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It might not be you: toxic relationships and authenticity

Posted on 04 Oct | 1 comment
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

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Comments and Discussions

Thank you for writing and

Thank you for writing and posting this piece of work!

A decade ago, I was in a horrible relationship and was surrounded by a world which was limiting. Subsequently, I knew my peril clearly. I had to change my relationships, and my involvement in activities that were diminishing to me as a human being with a great deal of potential.

I met with mental health professionals and social workers, believing naively that their purpose was to show me the way to rebuild a better life. What resulted was a diagnosis in depression and later Bi-polar depressed type. I fought the label and only accepted it in so far as the diagnosis serving as a basic road map of the energies in myself that I needed to work on balancing out. I had to leave the helpers I sought out, because they're only options for me included medication and talk therapy, despite my clearly spoken declaration of how I needed them to help me, (which was used as evidence of grandiose behavior and delusional beliefs). I was already practicing ecstatic dance, meditation and self hypnosis which were helping me profoundly to forge a new pathway in my life. Essentially, I told each of them, I just needed a good therapist to support my personal plan to wellness and to give me healthy recommendations along the way.

So, what was the source of my depression? Yes, the relationships I had in my life at the time, which were depressing in and of themselves.

I am happy to share that today, my life is ecstatic and phenomenal!

P.S. I am a student in the Mind Body Medicine program. Perfect place for me!

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