Tag Archives: psychology

Toxic Trouble

15 Mar

This morning, for whatever reason, I woke up with Britney Spears’ song “Toxic” stuck in my head. Yeah, talk about a nightmare. Did you know that at 29 years of age, she’s finally debuting her “most upbeat and mature album yet” on March 29th? Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen.

On a heavier note, Spears’ song inspired me to tackle the issue of toxic relationships as today’s blog topic. I hope that this post serves as an inspiration to those of you who find yourselves lost. And if you’re at your wits end with a friend who complains about their relationship but refuses to leave it despite your support and encouragement, I hope that this post might give you clarity as well. And I don’t want to sound like an Eeyore, so I’m going to keep my attitude light for the sake of everyone’s mood. Hope you don’t mind!

So let’s start with defining and identifying characteristics of a toxic relationship. Basically, a toxic relationship is a relationship in which behaviors on the part of the toxic partner are emotionally (and sometimes phsyically) damaging to their partner. I’ve decided that there are five toxic types. Let’s get to know them:

“Independent” Ian

Ian is an independent toxic controller. He disguises his controlling behavior by asserting his independence — “You can’t control me.” Ian keeps his partner feeling insecure by rarely keeping his commitments and being essentially non-dependable. He will promise to call and not follow through. He avoids making commitments  and concrete plans, and when his partner asks for a commitment or expresses her feelings about his behavior, he accuses her of being controlling. Ian is a toxic individual because he makes his partner feel unsafe and insecure within the relationship; his unpredictable habits make her feel like she isn’t a priority. Anxiety over Ian’s behavior causes her to constantly try to “earn” his commitment, an effort that can be  very emotionally draining.

Beth the Belittler

Beth belittles and depreciates her partner by making fun of him when he tries to express his opinions, beliefs, and values, often teasing him about how stupid they are. When he asks her to stop, she will often respond with something like, “chill out, I’m just kidding,” or “can’t you take a joke?” which makes him feel as though he is overreacting. Beth also has no quams about doing this to her partner in public. Beth is toxic because when she belittles and depreciates her partner, she leads him to believe that he can’t make good decisions and that his opinions are wrong or stupid. Sometimes, Beth will even go so far as to make her partner believe that he is “lucky” to be with her, because nobody else would want him.

Bad Temper Trevor

Trevor controls his partner using intimidation. He has an often unpredictable “hair-trigger” temper that makes his partner walk on eggshells around him because she never knows what is going to set him off next. She has given up on trying to disagree with Trevor because he gets so angry. Sometimes he gets so angry that he yells, punches walls, throws things, breaks things, or hurts her. Trevor keeps this side of himself hidden from the outside world, and others often see him as a friendly, nice, likeable person. When his partner confronts him about the inappropriateness of his temper, he frequently blames his outburst on her — somehow it’s her fault that he yells and screams. In doing this, Trevor disowns responsibility for his own behavior and successfully prevents his partner from feeling that she can discuss problems with him openly.

Paranoid Pam

Pam gets jealous over her partner easily. In the beginning of their relationship, he appreciated her jealousy and even felt flattered by it. Over time, however, Pam’s jealousy got out of hand — she became more and more suspicious. She often accuses her partner of cheating on her and fabricates scenarios that lead her to such a conclusion. She becomes outraged when he interacts with any other women on any level — even when he gets a text from his good friend who has a boyfriend. Pam is so paranoid and controlling that her partner is forced to cut ties with meaningful friends for reasons that are not valid.

Deflecting David

Sometimes, David’s partner tries to express that she’s hurt, angry, or upset over something that he did. But when she tries to tell him how she’s feeling, she somehow ends up comforting him and helping him cope with his own unhappiness, hurt, or anger. David manages to deflect ownership and turn his partner into the culprit instead. He breaks down, sometimes to tears, and accuses his partner of making him feel badly. Unfortunately, she gets so caught up in comforting him that no one ends up comforting her. His behavior is harmful because by avoiding validating her feelings, David neglects his partner’s needs by manipulating her to feel guilty. Conflict aside, David often controls his partner by making her believe that she is “lucky” to be with him because no one else would love her, and sometimes he might even be verbally abusive to get his point across.

———

Maybe some of you have met Ian, Beth, Pam, David, or Trevor. Maybe you’ve met all of them — although I hope not. It’s important to note that we all experience our partners behaving in some of these ways occasionally. The difference between whether or not it is typical or toxic lies in the frequency of these behaviors: if you find any of these habits to be the norm, then you are dealing with a toxic personality. Also, it’s not uncommon for an extremely toxic person to possess traits of all five of these characters.

