Having coffee with friends this morning we started discussing family relationships and the expectation that ‘family is forever’ versus the realities each one of us had experienced in our own lives. Each of the people in the conversation had a family member that no longer associated with the main family group as a whole.
We all agreed that letting go and dissociating from a toxic relationship while difficult, was the best thing to do to maintain emotional and physical health. The other common theme that came out from the discussion was that in each case; the effects of and choices made while in the toxic relationship where not apparent to them until they were out of the relationship and had gained distance and a new vantage point.
One of the things I have come to realize is that happiness is a choice.. and you can impact how you feel and react to someone or something by taking a different perspective when you feel yourself slipping into a negative mind space. This is not a new concept; but it can be challenging to do – especially in situations that involve emotional or challenging topics you consider to be foundational principles or expectations in your life or a relationship.
A story comes to mind: a man who just moved into a small town is talking to a old-timer in the local restaurant one morning; he asks the old-timer, “Are the people here friendly?” the old-timer replies by asking the man if the people in the town he used to live in were friendly… the man replies, “No, they were kinda unsocial and I never really felt welcome there.” The old-timer replies, “I think you’ll find people here to be pretty much the same.” The next week another newcomer to town is in the diner and ask the old-timer the same question… if people in the town are friendly.. Again the old-timer replies asking the newcomer what people were like in the town they lived in before. The newcomer says, “Oh, they were lovely, I had great friends and people really got along well.” The old-timer replies, “I think you will find people here to be pretty much the same.”
You get to choose how you think and react to events in your life.. and by changing how you think and react you can impact how you feel about it. I have found a lot of value for myself in changing my perspective to be more open and accepting; I actually feel more satisfied and content with my life.
Simple example to illustrate this:
- Husband forgets wife’s birthday
- Wife feels neglected and resentful
- Wife gets upset with husband
- Husband and wife spend the evening stewing in silence in front of the tv in separate chairs.
Here is an alternate example of the same situation with a different perspective from the wife and a different outcome:
- Husband forgets wife’s birthday
- Wife accepts that his busy work schedule has him distracted
- Wife reminds her husband of her birthday
- Husband brings wife flowers and takes her to dinner
Changing your perspective and how you think about something can impact how you feel and react. Here are a few tips I have used to help myself stay out of the ditch:
- When in doubt don’t! If you find yourself thinking negatively about something or about to take action on a negative thought.. STOP. Take time out to think about it; you will find if you sit on it for 24 hours your perspective most likely will have changed, and once you do this a few times it will start to re-pattern negative reactions.
- Channel a your thoughts, reactions, and point of view based on how you think a person you admire would think, act, or feel. I use this one all the time when speaking in front of groups or when find myself getting emotional; I will think about a person that I know or have worked with that I thought were great effective communicators and ask myself.. what would they do in this situation?
- Be grateful.. think about the good things that can come out of a situation.. even if they seem out of reach in that moment. When a good friend called me to tell me they had lost their job.. the next thing they said was “I guess now would be a good time to start my own company.” Kudos to them!
You can’t fix other people; but you can make changes in your behaviors that will affect relationships in your life positively. Taking care of yourself to maintain your own health, both physical and metal is important. And it will put you in the best place to make changes if in fact you have a toxic person in your life.