Toxic people are of a wide variety – some are just fleeting interactions while others are relationships, whether intimate or not, that we have held on for a little too long. Toxic relationships can lead us into a depth of despair – clinging on for more, even when more isn’t available. This holding on causes us to sink rather than swim, and we deserve more thriving connections in our lives. It can become so easy to give all our energy to others, but that leaves us feeling depleted both mentally and physically.
Toxic people, whether they act in overt cruelty, passive aggressiveness, or out of sheer pleasure – never want to take responsibility for their actions. They either dismiss, deny, or place blame on others and refuse to admit they have done anything wrong. For those of us who are willing to admit when we’re wrong, it can be hard getting blamed by those we care about and we can accidentally take on that blame – a weight that does not need to be carried.
Peg Streep, author and co-author of 11 books and writer for Psychology Today, provides an effective strategy for stepping out from underneath the toxic people in our lives:
- Recognize the traits within yourself that can make you an easy target.
- Explore your reactions. Examine the ways in which you overreact or underreact.
- Trust your gut instinct. You have a right to what you feel, and if you typically handle the situation with the toxic person by making excuses for them or rationalizing their behavior, you need to stop.
- Be aware of the sunk cost fallacy. Our time, emotion, effort, or even money tends to make us believe that we put in too much to give up on our investment. However, this is faulty thinking because no matter our efforts, if we are not receiving it back then it’s not an investment.
- Recognize the power of intermittent reinforcement. This means that when the toxic person randomly says or does something nice, you believe that it’s still worth holding onto. Don’t fall into this thinking. Random acts do not make a pattern.
- Guard your boundaries. Know what you want to say and how to react the next time your toxic person does something.
- Anticipate push-back or retaliation. Especially if this relationship has been going for a long time, expect for the toxic person to push back or even blame you.
- Do not normalize the abusive behavior. Abuse of any kind is never okay. Stand up for yourself and tell the person to stop, or cut them out.
You deserve love and respect, for thriving relationships. Stand up for yourself and do not let other people control you. The people that really care about you and mean to be in your life will recognize their behavior, apologize, and stop. If they don’t, they are only hindering you in your journey to a happy and fulfilling life.
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