What to Do When You’re in a Toxic Relationship (Even if You Can’t Get Out)
A toxic relationship can seem impossible to escape.
Like a leech that has latched onto you, it refuses to let go. That is, until it has reminded you how worthless you are, and drained you of all energy.
Throughout my life, there has been more than one occasion where I found myself trapped under the same roof, or in the same workplace, of toxic associations. So, I can attest to their power and influence.
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Negative associations can embed themselves so deeply into our lives that they may seem impossible to escape. But there is a way, even if you can’t distance yourself from the person now, by re-balancing the mind and shifting the dynamic.
Every bad association offers a different dynamic, but this is how I’ve done it. I hope it can be of use to you.
Toxic relationships come in all shapes and sizes, from the family member who seems to have taken issue with our basic existence, to the colleague who targets us for belittlement, to the spouse who’s revealed to be someone other than we thought.
How to Rise Up in a Toxic Relationship
The issue with bad associations is that sometimes we’re placed (or end up) in a situation where we can’t get out. Whether it’s at work, at home, or in a social circle filled with friends we could never imagine abandoning, sometimes the most common advice for toxic relationships won’t work. Leave them, get out — you get the idea.
We teach people how to treat us.DR. PHIL
There are different ways to approach the situation. However, I’m a firm believer that whether or not it’s someone else’s fault, we rarely get anywhere by harping on what we think has been done to us. If you reflect on what they’re doing to you, and how much you despise them for it, you’re only going to bring yourself down further.
What you need to do is… rise up. It’s about doing everything you can to better yourself, rather than fantasizing about changing someone else. That’s because, in most cases, you’re only wasting your time. There are three main steps to doing that in a toxic relationship:
If you strip down the issue to its essence, negative associations are what “information” you’re absorbing through your senses, how long it remains, how deeply it’s embedded, and whether it’s challenged by another belief.
However, this information doesn’t just come from our interactions with other physical people, it also comes from media such as books, movies, TV, podcasts, and so on.
Negative associations have a way of “tipping the scales” of our state of being. They take the life out of us because they get into our head and change our self-talk to something demoralizing. (For most of us, our self-talk isn’t very healthy to begin with.) So, if you tip the scales right back with positive media and associations, you can begin to negate the very effect they’ve been having on you.
You’ll need to be relentless. Around negative associations a lot at work or home? Wear your headphones, and listen to podcasts, audio books and music that make you feel empowered. Mix it up. Keep yourself busy learning, doing, and moving yourself forward.
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This is a great opportunity to start learning something new, or for taking action on something you’ve wanted to do but have previously lacked the confidence. Buy some audio books and listen to them constantly. Get excited about learning something new. However this works best for you, the idea is that you want to inject yourself with empowering and motivational information.
Try to keep the information beneficial for personal growth in general, and not merely for base motivation, though. You want to make sure you’re using the time to move your life forward and not to simply jack yourself up with no intention in mind.
2. Shift the Dynamic to Change the Relationship
The reality is, how we’re treated is not entirely the responsibility of other people. In any relationship, there’s a dynamic that’s established from the very moment you meet. We teach others how to treat us by dictating this dynamic, or allowing them to do so, to varying degrees.
So, while you may not be able to get away from every bad association, you can change the dynamic to change the relationship. Rise above, and let your new, more confident self take control of that dynamic, and change it in your favor.
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Dogs often enjoy messing with cats, particularly the first time they meet. That is, unless the cat has the confidence to retaliate. When I was younger, a cat once sneaked into our backyard one summer afternoon while I was shooting baskets. My old Golden Retriever, Charlie, noticed him jump the gate from across the yard. The thing is, dogs will try to play with a cat, purely for their own enjoyment, until the cat pulls out its claws. That’s exactly what happened. All it took was one swipe, and Charlie ran, yelping, into the house. He kept his distance from cats after that. Often, all it takes is a stinging clap back at the other person to change the dynamic, permanently.
To be clear, I’m not advising anyone to insult or abuse someone. It’s simply a matter of practicing standing up to the other person, verbally, with the new confidence you’ve developed. Don’t give them an inch. Obviously, this is easier said than done. However, if you consistently place yourself into a more confident state of mind, this becomes easier and more natural. That’s why that was step one.
3. Be Consistent About Growth
All that’s left to do now is to commit to consistent growth.
When someone sees that you’re trying to move forward and do something with your life, and that you’re not seeking their permission to so, they often take note.
In this way, they’ve developed a kind of respect for you — as terrible of a person as they might be — because you’re standing up to them and not letting them hold you back. It’s about becoming this immovable beacon of light. Because of this respect, they no longer act the same around you.
It’s impossible to force anyone to change. However, with this process, you can not only give yourself the best chance at bringing out a better side of someone (or, at least, demanding respect), you’ve bettered yourself and not allowed their negative influence hold you back.