People are the ultimate designer drug: What is your poison?

The [addictive] process of abusive relationships is complicated. Here I discuss the reasoning behind why some get addicted to the highs and lows of unhealthy partnerships and the powerful impact that actions and words can have.

We all know the mind-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, but have you ever stopped to consider the mind-altering effects that the people in your life have on you?

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Think about it. Anytime you meet someone, there are definite biological components at play. Research suggests that when a person falls in love, there is an increase in dopamine and a desire to be with that person—the “I can’t get enough of you feeling” that is all too common in the initial stages of dating.

Like taking a drug, however, after meeting someone and beginning to have them in your life consistently (i.e. you are in a relationship), that “shiny penny” excess-dopamine phenomenon begins to plateau and you begin to develop a tolerance of sorts. You’re left at the same place you were before you met the person. The “high” is gone.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many friendships and romantic relationships fade. After the dopamine levels out, the tolerance builds, the excitement or newness dwindles—the decision to separate from that person becomes more attractive. So what could be the reason behind a person deciding to remain in a relationship that is unhealthy or causes the proverbial hangover that seems to linger on and on?

Love addiction.

Two powerful little words that are quite prevalent in our society.

The “rule of thumb” to knowing if you have an addiction is evaluating whether or not the person, place, or thing is causing you significant distress and impairing your ability to carry out activities and functions of daily living. We typically think of male-female romantic relationships when we consider domestic violence, however, emotional and physical abuse comes in the form of many different familial and even platonic relationships.

Take for example a relationship between mother and son. The mother constantly tells her son that he is failure, will never amount to anything, and he is a disappointment to all. As a result, the son feels worthless and no good. However, as in most abusive relationships, there are periods of “sobriety” where the abuser refrains from the abuse and the relationship appears hunky dory. It is during these times that a very critical part of the cycle of abuse occurs:

The honeymoon stage.

Or the part where you fall back in love with your abuser because he or she is acting the way that you had always hoped or “knew they could”! Your abuser may apologize and profess their undying love for you, vowing to “never do that again”. Your love for them becomes even more reinforced, thus the cycle is able to continue and you hold on to that honeymoon period thinking that “I know he/she will get back to the person that I fell in love with again”.

With each revolution of the cycle of abuse, we become more desensitized to the abuse, and our emotional states start to become dependent on that other being—or as I believe—the emotional aftermath we’re left experiencing, until our tolerance builds up and we are but a shell of who we once were.

People experience emotional highs and lows throughout the course of a relationship—romantic or platonic. And I believe that the addiction becomes not to the person, but the feeling that the person elicits within you. Feelings and thoughts carry a very high amount of weight in a relationship. And the rollercoaster of highs and lows can at times, become what people become addicted to, or in some strange way, comforted by.

 

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The joy, the passion, the fighting, the making up…one big blur of experiences that can make you feel like you’re riding the cyclone (but not having fun).

 

Take the woman that is being abused by her partner. She knows deep down the signs that the explosive and destructive emotional outburst is about to occur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, she also knows that there will be the making up and “best behavior from the abuser” parts to the cycle that she so desperately craves. Thus, there begins the pattern, and because human beings—whether you want to believe it or not—are patterned creatures, a sort of comfort or acceptance of the situation is derived.

Human beings have flaws and certain people in our lives know how to bring out parts of you that are the best and alternately, the absolute worst. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to decide how you are going to allow another person to treat you, when enough is enough, and realize that your self-worth is more important than accepting abuse.

How much another human being can affect another human is an amazing phenomenon that truly makes the world go ‘round; or with regards to the darker side of human kind, causes a person to start to lose sight of who they are and how they feel about themselves.

Think about it…The pretty girl smiles at you and your morning is made. You receive a sweet text from your partner and your bad morning turns to good. Your parent calls to tell you how proud they are of you and for once, you start to feel proud of yourself.

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Alternately, your spouse comes home from work and wordlessly flings their belongings on the floor, instilling a sense of fear in you. Your girlfriend slaps you across the face because you asked what time the movie starts, causing you to feel idiotic, embarrassed, and angry.

Humans and our word and action choices are very powerful forces in this world. Our ability to cause a stir is palpable and ever-present. Consider the recent Trump/Kathy Griffin debacle. One decision probably forever (negatively) changed that comedian’s career. The actions of people have very serious consequences. Much like choosing to drink too much, deciding to infringe on another person’s boundaries and taking the joke too far can have very serious implications in life.

Tying it all together…

We are beings that have millions of neurons interacting together, thrive in relationships, hurt each other’s feelings, and inadvertently and sometimes consciously choose to cause harm. The only person that you can ever truly control is yourself.

I challenge you to make healthy choices and treat others with kindness. You never know how you will affect someone else…what joke will push someone over the edge (think bullying) or conversely, what kind word will cause someone to want to remain a part of this world.

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Choose the people in your life that give you a healthy “high”. A high where you feel good because you are cherished and respected. The high that comes after a shared experience of laughing and talking with your partner or friend. Not the emotional high that comes during the honeymoon stage in the cycle of abuse. Pick your poison carefully…every person has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way.

Be the positive light and force that others desire to be around. And most importantly, be someone that YOU want to be around.

Wishing you positive interactions and healthy choices today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

#Frenemies: 6 signs you’re in a toxic friendship

I was recently talking to a friend of mine that was lamenting about the struggle she has with a friend of hers.

