How thinking certain relationships are “Toxic” could be hurting us

Samantha (alias) said to me, “Being around my mom feels toxic.”

She goes on to say, “Just last week my parents were over and stayed with me. My Mom, in the morning of the second day, starts talking about a family situation with her sister and goes on and on about it for more than an hour.

During the conversation, she literally looked at me at least 3 times and said, ‘I just wish you would tell me what to do.’

Meanwhile, I had told her what to do within the first 30 minutes of the conversation.

She just didn’t listen at all.

Even my Dad looked at her funny with a face that read, are you hearing her?

After that, I dropped my parents off at my sister’s house. I was supposed to stay for lunch but I had to leave as soon as possible.

I just felt like being around my Mom felt toxic. Like her energy ate away at mine.”

I asked Samantha, “What did it feel like when your Mom didn’t listen to you?”

She said, “I felt like I didn’t exist. Like what I had to say meant nothing to her. Ignored.

This is exactly how I felt as a child with her, so many times.”

I said, “I totally understand how that would bring up all kinds of feelings. And let me ask you, did you interrupt her at any point and say ‘Mom, I did answer your question right at the beginning when you first asked me.’

Or even say, ‘Mom, it feels like you aren’t hearing me. I did answer you. Did you hear that?’”

Samantha said, “No I didn’t interrupt her at all. I felt like, what’s the point? I shut down and was annoyed the entire time.”

I said, “What was exhausting or felt “toxic” was feeling ignored or not heard, which is totally understandable. And then, not expressing yourself with her but instead grinning and bearing it, also made you feel like your energy was zapped.

Now, I’m not giving your Mom a pass; she seemed to be in her own world talking away, which I know you’ve experienced soooo many times. Hence the trigger. But she’s not going to know how you feel or how that’s affecting you without you letting her know.”

Every time I open up a social media app, I see quotes about staying away from toxic people and letting go of toxic relationships. It almost feels trendy.

I will say those “toxic” relationships have come into our lives for a reason — to highlight what needs to be looked at from within, to heal old wounds, to bring the unconscious into consciousness.

They bring the suppressed pain to the surface.

But instead of diving into that and releasing what we need from within, we often code the other person as toxic, letting us off the hook from looking at our role or acceptance of it.

Don’t get me wrong, are there certain relationships that take more than they give? YES. Are there certain relationships that have you feeling used, inferior, and controlled ? YES.

The best way to catch those relationships and move through them quickly is by clearing what’s happening inside of us and speaking up.

So in Samantha’s case I told her, “It’s interesting that you feel drained by your Mom, and yet, you’ve never really said anything. Why?”

She said, “I guess that’s just how I’ve dealt with it forever. I also don’t want to say anything because it might hurt her.”

I asked Samantha, “If your son interrupted you and told you how he felt, would that hurt you? Maybe it would if he said it in an annoyed, blaming, triggered way, but then you would also want to know how he was feeling, instead of him pulling away without voicing himself, right?”

She said, “Yes I would rather that.”

I said, “You’re allowed to do the same with your Mom. She’s your Mom.”

She said, “What if my Mom just shuts down and doesn’t respond the way I want.”

I told her, “Yes, the key is to let her know how you’re feeling from a place of expressing how it felt for you, not from how to get her to be different or blame.”

This is super nuanced and tricky, because most of us don’t think we are trying to make them change or be different.

Here’s what I mean by expressing only from how you feel.

You could say, ‘Mom I just answered your question, but can I ask you why you didn’t hear me? Or did you hear me, and think of something else you wanted to say? Because when you do that, all I can feel is that you just ignored me or didn’t like what I said, or that what I said didn’t matter, and then I don’t feel like talking anymore. So, I shut down. I just want to know what’s happening on your end, because shutting down doesn’t feel good.’”

“Ohhh” Samantha said. “I get it. I don’t think I’ve ever really said anything like that to her. And I see now that if I don’t say anything then this cycle keeps going. I also see how it’s not useful to call it toxic because it just makes me pull away and want to isolate from her, which is what I’ve done most of my life. I can also see how I do this within all kinds of relationships where I think I’m not being heard.”

I said, “Exactly.

And this is just one small way we can transform our relationship TO our parents, which actually has a ripple effect into every part of our lives.”

Can you resonate with Samantha’s story?

If so, tell me about it in the comments below.

In Love,


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