In all forms of relationship we experience, we inevitably encounter difficult and conflicting moments. This is the art of the mirror effect! The mirror effect is a subconscious phenomenon that creates a feeling of comfort as we are designed to be attracted to people who are like us.
However, toxic relationships can have negative, even dramatic consequences, on the people who experience it on a daily and permanent basis. This is in the sense that it ends up harming individual development by creating suffering.
The toxic relationship: how is it born?
A relationship can be toxic when there is an imbalance between the two people. A kind of role play – in most cases unconscious – takes place, in which one of the two partners will take the upper hand on the other. Therefore, this will create a “dominant/dominated” relationship.
In any human relationship, we all enter at some point into a psychological game revealed by Karpman’s triangle (or dramatic triangle). As human beings, it is our need for recognition in the face of the other that pushes us to enter into this scheme.
In a toxic couple relationship, this psychological game is exacerbated and chronic. Although we tend to assign a particular role to one and the other: the dominant persecutor and the dominated victim, the roles are not fixed.
The dominant alternates the three roles well to extend his hold on the subordinate.
The dominated will adapt their role according to that played by the dominant. Observe what happens during an argument (couple or otherwise). You will see that the roles are exchanged at each twist.
Distinguishing toxic personality from toxic relationship
Despite the subtlety, it is important to differentiate a toxic person from a toxic relationship. Stalkers, liars, manipulators or other narcissistic perverts are obvious toxic personalities that can poison the life of a spouse. But the spouse will also bring these traits into the lives of all the other people they interacts with (colleagues, family, friends, etc.).
Conversely, a toxic relationship does not necessarily involve a toxic person. Both spouses can live healthy relationships elsewhere. It is the chemistry of the two partners, more or less happy, which will create the quality of the relationship.
Am I in a toxic relationship?
It is not always easy to determine this, especially since romantic relationships are all punctuated by periods of conflict, more or less frequent, intense and/or long. Moreover, it is well known “love makes you blind” and feelings alter our ability to discern the truth.
Different signs can alert you to detect if your relationship is toxic. The main markers are:
– Loss of self-esteem- you are no longer yourself
– Sadness- the moments of joy have disappeared, you smile only rarely or in front of others
– Frustration- you can’t express yourself
– Fear- you don’t feel safe
Remember that if there is suffering there is toxicity! And a toxic relationship will inevitably become painful. So, if it turns out that you are indeed in a toxic relationship, the question is:
Do you want to continue to suffer?
Obviously, the answer is “no”, of course! However, in the person who suffers in a toxic relationship, the emotional commitment is often so strong that they don’t have the perspective necessary to become aware of their situation and can’t decide to free themselves from it.
The psychological game
The couple only knows this mode of destructive functioning and locks itself inside, avoiding a healthy relationship. A relationship of co-dependency is then created in which to exist the persecutor needs their victim and the victim of needs their persecutor.
For the dominated person, it becomes even more difficult to notice the imbalance from the moment the addiction is installed. This dependence is based on their emotional needs, thus preventing them from ending the relationship. What is certain, is that this psychological game provokes exchanges whose outcome is always negative! This is why it is vital to get out of it.
How to get rid of a toxic relationship and protect yourself
No matter how much energy you put into it, a truly toxic relationship cannot become healthy. Based on relationship dysfunctions in which one constantly adjusts to the other, the relationship cannot evolve and transform itself. The only solution is therefore emancipation.
To get out of this infernal triangle, it is essential to create a fourth role: that of the observer. Victim, savior and persecutor give way to the observer.
If the 3 main roles are often played in an unconscious and forced way, taking the role of the observer is a deliberate choice. In the position of the observer, you inevitably come out of the other three roles and therefore, you free yourself from them.
Stepping out of the victim role is understanding that you have your own resources that allow you to take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.
Stepping out of the role of savior means accepting that you cannot impose your help despite all your benevolence. Getting out of the role of the persecutor is knowing how to let go by freeing yourself from the idea of wanting to control everything and the search for perfection.
Becoming an observer is therefore the first step because it will allow you to become aware of the harmful relationship in which you are a prisoner. Taking the necessary emotional distance is finally possible. Moving away from fear and other blocking emotions finally allows you to make the right decisions and act.
End the game
It doesn’t matter what lead role you identified yourself in, ending a toxic relationship requires real work on oneself, for oneself. What hinders the majority of people from starting this work is that this awareness awakens wounds (rejection, abandonment, shame, injustice, betrayal) and the emotions that accompany them.
The first reflex will therefore be to want to change the other. Unfortunately, you do not have this power and it is not your role. So there is only one solution left: to heal yourself to regain power over your own life in all circumstances.
Self-knowledge is one of the keys to autonomy, because you have to know that the relationship you have with others is quite simply a reflection of the relationship with yourself. “Treat yourself the way you would like to be treated.”
Acquiring perfect self-knowledge is a powerful tool that allows you to:
- Highlight your behavior in your relationships with others
- Observe your automatic defense mechanisms
- Develop your “radar” to detect the profiles of the people with whom you interact.
This tool is called the Enneagram. Thanks to it, you will quickly understand that relational tensions can be avoided because you are able to analyze a situation and decide whether to react to it or not. Thus, you save yourself a lot of conflicting situations that do not bring anything to your personal fulfillment.
Attention, it is not a question of fleeing! On the contrary, you are finally able to face them without ever having to suffer them again!
The management of one’s emotions is also fundamental to go through the phase of self-knowledge. Indeed, the path in which you are embarking on will raise a whole host of emotions from which reason (the mind) wishes to preserve us. There is no possible avoidance to achieve the desired goal.
The goal is to help you change your perception of emotions with “negative” connotations such as sadness, anger, fear, etc.
By understanding that they appear to deliver a message to you, you will no longer be afraid to feel them. When you have understood their message, these emotions will leave because their mission will have been accomplished. You will then be free to choose to act accordingly.
To conclude toxic relationships are dreadful because they will gradually lock you into destructive ways. Becoming aware that you are caught in this spiral is already the first step towards the exit. And to make sure you don’t get sucked in again, this will go through:
- Self-respect and self-esteem
- Listening to their needs
- Self affirmation
But since it is not innate, you will have to learn it. If this is your wish, know that self-knowledge and the management of emotions are part of a complete program of support for happiness in this life: the Happy-Box Club.
Do not hesitate to ask for help because the risk of doing it alone is to discourage you and relapse… So, don’t stay isolated, and get someone to accompany you.