If you’ve never been in a toxic relationship, you probably have a lot of trouble understanding why someone would stay in one. You might be the friend who gets frustrated because you cannot for the life of yourself figure out why your friend won’t just leave already. You might be fed up with their complaining or their apparent blindness. While it’s understandable that you would feel that way, I encourage you to consider the emotional damage that a toxic personality can inflict on someone. Often, people who find themselves stuck in an unhealthy relationship have been broken down to the point where they are only a shadow of the person they were prior to the relationship. They have been made to feel worthless, invaluable, stupid, selfish, insecure and unloveable. Their toxic partner has gotten inside their head, and they are terrified that if they leave, they will never find someone who loves them again. Their self-esteem is so low, and their image of themselves is so distorted, that they genuinely believe that they don’t deserve better.

So, what can you do to help? Remind them, persistently, that they deserve better. Remind them who they were before this relationship, and remind them that people (including you) will still love them when they end it. And above all, be patient, because it will take time and effort to bring them back. I know that usually when someone is in an emotional deadlock with a toxic person, what their friends and family have to say will likely fall on deaf ears. So even if you stop trying to get through to them, at the very least make sure that they know that when they are ready to take that step, they have a support system waiting for them.


Happy belated Pi Day (:

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A Little Self-ish Today

16 Sep

You know what’s lame? Everyone and their mom recognizes these words, but if I asked you to define the differences between them, could you? Probably not. And if you can, then congratulations. Go get yourself a cookie. Here they are:

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Confidence
  • Self-Respect

Self-Esteem is pride and satisfaction with oneself. Someone with high self-esteem is confident without being obnoxious or conceited, open and assertive about communicating their needs, not devastated by criticism, not easily defeated by setbacks, and not overly concerned about what others think. Don’t have it? Get it. Here’s how: Celebrate your strengths and achievements. Everyone makes mistakes — forgive yourself for yours. Everyone has weaknesses — forgive yourself for those, too. Change the way you talk to yourself (I always like to ask myself: “If you talked to others the way that you talk to yourself, do you think they would still be your friends?” If the answer is no, consider being more kind to yourself. As the saying goes, we are often our harshest critics). Don’t hold unreasonable standards for yourself. And lastly, instead of constantly criticizing yourself for your faults, try praising yourself for the parts of you that are beautiful.

Self-Confidence is a positive perception of yourself that allows you to have faith in your abilities. Someone with high self-confidence is a go-getter; they pursue their desires because they believe in their own capacity for success. Don’t have it? Well, don’t just sit there on your ass feeling sorry for yourself. Go get it! Here’s how: Be ambitious. Set goals for yourself. Learn to communicate: ask for what you want, and hear advice and counsel. Be loving and kind: nourish healthy relationships, and detach from relationships that don’t allow you to feel authentic. Be open to change. Be optimistic. And f it’s staying true to yourself or pleasing others, stay true to yourself.

Self-Respect is your acceptance of yourself, your character, and your conduct. People with high self-respect do not criticize themselves for who they are, but rather understand that they are human beings that make mistakes and have faults, and accept themselves as such. People with high self-respect are not so concerned by what others think of them, because they are content with themselves. If you are an excellent hockey player, allow yourself to believe it on your own instead of getting overly excited whenever someone pats you on the back and says you’re amazing. Sure, it’s nice to hear. But a person with high self-respect does not need compliments in order to accept and approve of themselves.

If you find yourself deficient in one or more of the areas listed above, well… apply the techniques I’ve so handily offered and do something about it! You, my friend, are your own worst enemy. You don’t need others to love you in order for you to love yourself. In fact, it’s the other way around. You need to love yourself before you can love others and they can love you. So get crackin’ :)

Loaded Questions

10 Sep

I drove 8 hours today. Do you know what your brain feels like after you drive 8 hours? If you’re from my generation, then you’ve probably played with Gak Splat (remember that gross green shit in a plastic container, that feels like play doh and flubber got their grind on and then popped one out?), and you know.

