1) You feel exhausted or drained after spending time with them.
Someone who is toxic is typically demanding and self-centered, which can understandably deplete your energy, causing fatigue. Spending quality time with someone you are close with should make you feel energized and leave you looking forward to your next meeting.
2.) You are not able to be vulnerable or authentic in your relationship.
Always being concerned with how your actions will affect the toxic person's mood or behaviors inhibits authenticity and the ability to open up in the relationship. You may not feel like you are free to express your own thoughts and feelings without backlash.
3.) You find yourself playing the role of a therapist or a parent.
You often find yourself being responsible to care for the toxic person instead of being their partner or companion.
4.) You find yourself setting boundaries that are never respected.
The toxic person may struggle with adhering to clear physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries which you have expressed cause you discomfort or pain. This leaves you feeling disrespected, unheard, and distrustful.
5.) You feel isolated from friends and family.
The toxic person may take steps to seclude or isolate you from friends or family members, especially those who may challenge their control over your time and energy. This level of control is abusive and leaves people feeling alone, depressed, and hopeless at times.
All relationships have their highs and lows. However, a toxic relationship feels like a constant battle. It can be mentally and emotionally damaging. Toxic relationships are defined by attributes of control, fear, and deception. If you feel you may be in a toxic relationship, it may be time to re-evaluate whether the relationship is worth saving. Outside support from someone you can trust can be helpful. Individual or couples counseling can help explore patterns of poor communication and emotional immaturity for which new skills and patterns of behavior can be developed.
Couples counseling can be an opportunity to learn more about your partner, to explore relationship issues together, and to adopt mutual strategies for healthy growth. However, it will not be easy. Relationship building requires one to be emotionally prepared, self-aware, and open to change. Dedicating time for personal reflection and goal setting can be beneficial. Change is hard, but know that you are worth it!
Audrey Keeton is a licensed clinical social worker working with children, teens, and adults in Wilmington, NC. Audrey is passionate about celebrating diversity and strengths in her office. People describe her as compassionate, empathetic, and authentic in creating a welcoming environment for each client she meets. You can find out more about her by visiting her bio.
I recently announced that Stillpoint Counseling is expanding this July. This is exciting news! After just 1 year of going into private practice solo, I am humbled to say it was successful. It IS successful! Every day I wake up and think, “Is this really happening?!” It is in that moment I make the choice to walk humbly forward to the next task or the next decision for the business. I wrote a blog post last year about this time on the fear I had when starting the business. All those same thoughts hold true, but it is interesting to reflect on the differences in the process from last year to this year.
Last year that post was all about how our negative thoughts and self-doubt “weed” up our mind and can hold us back from growth. Check out the post here for the inspiration on the power of intention and finding the middle path between being fearful and being fearless. This year I have much the same feelings however it is much more of an embodied experience of walking the middle path. By embodied, I mean a tangible, real, and felt experience as opposed to a cognitive process.
To start my explanation, I want to discuss the popular psychological term - “imposter syndrome”. While not a clinical diagnosis, you hear many people talk about this phenomenon to describe the pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear being exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome holds us back when we become consumed by the thoughts of “you aren’t good enough”, “what if people find out you are scared”, or “you don’t have all the answers, you should just quit”. Those thoughts are the imposter or the self-critic telling you that it would be easier to quit because taking the risk would mean allowing others to see your truth. The imposter would tell you that the truth they would see is your faults and short comings. The real truth is that you risk people seeing your greatness and sometimes that is just as scary.
Marianne Williamson has said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” (Read the rest of her poem here)
I think we fear our greatness because to truly be great we have to let go of the control a little bit. We have to be vulnerable. We have to expose our secret dreams and desires to the people and energies around us. The risk is the dream may get lost or we may get hurt in the process of putting it out into the world. BUT, the truth is that holding on to the dream doesn’t necessarily keep it safe. It just keeps the dream buried and will never manifest.
The answer to making great changes and reaching our goals is still in finding the middle path. This does start with challenging the negative thoughts and beliefs that hold us back. However, I feel this middle path in my body more these days. The word for the felt sense is “humble”. As I mentioned when I started this post: “I humbly walk forward to the next task”.
The definition of humble is “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.” This may sound self-deprecating, but I believe it is the ultimate sense of finding the middle path toward embracing our full potential. When we are humble, we acknowledge and embrace our own insignificance in a larger whole. We see our accomplishments not as a symbol of our own talents and skills, but as a reflection of our harmony with the world around us.
