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Hiding your problems, constantly criticising and other signs you have toxic behaviour but you are not aware


Sex and relationship

We often hear people point out someone else’s behaviour as “toxic,” but we hardly hear anyone say, “My behaviour is toxic.”

In reality, though, most of us exhibit some toxic behaviours at some point in our lives.

What makes behaviour “toxic”?

Not all behaviours that upset another person are equally harmful. Some hurts are easy to brush off. For example, you and your partner might both say things that are unfair during a heated argument, but you quickly forgive one another and there’s no long-term damage to the other person or the relationship.

Other behaviors that lead to deeper wounds and longer lasting effects are toxic. Emotional abuse, for example, can damage not only the core of a relationship but can set a person up for longstanding struggles in life.

As such, toxic behavior is anything that poisons a relationship and could limit another person’s growth.

Common Types of Toxic Behaviour

Toxic behaviour can be very hard to recognise in ourselves. In fact, we can act out these behaviours for most of our adult lives and never realise how we’re wounding those around us – and ourselves, too.

Here are the unrecognised toxic behaviours that clinical psychologist Seth Gillihan said shows up most often in his therapy practice:

Minimizing someone’s pain: Instead of meeting a person in their time of pain, you gloss over it. Examples include offering empty platitudes like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “This too shall pass.” Probably without intending to, you invalidate the other person’s suffering.

What to do: Allow the other person’s experience to be what it is, without trying to dismiss their pain. Work to extend true empathy,

Constantly criticising: This pattern is especially common among parents of adult children. No matter what the other person does, you find fault with it, their parenting is too permissive; their clothes aren’t quite right; their home needs cleaning. You might think you’re being helpful, but the person on the receiving end finds it dispiriting.

What to do: Before offering your opinion or guidance, think carefully about how it’s likely to be received. Remind yourself, for example, that critiques of one’s parenting are almost never welcome.

Expressing anger indirectly: Conflict is uncomfortable, and so you wind up expressing your irritation with someone indirectly—what’s often referred to as “passive-aggressive” behavior. For example, you might make a joke about the person’s appearance that’s actually a thinly veiled criticism; couching it in humor makes the other person seem unreasonable if they get mad about it.

What to do: If you’re unhappy about something and it’s worth addressing, find a time and a way to do it directly and honestly.

Hiding your problems. You don’t share with the people closest to you a major issue you’re having, like a financial problem, trouble at work, or addiction. You might tell yourself you’re protecting the other person(s), or that you’ll let them know as soon as you “figure things out.” In reality, the other person experiences your secretive behavior as a lack of honesty, which is toxic for relationships.

What to do: Share more openly with the people who need to know. This will probably be painful at first, but it will spare you and others pain in the long run.

Being absent in a time of need: You don’t provide the close support that someone close to you needs during a difficult time. You may be supportive initially, and pledge to be there for them, but then you don’t stay involved for one reason or another.

What to do: Think about the people you’re close to and who is going through a hard time. Ask them what they need from you. And remember, it’s much better to support someone imperfectly than to be absent, even if you don’t know “the right thing to say.”

Avoiding true intimacy: You make emotional connections with others, but you find ways to make sure the relationship doesn’t get too close. Maybe you withdraw emotionally, start an argument, make jokes all the time, or find reasons to spend less time together. In the process you leave the person feeling disconnected and confused.

What to do: Take a close look at your patterns in relationships. Look into information on “attachment style”. which is how we tend to connect with other people. You might also address this issue in therapy.

If you recognize yourself in any of these toxic behaviors, take heart. Nobody is perfect, and the fact that you’re able to see your shortcomings is a good sign: It means you can do better.



Adapted from WebMD