So I’ll keep it brief tonight — for my sake and yours. I have a challenge for you:

Stop sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, and take charge of your own life. Most people don’t really know how to do that. I used to be one of them, but now I’ve got a leg up on all y’all… and this is the part where you’re lucky, because I’m about to help you kick your mind into high gear (partly so that I can give my own a damn break)! When you’re done reading this, you’re going to go take a gander at these questions and give them a good hard thinking. Try to come up with some answers for yourself, and if you’re not too lazy, I might even suggest going so far as to write down both the question AND your answer. They’ll come in handy next time you’re feeling like him. Seeing some of these questions is going to suck, but that’s the point. They really make you think. When you read them, if you don’t like the answer that comes to you….

Do something to change it.

From Internet Junkie to Fun and Spunky (it’s the only word that rhymed with Junkie..)

6 Sep

So naturally, when a person realizes that they have no life, they go looking for one. And when I realized that all I do is sit around on my ass (which is growing at an alarming rate) doing absolutely zilch with my time, that’s exactly what I did. Of course, going from being an internet junkie to just not being one is somewhat akin to dumping drug habits cold turkey; it’s a pain in the butt, and virtually nobody can do it. That’s why I developed this brilliant plan: with my facebook deactivated, I had all of this free time to learn new things and do fun stuff. But learn what? Do what? I almost Googled “fun things to do” (talk about being desperate) …. but then I found a solution. StumbleUpon is like, the coolest invention ever. I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell, Jess! You said this was all about getting a life and getting in touch with the real world and all that crap, and here you are advocating for another timesucking internet invention?” Yeah, basically. …. No, I’m just kidding! It’s all part of the story. I deleted my facebook and then I decided to see what kinds of cool things I could find on StumbleUpon. Even though I think people should spend a minimal amount of time browsing the internet, I’ve gotta say, SU is a great way to find articles and fascinating tidbits of information that really interest you–so if you’re bored at bedtime or something, sure. Check it out. Anyway, I digress. Back to the story: Stumble helped me to develop a few concepts that are pretty important if you plan on breathing some life back into yourself. They are:

1. Educate yourself. It’s more important than you think, because the older you get, the less impressed people will be when you know the entire storyline of Grey’s Anatomy or Lost but have no concrete understanding of anything of substance. I hate politics and current events with a passion. I don’t know what it is, but I find it about as interesting as I find the fact that the sky is blue. If you’re like me, do what I do. Watch The Colbert Report — it’s at least hilarious, and can kind of keep you somewhat aware of current events. Read books. If you have a special interest like me (I’m obsessed with people and their behaviors), read articles. I read Psychology Today every day. If you don’t like books, watch the history channel or Animal Planet or something, who cares.. the bottom line is, you’ve been in school for most of your life and it’s about time you’ve got something to show for it.

2. Appreciate the arts. No one’s telling you you’ve got to drool over the statue of David or a bona fide Jackson Pollock; hell, I wouldn’t. Art History was the single most painful class that I ever had to sit through, but that’s not the point I’m making. Here, I’m referring to “arts” in a more general sense — things like painting, photography, music, or crafting. There is so much art in the world, and practically nobody sees it. Take this, for example: Sand Animation, Ukraine\’s Got Talent. Like, are you kidding me? Isn’t that just jaw-droppingly awesome? That’s the kind of art I’m talking about. The kind of thing that everyone knows exists but takes for granted. Think of photography: until I started Stumbling, my perception of photography was just “whatever”… it’s just pictures. But after coming across several different series of photos by extremely talented photographers, I saw things that took my breath away. And have you ever noticed how beautiful traditional, classical music really is? That some people are gifted enough to create such beauty with their fingertips? Amazing. So when I say appreciate the arts, I mean stop taking them for granted. And maybe, if you’ve got the balls and the patience, invest yourself in something that interests you. Learn to play the guitar. Take up painting. Write a story. I don’t care. Just stop taking life for granted and take advantage of the incredible noggin you’ve got inside that skull. It would be a shame to let it go to waste.

3. Get Up Close and Personal. Seriously, cut the texting, facebooking, twittering, and IMing crap and get personal. That’s the problem with people these days — do you have any idea how much of communication is nonverbal? Let me tell you. Although there may be newer information on the subject as of late, the most commonly understood information stems from the research of Dr. Albert Mehrabian from UCLA who found that 7% of communication comes from the meaning of the words spoken, 38% of communication comes from tone of voice, and 55% comes from nonverbal cues. Since texting and social networking is written only, that means that tone of voice is also null and void. Guess what, people? That means that 93% of what you are trying to communicate through texting, emails, and social networking is open to interpretation because the person you are chatting with only has a few of the puzzle pieces. Communication is complex, and relying on texting and emails is sort of ridiculous. Think about all of the times that you’ve been offended by something a person said to you, or vice versa. It’s almost always through media, isn’t it? So here’s your solution: get personal again. CALL people so that you can hear their voice. Go SEE them. Spend time with people and nurture real relationships instead of wasting your time with all of the superficial nonsense Facebook and texting have to offer.

