It might not be you: toxic relationships and authenticity

Toxic friends
Toxic friends

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a**holes”

~William Gibson

I came across this quote the other day. It made me think of the times I would have sessions with a few of my clients during my internship. A few were in what I would describe as toxic relationships. After meeting their significant others or family members I felt deeper empathy for my client in that I realized that the people that they were surrounded by were making them ill rather than better.

Imagine spending time with someone who is constantly berating you; everything that that they say to you is hurtful, they give you no encouragement or support on any of your endeavors. Perhaps you have a co-worker who is a rain maker but puts a downer on anyone and everything. No matter what you say to them, they shoot back with some sort of negative jab. After spending much of your day with individuals like this it would not be surprising if you felt drained, discouraged, and even depressed about your life.

It is obvious that our relationships with others have an impact on our emotional and spiritual self. This may not be new news for some of us, but for others who are struggling with feelings of what they think is depression, this may be news that they need.

Having friends that are not in accord with who we are will inevitably impact how we feel about ourselves in general. On the path towards authenticity or living as our true self, one comes to understand that relationships are vital to our well-being. Relationships that nurture our true selves help us to become more authentic, which in turn has positive effects on our well-being.

This is a concept that has been confirmed by multiple studies such as one by Goldman and Kernis, “The Role of Authenticity in Healthy Psychological Functioning and Subjective Well-Being” published in the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association. It would be fairly easy to find individuals who can provide anecdotal evidence about how good it feels to have good friends.

In order to get to this we have to make some sacrifices. Being ourselves may require that we must give up what we have (or think we have) now, those relationships that are actually soul draining rather than nurturing.

Bugental speaks about “…the anxieties of being authentic.”  We want to avoid the fear of losing what we have, but in exchange we lose so much more since in the process we lose our self.

For some, this is where inertia shows up as they do not want to leave the relationships they have even though these relationships can be painful. Now they are stuck in a place of inauthenticity. They are not being themselves for fear of losing what is not real.

This lack of congruency and authenticity can create anxiety, stress, and yes — even depression for some.

What needs to be done? Consider Mr. Gibson’s quote again.

Perhaps in some situations it might be good to first consider one’s life and where one is at this moment. Do you have good friends? Are you surrounded by people who are sincere, honest and encouraging?

Re-evaluating our relationships and relating is one of many steps to a better mind, body and spirit.

— Makenna Berry

Read other posts by Makenna Berry

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