Get centered. Find an internal reason to end the toxic situation or relationship. When you can break off for a reason that is about self-preservation, instead of punishing or otherwise getting back at others, you will find an inner core of strength. When it’s about you, no one can successfully attack you, manipulate you, or guilt-trip you into remaining in the toxic mess. Alternately, if you have to remain in the mess for a while (say, a team project at work that’s in meltdown, but has a deadline and will presumably be over then), getting centered can help you gain some clarity and hold some inner peace during the process.
I decided that the amount of time I spent being angry at Holly was unacceptable to me. I have many things I want to accomplish, and I wanted time and energy to do them—time and energy I was wasting being angry. A few days after this realization, a small event prompted something of a confrontation between me and Holly. Because I had an internal reason to hold firm, I was able to deflect any argument. I came at it from a place of internal strength, which made all the difference.
Focus on the how, not the why. Instead of pointing fingers, blaming and shaming, having a major showdown, or lashing out in retaliation, focus on your own behavior and what it will take to get clear. If you are dialed in on your own personal reasons, as in the previous step, then the way out will become clear.
Toughen up. If the situation demands defusing, disentangling yourself, or an unavoidable confrontation, be prepared. Keep that big-picture view, focus on your personal reasons, and stick to what you’ve planned for getting out of the mess, if possible. When communicating with others, keep your comments focused on yourself. Yes, it may hurt the person when you break off, but their happiness is not your responsibility.
I like to imagine I’m putting on a Teflon cloak, kind of like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. Arguments, anger, and manipulation simply slide right off. The “confrontation” Holly and I had ended with me simply asking her not to contact me for a while. She wasn’t happy about it and tried to convince me otherwise, but I was coming from a place of personal peace in my request, so I was able to remain firm.
I haven’t spoken with Holly in over 6 months now. It took some time for me to discharge my pent-up anger, and now I’m happier (and healthier) for it. I see her at various social events, and I say hello—I don’t shun her, and I made sure that I never put our mutual friends at a point where they would have to take sides. I wish her well, and when anyone asks me if I will ever be friends with her again, I say I don’t know. For now, it’s best for me to not get emotionally involved with her.
As a New Year approaches, I challenge you to take stock of your life. Where can you reclaim your emotional wellness? What aspects of your life need a little detox? What kind of person will you be when you shed the negative and move forward?