4. Get Creative. Make stuff. I kid you not, it is the best, and most rewarding, way to spend your time. You will feel entertained and accomplished! Thanks to Stumble, I’ve become a HUGE fan of DIY projects (Do It Yourself). They are a great way to save money and have really cool things to decorate your house with. If you’re a tech-savvy guy with a lot of spare time, check out this gem. Yeah, I’m serious, you can make that… I mean, I’m not about to try, but if you’re at MIT or something, I say go for it. And if you’re a girl, peep this awesome website called P.S. – I made this…. Those are just a couple of examples, but Google can guide you to TONS more websites with awesome cool ideas for DIY projects that are fun and easy. And also, because I want you to like me and keep reading my blog, I’m going to post entries with the ones I tried and loved and step by step how-to instructions. You’re welcome!

Calling All Procrastinators

6 Sep

I want you to read this article by Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D. :

Facebook — A whole new world of wasting time

And ask yourself, do you have a problem? If the answer is yes, you should probably think about detaching yourself from Facebook altogether for a while, but for those of you who can’t (and I know all too well how embarrassingly difficult it is), here are some clever ways to help prevent yourself from using Facebook as a procrastination tool:

  • Have your roommate or someone you trust temporarily change your password until you are finished studying, and then change it back.
  • Disconnect your internet temporarily.
  • Deactivate your facebook temporarily. YES, this is possible! Let me squelch the rumors once and for all, as someone who has deactivated her facebook: When you deactivate your facebook, ALL of your account is saved exactly as-is; your photos, posts, comments, status updates, info, notes, etc. will all remain saved on the Facebook database FOREVER, so when you’re ready to log back on, everything will be waiting for you just as you left it. Now, personally, I find that a bit disturbing, but to each his own, right?
  • Don’t use a computer, period. That’s kind of hard though, in this day and age.

Deactivate. I dare you.

6 Sep

I’d like to think you’ve saved us both some time by reading the “about” section of this blog, but let’s be honest… that probably didn’t happen. So, I’ll take advantage of my dear friends copy & paste, and explain to you in greater detail what this blog is all about. Oh, and just an FYI — Before I got sucked into the abyss of the unproductive time consuming monster that is Facebook, I used to write. And guess what? I was good. And believe it or not, I was funny! But, like so many other people held captive by this social network and the refresh button, I lost interest in my passions. I lost my individuality and my voice. The good thing is, it’s like getting back on a bicycle after a few years: you’re a little wobbly at first, but eventually you’re soaring effortlessly. You’re probably starting to wonder what my point is. And I just realized that I don’t really have anything better than “I suck at writing right now, but if you stick with me, I promise to get funnier and more interesting!” …..Please?

If you’re reading this sentence, then I’m patting myself on the back, because either my writing isn’t as shitty as I thought it was, or you’re just a really nice person (in which case, you should be patting yourself on the back). Are you excited? You should be, because I’m about to tell you why this blog even exists, and how it’s going to change your life — if you let it. Here’s the deal:

I’m just your average twenty-something girl floundering my way through a world that revolves around social networking, a college student’s #1 excuse to do absolutely nothing productive whatsoever. Around a month ago, I realized that I’m basically no one. I’m a big fat nothing with a pretty face and nothing inside to show for it. When I was younger, I used to read, write, draw, ride horses, play soccer, swim, run cross country, learn, paint my nails, play piano… And now what do I do? NADA. Absolutely nothing. What is my problem?  What do I live for? Where is my pulse? After more than 5,000 status updates, 1,076 pictures, 997 amigos, over a million comments, and and embarrassing number of hours per day, I realized what the issue was and decided it was about time to end my toxic relationship with facebook and focus my time on something a lot more intriguing: the real world. I know, right? Well, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it. Try to answer the question “what do you like to do in your free time?”. If the only answers you can come up with are lame ass ones like “tv, movies, friends, internet, family, shopping” and/or if you spend more than twenty (yes, twenty) minutes on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr–whatever–a day, I have a challenge for you: Deactivate. Or, if you can’t bring yourself to do that, at least make an effort to cut back on your usage. For Christ’s sake, GET A LIFE. I’ll help you!

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