It has become en vogue to cut people out of our lifes. To sever relationships that once were important to us, or that we held dear. We label these people toxic, negative, whatever adjective it is that assuages our conscience and allows us to feel justified in doing so. I’d like to challenge this thought process in a couple ways. But first let me say it is 100% ok to set boundaries and then remove people from your life if the RELATIONSHIP becomes problematic. To protect yourself and your energy, don’t be afraid to let go, and frankly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, or justification for why. It can be a healthy thing to give those, but you don’t owe them.
So lets talk about negativity first. If there is someone in your life that constantly looks at the negative side of everything, perhaps there is a reason why. Seeking first to understand where they are coming from will take you very far. However, if you have established that a relationship is simply at the point where it needs to change, first set boundaries. Types of communication you will allow, times you will allow contact, places, physical contact, everything is potentially a boundary. Important to understand these are for YOU. These are boundaries to protect yourself. Not punish, manipulate, or control. Be RIGOROUSLY honest with yourself on this point. If you are establishing boundaries for any of these reasons, STOP, evaluate your own motives and adjust. There is a LOT more I could say around boundaries, but there are several good books out there on the subject, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, and “Intimacy Factor” by Pia Melody are two great places to start. With repeated boundary violations, or egregious violations, you may need to take the step of eliminating the relationship all together. More on that in a minute. One final thought around negativity, especially given the climate of simply tossing friendships aside. “It’s unhealthy for people to never express any kind of negativity or doubt. To have balance you need to address that side of your thoughts as well as the positive. Otherwise you tend toward crazy.” Shirley Manson. That quote really spoke to me.
Now to address toxic people. Firstly, I believe there are very few truly toxic people in your life. Very few. In fact, I would view toxic people akin to Psychopaths and Sociopaths. They are toxic people and need to be avoided. But those people we often label as toxic aren’t toxic at all. It is the relationship that is toxic to you. Let me explain. I recently had to start cutting a few people from my circle. I would label those relationships as toxic. BUT not the people. They are genuine, loving people who, for whatever reason, I could no longer have a relationship with. They are not bad people. I see this time and time again. Some sort of argument or boundary violation and we pull out our gigantic scissors and snip, snip, cut people from our lives. It takes a much greater level of care and intentionality to decide to withdraw from a relationship because it has grown toxic. This doesn’t negate positive experiences with those people. It doesn’t take away the wonderful impact and closeness that you may have enjoyed. It doesn’t even mean it has to be a permanent separation. Just at THIS moment, it isn’t a healthy relationship to continue to pursue. So instead of toxic I will change it to unhealthy. What I realized about myself, is that I easily drift into a co dependent mindset. I’m so used to trying to please people, or rather not hurt their feelings, that I compromise my own boundaries, I act outside of my capacity and desire. When I am in that space, it is VERY unhealthy for me, and frankly unloving for the other person. And here is where the twist comes in. It must be out of LOVE that we disconnect from others. It is a love for ourselves. Knowing that the relationship has grown into an unhealthy one. And love for the other person, knowing that if you cannot show up (Thank you Brene) authentically in a relationship with someone repeatedly, they are not getting the best version of you. Honestly, they deserve better. and so do you!
With all of that said, can we get away from running around cutting people out of our lives because being in a relationship with them is hard? We need people around us that will challenge us, challenge our perceptions (shameless podcast plug), and challenge our ways of thinking. Don’t be quick to remove people from your life. It is hard. It hurts, especially when the relationship was important (if it wasn’t, why did you pursue it). But when it becomes necessary to continue on your healing journey, do it! You will be better for it, and so will they. Give them the freedom to not be burdened anymore by your lack of authenticity or health. Encourage them to pursue their own healing, they likely need it. Spend some time once the relationship has been severed to grieve it. Totally ok to miss that person, cry over it, yell, whatever that process looks like for you. And once you’ve grieved it, take some time to evaluate your side. Why did that particular relationship or person simply become unhealthy for you. I think that you will find that often times, the challenges were yours. Now is a wonderful opportunity to grow, and learn from it.