Toxic relationships…you may have heard news reports and articles relating to the term or more generally in the media, but what is a toxic relationship and how would you know if you are in one? You may have read or heard that these occur in relationships with a partner however it is important to distinguish that a toxic relationship can take many forms, it does not have to be a partner. These relationships can occur with friends, family or co-workers to name a few.
Toxic relationships are characterised by certain behaviours displayed by the other person that may not be typical of a ‘normal’ person. Their behaviour may make you feel like you are worthless, you are nobody and you can’t do anything right. A person displaying these behaviours is usually referred to as a ‘narcissist’ meaning a person with an elevated sense of self-worth. But how can you tell how this behaviour differs from that of a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship is built on mutual trust, love and care with that person supporting you and your decisions throughout life. While you may have disagreements and arguments, these will be resolved between both of you through communication and letting each other give your opinion on why something has upset or hurt you. It is normal to have disagreements within any relationship however when this happens within a toxic relationship the approach by the other person can be very different.
Do you ever feel as though your thoughts are not being heard, as though the person does not understand why you are hurt? This is just one way that a narcissistic person may act when confronted with something that reflects their behaviour. Do you feel like you can be yourself around that person or do you feel you need to change in some way for their approval? This could be not seeing certain friends or not doing something that has upset them, whether this is justified or not. This is another way that a narcissist may act to control you and your behaviour. They may also make you feel like everything is about them, as though your opinion doesn’t even count or is totally invalid. You may also feel you cannot enjoy happy moments with this person, for example if you have had a job promotion. This person may react negatively to this and make you wonder why you even thought you should put yourself forward, in their eyes you aren’t good enough anyway. This is all done in an attempt to control your behaviour, not giving you any support with your ambitions or goals. This is not normal in a loving relationship.
One of the most important things is to know is that it's not your fault, you cannot control another person’s behaviour and some people play on the element of control and power in a relationship, whatever form that may take. Toxic techniques used by the other party may lead you to feel like something that happened is your fault. This may include consistent lying or questioning the things that you are saying, especially if this is aimed at their behaviour. You may even find conversations redirected to things you may have done in the past, all to take away the blame from themselves. These are all common techniques used to control the situation and you as a person while ensuring that no blame or wrongdoing is put on them. Bringing up past events and using them against you is unfair and this can also be the case for things you have done before you even met that person. Using past events to hurt you and control you is not acceptable and this should not happen in a healthy, loving relationship.
Possibly one of the most hurtful things about these people is that they are usually seen as a 'good person’ and they may even have many close friends and relationships in which they do not behave in the way they do with you. This is a technique used to ensure that they are seen as a normal person. You might find yourself asking questions like, "how could anybody see them as anything else? Right? Maybe it's just me that causes this, maybe I'm the bad one?" This is exactly their intention in order to portray themselves as a ‘model citizen’, somebody who people would look up to and believe to be lovely; in actual fact they are a narcissist.
The person will most likely not behave the way they do with you to these other people as this would blow their cover. One thing about narcissistic people is that they do not want to be discovered for what they are and may try anything to avoid this happening. This could also include making up things about you and calling you ‘crazy’ or saying ‘my friends think you are crazy’ in an attempt to make everything about them and them being the victim…again. Even though it is you that is experiencing the pain and hurt.
The impact of a toxic relationship can be not just mental, it can be emotional and physical too. This can tarnish future relationships with people in general, not just partners. But again, it is important to know that it is not your fault and that there are many loving, caring people in the world who would not treat you in such a negative way. If you feel ashamed or wrought with regret it is important to explore these feelings constructively so that you don't carry this negativity into future relationships. After all, you are worthy of loving and caring relationships, regardless of what you may have been told or how you may feel.
Hypnotherapy can help with overcoming feelings of shame, upset and regret which you may feel either within the relationship or after you have left. It can be difficult to talk about events that have happened around toxic relationships however in hypnotherapy many techniques do not require you to talk about an event which may be of some comfort. Instead they help you to explore your thoughts around the event, perhaps looking at anxiety you feel around the environment or situation, in an effort to overcome this. One example of this is ‘Thought Field Therapy’ which involves tapping certain points on the body associated with negative emotions, it is similar to acupuncture but does not use needles. This therapy then allows you to think of an environment or situation without feeling such intense negative emotions around it. This means that you can start to move on with your life without holding onto the negative effects of that relationship.
Just remember, nobody should be allowed to have such a negative impact on a person and you can let go of the pain and hurt.
· Sherrie Carter. 2011. The Hidden Health Hazards of Toxic Relationships. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201108/the-hidden-health-hazards-toxic-relationships. [Accessed 14 September 2017].
· Rosemary Sword and Philip Zimbardo. 2013. Toxic Relationships. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-time-cure/201308/toxic-relationships. [Accessed 14 September 2017].