"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Monday, 2 September 2013

Identifying and dispelling Toxic People & Events in Your life


Rainbow colour of oil running down the road.
Have you ever walked away from friends of family feeling bad about yourself?

Do you keep feeling hurt by the same people?

Do you keep going over incidents that have upset or emotionally hurt you?

Do you keep trying with a family member, but every time you are in their company come away feeling sad, hurt and exhausted?

A toxic person can be someone who upset you in the past and/or continues to do so in your present. They can also be someone who drains you of all your positive emotions and energy every time you are in their presence, either by what they say or what they do.

People inspire you or drain you - pick them wisely. - Hans F Hasen.

A toxic event is something that happened that was upsetting or disturbing that you have never forgotten. And not only is it not forgotten, but you find yourself thinking about it over and over again, maybe persecuting yourself by reliving the negative emotions you felt at that time.

You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one. - Michael McMillan

I first learnt about the idea of toxic people and toxic events and how they can affect your entire thinking, when I was using Dr Phil’s website. I was going through the Finding Your Authentic Self (Self Matters) articles, and one of the questions asked to pick a toxic event from you life. For me, there was one in my early childhood that came up every time. I would think through it and remember how I had felt (alone, rejected, hurt), and feeling it again.

While working through it, I uncovered how this particular event had affected how I thought and in particular my perception of ‘family’ and why just the word had negative connotations for me. It led me to realise that it affected my ability to trust the people around me, permanently, even though they were my immediate family. And through the process of these articles I was able to unravel this thinking and find a new way of thinking about it.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. - Wayne Dyer

Once we identify these toxic events and/or people we can then look at how they have negatively impacted us, in terms of our thinking and perceptions as well as our actions and reactions to them. And then, rather than going into a victim mindset and tell ourselves ‘this happened to me / this person is in my life, therefore I am damaged / can’t function / be who I want or have what I want’, we can make a conscious choice to change it, and feel empowered about how we let it continue to affect us and our lives.

Much like in my previous post about backtracking emotions, we can ‘update’ how we want to feel about it and see it through more objective, rational eyes. We can decide what we need to do to either limit its impact on our life/feelings (particularly when it’s a toxic person), or decide to change what meaning we have attached to it. 

Toxic people will pollute everything around them. Don’t hesitate, fumigate. - Mandy Hale

As a child, I had limited abilities to decide how it affected me. I could only respond with internal feelings of hurt, shame, or rejection. I was left feeling that anything related to ‘family’ could not be trusted and would only hurt me. As an adult, I can acknowledge those feelings, but I can then reassure myself that it no longer has to be true – especially in terms of my own family that I had created with my husband. I don’t have to repeat those toxic actions/words, and I can choose to create a ‘family’ that is safe, nurturing and supportive.

By identifying toxic events and toxic people I was able to take a step back from a toxic situation or person that continued to negatively impact me. I could see the situation as something I had the power to change. I could change my reaction to them, and I could change what meaning I gave them, and I could change how much I interacted with them.

If a toxic person was going over past events and making me responsible, blaming or triggering negative emotions about it, I could see that that was their perception of the situation or of me, and not necessarily the truth. This meant I didn’t have to argue that truth anymore, because I already knew my own truth about it; I had my own perception of it. And once I stopped engaging in the dialogue with that person, in either an argumentative or defensive stance, that person lost their ability to manipulate me by triggering negative emotions and/or dialogue that disempowered me. And I could also restrict how much time I spent in that person's company.

And the same with a toxic event; it was past, it could not be changed, and it could no longer affect my life – unless I kept it alive myself. I could see it as something that happened, rather than something that defined who I was.

The past can not be changed, forgotten, edited or erased; it can only be accepted. - Wiz Khalifa

Toxic people can also be responsible for the labels that we use on ourselves, and cause of a lot of our negative internal dialogue.

The negative things we say to ourselves are often the things that have been repeated to us by toxic people in our lives, which we then take on and use against ourselves.

Toxic events may have left us believing something that isn’t true about ourselves, which we then repeat continuously to ourselves at low times.

Ask yourself, what are my labels, and where do they come from? Whose voice is really behind them? Also ask yourself, why am I defining myself by an external perception or event?

Quietly affirm that you will define your own reality from now on and that your definition will be based on your inner wisdom. - Wayne Dyer