She spoke to the fact that they have ‘been friends for years’ so she was experiencing an unspoken feeling of obligation that she should maintain the friendship. Despite being constantly brought down by her friend’s negativity, misgivings that her friend was trustworthy, and the nagging feeling that her friend just used her to vent about the stresses of her life—my friend still seemed to struggle with letting this other person go.

Sound familiar?

At one point or another, you have to evaluate the friendships that are in your life.

Healthy characteristics of friendships include:

  • a reciprocation of support through the bad and the good times in life
  • a feeling of positivity that is derived after an interaction
  • the ability to go out and enjoy life activities together
  • a bond that is impenetrable through life transitions
  • trust.

A healthy friendship enhances your life, and should not take away from your joy. Of course there will be moments where you will feel concern and worry for your friend, but this should be tempered by humor and lighter moments where you both share joy!

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“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” ― Alice Walker

So how do you decipher through the friendships that you have and decide which ones need to be let go?

Here is a list of the top 6 signs that your friendship is toxic, and needs to be expired:

1. Despite your best efforts, your friend never seems happy with you.

Some people are intrinsic people pleasers. They may feel a need to always try to make others happy despite never being able to achieve that because the other person will always feel they are not doing a good enough job. My biggest concern for the people pleaser is that who is trying to make you happy? If you begin to notice that despite your best efforts, your “friend” still becomes upset that you didn’t call her back at the right time, didn’t listen long enough to her grievances, didn’t fix her problem, give her the right advice, etc., then it may be time to move on. Who wants a person in their life who you can’t ever make happy despite your best efforts?

2. Your friend is a social glommer.

Social glomming occurs when your friend only seems available during the good times in your life. The social glommer is surely there to celebrate that new job, but there’s no sight of them when you need support with a break-up, loss, insert whatever hardship you may have going on. A social glommer is there to ride the coattails of your happiness but you can’t count on them to be there for you when the going gets tough. Friendship should be based on the understanding that there is support even when you are not at the top of your life game.

In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.

–Aristotle

3. Your friend loves drama.

Maybe you’ve begun to notice a pattern where your friend loves to function around and in dysfunction. While the friend that loves drama can provide some entertainment and or strong opinions, this kind of friendship surely does not promote peaceful living. If you find that your friend is only calling you when he or she is at the center of a dramatic event and seeks to pull you in, it may be time to pull the curtain on this one. When we constantly allow ourselves to become involved in these mini-dramas, it takes away positive energy—draining us of our ability to be healthy and centered.

4. Your friend does not communicate with you when they are upset.

Maybe you had to cancel a dinner with your friend because you were sick with the flu and strangely you haven’t heard from your friend for weeks. You know that the dinner was important to your friend because it was a celebration of their new job and wonder why they aren’t responding to you since you cancelled. You’ve apologized but still, no response. A true friend is able to check in with you if you’ve done something that upset them. There is the ability to have a meaningful conversation about hurts and or disappointments and instead of the difficult conversation breaking up the relationship, you and your friend become stronger. Just as in any relationship, there will be times that you may upset or let one another down. If you aren’t able to discuss these concerns, then it can be a tell-tale sign that it’s a dead-end friendship.

4. Your friend does not encourage you to be the best version of yourself.

The friend that is a bad influence will often manifest themselves in many different ways. Whether it’s the person that encourages you to drink more than you know you should, not go to the meeting on beach cleanup, or tell you that kissing someone other than your partner is not cheating, this person encourages bad behavior and in turn causes you to be a less healthy version of yourself. This person is often disguised under the mask of being nonjudgmental which is surely a quality that we want in a friend. But instead of being open to accepting you as who you are, their nonjudgmentalness takes a turn for the worst—instead of offering up healthy encouragement while still accepting you, he or she may completely validate totally irresponsible and unhealthy behavior. If you recognize this in your friendship, it’s time to find someone that encourages you to grow.

A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. Your friend is not trustworthy or consistent.

True friends are able to respect you and hold the sacred details of your life close to their heart without repeating them. Likewise, their actions follow their words. Not only do healthy friendships speak the truth, they follow through with doing what they say that they will. Example: you just confessed to your friend that you are feeling really lonely and would they go with you to your company holiday party? Your friend offers you verbal support and tells you “of course I’ll be your plus one!” but when it comes time for the action to take place, you find out that not only does your friend repeat what you have told them to another mutual friend, they bail on you when it comes time for the get together. If you are allowing someone that is not trustworthy or consistent to be in your life, then it’s time to reevaluate and let go.

 “Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”

― William Shakespeare

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Tying it all together…

The beauty of our adult friendships is that we have the capability to pick and choose who we allow to be in our lives, our inner circle, our ‘tribe’. Friendships should benefit your life and cause your life to be enriched with support and positivity.

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes your friendships will wax and wane as you may be in different life stages, yet no matter what, a true friendship will persevere throughout. Make space in your life for healthy friendships, with people that will encourage you to be the best version of yourself, and love you for exactly who you are.

Never settle for less to pacify loneliness; when you accept less than what you deserve, the end result is one that lacks fulfillment and true human connection. While it can be difficult to find faithful friends, hold tight because they are out there! And more than likely looking for a good friend like you.

Focus your energies on being the best friend that you can be and the positive people that you want to attract will come…

Wishing you solid friendships full of health and positivity today and everyday,

Rachel Ann