Do you have someone at work or in your life who consistently triggers you? That you consider to be difficult or toxic? If you are a human being living on this Earth, I assume your answer is “YES.”
This is one of the themes we are working on in the Inner Mastery Academy Group Coaching Program as we each clear the path to achieving our vision.
Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it is deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being.
An overly challenging relationship, even if you recognize it as unhealthy, is often difficult to let go of. But if you want to reclaim your power and truly heal from a toxic relationship, you have to be willing to ask yourself some tough questions.
What attracted me to this person?
It doesn’t matter if this person was a business partner, significant other, or close friend. You chose to allow this person into your life because you found something desirable about him or her.
Maybe you liked the way that your boyfriend made all of the decisions because it made you feel safe and cared for. Maybe you started working with a business partner because you admired her work ethic and found her attention boosted your low self-confidence. These are just a couple of the many possible examples.
What were the early warning signs I missed?
Most people who are difficult for you don’t wake up one day and decide to be toxic toward you. The truth is they’ve usually been difficult for you since the very beginning. You just didn’t notice until six, twelve, or eighteen months (or more) down the road.
You have to understand this question is not about assigning self-blame. It’s not your fault that this person was difficult for you, although you may need to change how you perceive and respond if you want to improve the situation.
And it is not really about focusing blame on the other person, either. However, if you don’t examine the warning signs then you’ll stay in the unhealthy relationship and will continue to be at risk of entering into a relationship with others who are also harmful to your well-being.
Maybe the early warning sign was that your significant other was a bit too possessive and didn’t want you to have any male friends. Maybe the early warning sign was that a business partner always gave vague responses and never answered a question directly.
You can create a pattern where you choose friends, business partners, and lovers that are toxic unless you start learning from these experiences — and you can create a pattern of finding and keeping relationships that help you enrich your life.
Why did I stay with this person?
Just as important as it is to recognize the early warning signs of a toxic person, it is also important to understand why you continued in the relationship.
Some people stay in toxic relationships because they don’t want to be alone. or feel that they aren’t strong enough to make it on their own. Some worry about hurting the other person, or offending them and ending up with an enemy, if they speak and act directly and end a connection. Some people worry about what a potential breakup might do to their reputation or how it will disappoint their loved ones.
Whatever motivates your decision-making, when you understand your whys, you can make more informed choices now, and in the future.
How can I use this approach in order to grow?
Once you’ve analyzed your relationships, it’s time to learn from them. Keep in mind this isn’t about indulging in self-guilt or heaping shame on yourself or the other. It is about using your relationships as a learning opportunity, in order to grow personally and professionally.
When you are at this point you are ready to ask yourself some deeper questions:
- What are the facts in this situation?
- What is the story I’m telling myself about those facts?
- Where is my responsibility in all this?
- How is this benefiting me?
How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial a few days or weeks later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction? Probably more than once!
That important opportunity or positive new direction may only occur if you look more closely at your part in choosing or staying in what you experience as toxic situations, and if you look more closely at your part in those situations, you can grow. Sometimes you can heal or improve the overly challenging situation, and in other cases, you need to scale back or end a relationship in order to take the next step in your growth.
I work with many clients on how to enhance relationships of all kinds, whether at home or at work. And the evidence I have seen through my work is that we do NOT need to live under the weight of bad understanding or bad decisions. We can indeed find the right understanding and the right path to live a fulfilling life, full of positive relationships.
Isn’t that something worth paying attention to, and mastering?