Human beings are hard wired for social interaction. We crave the feeling of belonging to the point that sometimes we may even overlook a person’s bad behavior to avoid feeling like we’re alone. But toxic relationships can do way more harm than good. Here’s how to kick those people to the curb.
Step 1: Realizing Your Own Worth
The first step, is realizing that your time and your presence is worth something. I have a mantra I share with the clients in my therapy practice – “It’s a privilege to be in my presence.” A saying I’ve written about before. This saying is so true and believing it sets up a measuring stick for how the people in your life are treating you.
What this saying means is that your presence is worth something and that anyone who wants to have a relationship with you has to recognize that. If they don’t, you remove your presence from the equation. But think about what it means for something to be privileged? Think about something or someone you value and then think about how you treat that object. Do you take care of it? Are you gentle with it? Do you place it in high regard? This is how another person should be treating their relationship with you!
Step 2: Their emotions are NOT your FAULT or your RESPONSIBILITY
Another of the rules I have for my clients is they are never, ever responsible for another adult’s emotions. We choose all of our emotions every single moment of every single day. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, because most of the time we simply react to daily events without much thought. But at any time, with the realization that our emotions are all under our own control, we can change what we feel.
When someone does something we don’t like, we can choose to be angry, or we can choose something different. When someone says something mean to us, we can again choose to be angry, or choose to let it roll off our backs and move on. We have that power.
The thing is, sometimes toxic people will blame you for “causing” their uncomfortable emotions. This blame is a manipulation strategy to keep your relationship always on their terms. They may use threats such as if you do x, I’ll never speak to you again, or I’ll have to do whatever with someone else. Because they have trained you to believe that without them, you would have no one. Hold that one up to the evidence. Is it really true?
Step 3: Expect Them to Act Out When You Cut Them Out
Toxic people thrive off of being able to manipulate others. They do this through behaviors such as blaming, complaining, nagging , etc. It’s all designed to get you to be the bad guy and come running back to them willing to do whatever it takes to appease them. When you make up your mind to cut them out, expect some push back.
Your toxic person may react with anger, but remember they are choosing this anger. You are choosing to be healthy, and you have every right to do so. This is the time to remain assertive, calm and stand your ground. By giving in to the anger, you are rewarding this toxic behavior. You are also not treating yourself like a person whose presence is a privilege to be around.
Step 4: Make Room For Healthy Relationships
In order to have healthy relationships, you have to surround yourself with people who know what a healthy relationship is. Removing the toxic person from your life opens room in your life for a person who can treat you with the respect you deserve.
Here’s an exercise you can try: Find a notebook or piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On one side, you’re going to write “I’m making room for a new, healthy relationship.” Then sit quietly for a moment and see what kind of thoughts come to mind. Whatever they may be, write them down in the second column. Then repeat, “I’m making room for a new, healthy relationship” in the first column, and whatever thoughts you have in the second. Through this exercise you’re priming your brain to accept this statement as a truth and processing through any negative thoughts that may arise that might stop your progress.
Step 5: Limit Your Exposure
Sometimes the toxic people in our lives are family members and can’t be completely cut out. In this case, it’s important to limit your exposure and plan for time spent with this person. You may need to set limits for yourself, such as I’ll only stay for 30 minutes or if a certain behavior goes on, then I will take a break, go home, etc. Your number one goal is to protect your own mental health and you give yourself permission to do this ahead of time. A good idea may be to rehearse your exposure before hand so you know what to do and to reduce any anxiety. Just remember, when people treat you like your presence is not a privilege, it is completely within your right to remove your presence.