundaries. Maintain them. In the end, this is a process of self-preservation, so focus on taking care of yourself. Find ways in which you can protect yourself from their toxic behaviour, such as those we’ve already outlined. Take time for yourself – toxic behaviour can be exhausting, particularly in work situations where we feel obliged to deal with that person in a professional manner. So take time to recuperate and excuse yourself if need be to give yourself the breathing space to recharge your batteries. If need be - distance yourself from that relationship. This can be physically, emotionally or mentally distancing yourself. Ultimately, if their behaviour towards you doesn’t change, or you find it just too difficult, release them by letting the relationship go – this may be difficult and indeed painful but you may just need to move forward with your life and give yourself room for healthier relationships which will encourage you to grow. And finally, if it’s an abusive relationship, seek professional help. Episode 86 of The Changeability Podcast Hear us discuss all this and more in episode 86 of the Changeability Podcast and be certain to catch last week’s episode on ‘How to recognise toxic people and relationships’. After all, if you can’t spot it, how can you deal with it? Until next time.