This business is my dream and it is wonderfully a blend of different parts of me; however, the growth of this business is due to the energy and consciousness of many people in our community. It is the colleagues that have said, “I want to be part of this”. It is the community members that have sent referrals saying, “I think this is what this family needs right now.” It is clients who show up consistently and say “I am worth this work and I am going to use it in my life and show others who I am”. It is mothers, fathers, children, foster parents, teachers, and so many more who are making choices to live holistically and to foster mindfulness in their daily lives. If it weren’t for all those people, I wouldn’t be able to live out my dream.
So, walking the middle path is felt for me in humbleness. When I feel fear, I step back to the middle path by remembering all those that are on this journey with me and who are doing far harder tasks than me day to day. In that moment, I am grateful for this opportunity. Grateful I get to shine, because so many others are lighting the path for me as they shine their greatness in this world.
I. Am. Humbled. I am lower in importance than this work - this important work of lifting our community out of chronic stress holistically, and the work that is driving the growth of this business. Gosh, even in writing these words and reading them on the computer screen, I am in awe and so grateful that this is manifesting now and that I am able to be part of it. When I stay grounded in that knowledge, the imposter is squashed. I know my truth is to serve in this way.
The pressure is on! T minus 3 days until Christmas. This holiday season I have been thinking a lot about healthy boundaries. As a therapist, I am often working with clients on recognizing unhealthy boundaries and learning the skills they need to effectively create boundaries that lead to healthy relationships and happy lives. Despite this cognitive awareness, I still find myself in unhealthy patterns and pulled easily into situations that do not serve my best interest. The holiday season can be especially triggering.
I recently read an article posted on social media that was describing the urge to “hibernate” in the winter. (Side note: I wish I could find the original post to credit, but it has been taken down.) I am not sure about you, but I find myself wanting to stay inside more, snuggle up with a blanket, and read a good book. Sounds like a plan, right?! The article pointed out that most other animals hibernate in the winter. If you think about our ancestors, they too “hunkered down for the winter”. They prepared most of the year by growing foods, canning fruits, preserving vegetables, and making a bounty of nourishment that could be enjoyed without leaving the safety of home. Life slowed down in the winter, because it was necessary for survival. Our bodies may still have that instinctual drive to hibernate and care for our basic needs.
This time of year, I find myself in constant opposition to rest and draw inward or to do “all the things”. There are parties with friends, holiday school performances, teacher’s gifts to buy, baking to do, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and holiday festivities that we dare not miss. Or, could we?!
We could choose to not to do “all the things” and chose to put ourselves first. What makes this choice so hard? It could be fear of offending others. It could be fear of regret or missing out. It could be self-imposed expectations that we use to define ourselves. It could be feelings of unworthiness. It could be any number of falsehoods we tell ourselves that keep us away from the truth. And, the truth is we are all worthy of holding space for ourselves. We all have the right to be here with honest personal emotions and to act in a way that is loving and care-taking. The truth is that when we put the needs of others ahead of our own, we set up the unstable ground of resentment, anger, and disconnection. Setting boundaries may not be easy, but it is a step towards acknowledging you are worth more than “all the things”.
As you go into the holidays, ask yourself, “what brings me joy?” Evaluate the underlying reasons for the decisions you are making. Make choices that serve your personal well-being. Notice when you are attuning to the needs of others and make the active decision to tune into your own needs. Say “no” when the action is not aligned with your needs, so that you can fully say “yes” with your whole heart when the action is aligned. Healthy boundaries will bring you greater joy and strengthen the connection of your relationships.
Tools and Yogic Philosophy for Setting Healthy Boundaries:
We set healthy boundaries physically and emotionally. This may be physical space, including personal body space when talking to others or where you will stay over the holidays. This may also include nutritional and exercise needs, including being mindful of the types of food and drinks that make you feel healthy and activities that continue to give you energy. To set emotional boundaries, be mindful of the ways you take on family member’s emotions, get drawn into arguments, or pulled into the old family drama. Decide what boundaries serve your well-being, set them, and do the hard work of staying in your truth despite the reactions of others. The last step is truly let go and let others make the decision to respect your boundaries. We can not control others or make them attend to our wants and needs. Setting boundaries is an action of decisiveness, as well as surrender.
Setting healthy boundaries comes from a clear sense of self. This is a 3rd chakra characteristic. Manipura or the solar plexus is our 3rd chakra. The 3rd chakra is governed by the element of fire. When our 3rd chakra is in balance, we feel secure, we are confident, and have a clear sense of who we are and where we are going. The 3rd chakra right is “to act”. So, in balance we know what we want, and we feel empowered to make the decision. To balance Manipura chakra, try this simple pranayama with mantra.
The Therapist Blog
Musings from the other side of the couch