Toxic relationships

Toxic relationships. We have all heard about them but what makes a relationship toxic. First we would have to look at what makes a relationship healthy or non-toxic.

A healthy relationship from a psychological perspective is one founded on mutual trust, respect and a positive sense of belonging. A healthy relationship allows each party to engage one another on an equal footing. Empathetic emotional support and understanding as well as healthy interpersonal boundaries all make up a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship contributes to an individuals positive sense of self and where open and honest communication, care and support form some of the building blocks.

Now when we look at the psychology of a toxic relationship it usually has a negative and destructive impact on an individuals self esteem. The toxicity of a relationship is caused by the fact that over time one becomes more entrapped in the relationship. A toxic relationship acts as a poison for the soul. It, often slowly, starts to eat away an ones self respect, self confidence and ability to discern what is good for one and what is not. These kind of toxic relationships are very hard to terminate. Often and individual will be riddled with guilt for thinking of leaving the relationship. Others may believe that the issues in the relationship are solely their fault and that they should change to make the relationship better. Thus the toxicity may continue.

It is important that an individual who feels trapped in a toxic relationship and identify it as such carefully reflect on the situation. Through a process of counselling and psychotherapy offered by a licensed clinical psychologist or psychotherapist, an individual can gain insight into the toxic nature of their relationship and find a way out. The way out is often more of a process than an event and will require strength and courage. It is however possible to recover from such toxic relationships. It is recommended that a person undergoes personal therapy to assist in the healing process and to address the cognitive distortions and negative ways of thinking that came about due to the toxic relationship.

Dr JC Coetzee
Author: Dr JC Coetzee