Toxic is a buzz word. Toxic and toxins thrown around all willy nilly. When I first started hearing people talk about cutting out ‘toxic people’ I was mystified, it always seemed like a phrase to hide behind if someone disagreed with you (and I really believe it is often used this way) But then I began to see it within my life, or maybe I applied my own definition through my experiences. Either way, the base concept of cutting out what hurts your health on any level became dear to me. Wrapping my head around understanding that some people I love are toxic to my health has been a difficult one. Understanding who and what exactly my responsibilities are has been the key.
Responsibility, in my experience, is one of the single most difficult things to nail down and find in truth. As far as it goes, the vast majority of your responsibilities are self-assigned. Society cannot truly determine your responsibilities, though often socially determined responsibilities are true responsibilities. When self and socially assigned obligations mesh, good and bad may occur. Maybe everything lines up, maybe you are perpetually fortunate enough not to experience a discrepancy here, and you can go on peacefully building your life in this stronghold of good luck and good decisions.
It is not usually so.
Most of us will, time after time, find what we have built to have been infiltrated by the rot of a failed moral decision. Maybe we determined it to be correct decision, looking through the unsteady veil of emotion, or expectation. Maybe it was a sturdy design that has simply been pervaded by the figurative termite and its destructive kin.
Somewhere along the line, the structure grows weak. The floors begin to creek, the walls may sway. One misstep across a rotted beam and it may give way. This rot is the result of the wrong decisions involving the wrong people. The proverbial toxic person, and their lasting influence in your life.
Cutting these people loose is a singularly difficult task. They are often loved ones, family, dear friends. Maybe they aren’t inherently bad, but simply have a component that reacts negatively with one of your own. Maybe their evil is subtle and well hidden, woven about them in a beautiful and intoxicating pattern.
Maybe they started out gold, but fell into a hole within their own structure, and have elected to stew in this separate poison until they are synonymous with it. Maybe they just couldn’t find their way out.
It is not your responsibility to save everyone
In fact, I dare say that it is your direct responsibility not to save everyone. As far as I can tell, there are two broad entities that you are truly responsible to. Yourself and your dependents. That is, yourself, and your animals or young children that could literally not survive without your direct, positively constructive influence.
Your twenty six year old son that perpetually chooses hard drugs, your fourty year old daughter who has always played the victim – I’m not talking about them. They are no longer your responsibility. They are separate humans who must pull themselves out or be lost to the turmoil of their own creation.
Your best friend, who chooses to flounder in hate and weakness. Your cousin, who will not be held accountable for their actions. Your father, who seeks to filter his life through the blur of alcohol. Your mother, who finds comfort in the stagnant role of complacency. Your husband, whose despondency and lack of will to grow with you leaves you sick at your core.
Maybe the demons in your life are yet more obvious to you, greatly poisonous presences like animated tar. Every human who plays a role against your health, your growth, your energy, every single one of them is responsible for what they bring and give, and you have no obligation to maintain attachments that drag you backwards and pull you down.
Only those making the effort need make the cut.
Earlier today, in a discussion covering this concept, I used the analogy of a looped belt and tether system. You wear a belt, with many loops, and many opportunities to attach a tether. You maintain your main rope. It is your responsibility to scramble this steep rocky grade. It is YOUR responsibility to get YOUR ass to the top of this mountain and back down. If you have dependents, they are also your responsibility. Nothing must keep your from achieving this goal. Should you fall into a pit, you must unclip your dependents and entrust them to another’s belt to save them from being pulled in. These are the hard and fast rules. Everything else has gray area, and must be considered guidelines.
We pass others along the way, those we love, and we see them struggling, or down, and we reach out and grab their tether and attach it to us, and attempt continue to climb. Often we accept a tether from someone with more powerful legs than us, and so end up both pulling and being pulled.
It isn’t until dead weight is severed that real progress can be made.
Cutting loose those who will only be drug, those who will make no effort of their own to climb away, is the only way.
This frees a loop on your belt.
Should this person find a way to locomote and contribute once more, perhaps you may allow them the re attach their own tether to your belt. Do not do it for them.
Stop pulling people along that aren’t for you. Stop reaching out for their tethers. Stop allowing your strength to be sapped. Look about you, every person attached to you, and everyone they are attached to, and so on and so forth, will be negatively affected by maintaining this negative influence, through you.
So now it becomes your responsibility, for your benefit, and those that surround you. Imagine now that you do not cut this tie. Imagine that it drags you down, and suddenly you are dead weight to everyone attached to you. Imagine that they are pulled backwards.
Now imagine a dynamic team.
A team secure in attaching, releasing, and transferring tethers as a means of promoting and facilitating the growth of strength among its members.
Imagine the health of a team that removed and re tethered for the sake of each other. Remove your tether when you fall, find your way out, and re-join when you can contribute your productive influence. Expect this of others. Only contribute the force of your pull when the one on the other side of that line is genuinely helping you to help them. If this is not the case, there is not a soul who truly benefits.
This is how you move on from the toxic influences.
This is how you come to terms with letting them fall.
This is how you understand that it is not on you, that you must be your own strength.
This is how you heal.
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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