Detox seems to be in trend now. Everyone going through a rough patch or wanting to end stagnation in their life is taking this route. The beginning of the pandemic till now has become “that” time for people to pause and reflect upon what was happening in life. Priorities have also shifted from a fast, quick-fix life to a relatively slower lifestyle, spending more time with the family, engaging in activities that have never been done earlier.
So, what does detoxify actually mean? Its classic definition means getting rid of unwanted, harmful substances from the body. While doing research on detoxifying, I came across myriad topics on “how to detox”. A browser search will typically throw up results like – how to detox the blood, liver, lungs, skin, brain, yourself, and even the mind! But very few links on “how to detox” the friend list. It is understandable why “toxic friendship” won’t be seen in search lists (there may be a few random links). Friendship is a sacrosanct relationship. It is about being yourself with people who love you and have stood by you through thick and thin. So how can friends be toxic, you would ask – rather anyone would question. It is possible not to accept there are and can be toxic friends too. Who are they, anyway?
Friends are human beings after all and friendships like other relationships can have changed, and twists and turns in tone too. They will be happy, joyful, jealous, bitter, angry, and will probably have hatred as well. We accept all of it in a friend. But when the behaviour of a friend begins to affect us, it is time to have a talk with that friend and convey your discomfort to them. If the friend continues to behave in the same pattern – abusive tone/sarcastic statements, it is time to move away from him/her. A conscious step away will make you realize the toxic cycle you were in or were going to be entangled in. Just ask yourself a few questions – How are you feeling after a particular episode/conflict with the friend? Is this friendship affecting your daily life? Do you have friends who do the same? Can I cut myself off from this friend?
If the answer to the above questions is yes and a feeling of negativity is permeating you thinking about the friend, it is time to move on!
Filtering out/decluttering – a process
So, how do you filter out toxic friends? All of us are familiar with physical and mental detoxification. There is a third type now – detoxifying or filtering of friends – physically as well as online – friends whom we meet regularly and those whom we meet online.
A friend recently declared on her social media timeline that she has successfully “decluttered” her friend list. All of us are into some type of social media platform and sharing a slice of our life there almost on a daily (even hourly basis). We have added our friends in the friend – school, college, colleagues, and some like-minded friends we met on our social media accounts and some with whom we network (albeit virtual professional networks). We added some friends just because they are “friends of friends”. Go to your timeline and remove all those “friends of friends” whom you have never met and who don’t have any profile pictures. These are also a part of your toxic circles!
Identify the Red flags
So, why do a detox of these friends?
- You may or may not agree with friends all the time but if they begin to interfere or harm your physical and mental space, it is time to say goodbye to them.
- The moment a friend starts telling you to choose between friends, choose to cut off.
- Whatever be the medium – physical/online, harming may mean leaving you emotionally drained. One of the ways of harming could be gaslighting. It doesn’t only happen in relationships but in friendships as well.
- You end up being uncomfortable and constantly anxious around them – especially the unpredictability in their reactions. At times, it is a sunny high and at times, a moony low.
- When you recognize these signs, you start maintaining a distance and gradually cutting off from them. You don’t want them to know what is happening in your life or even their life.
- Agreeing to disagree is common among best buddies/friends but when a line is crossed by them – making you feel guilty or you becoming their emotional “punching bag” all the time, then it is time to detox.
- Recognize the red flags –
Identify “friends” who are trying to put you down and drain you emotionally.
- Confront –
Ask your friend why he/she is behaving in a certain way. Normally the toxic friend will not have a clear reply. They may deny the behaviour completely. Just block the person after this – virtually & physically.
- Slow fading off –
Another way of moving out of this toxic friendship is gradually detaching communication – reduce the number of messages, taking lesser calls, and no meetings. Just block the number/email.
- Zero conversations –
Stop replying to messages or engaging in discussions with them. Your friend(s) will get the message and cut off himself/herself.
- Stop giving the benefit of the doubt –
There are no second chances for toxic “friends”. Each time, you give excuses for their bad behaviour and mask as “they are like this”, you are deceiving yourself. Once you do that, it will be easier to cut off.
- No going back –
Once you cut off, avoid taking their calls or replying to messages. Do not think of returning because they will try giving you reasons for their behaviour and what triggered them. They will try to rationalize it too. The cycle may continue if you decide to forgive them.
- Get an emotional closure –
Meet your friend one last time, explain the reasons for cutting off from the friendship and walk off.
- Accept their absence –
If it is a friendship that has been for many years, then it is understandable to feel hurt. Recognizing the toxicity is a sign for you to understand and acknowledge that they have no more role to play in your life. Give yourself time to heal.
- Surround yourself with positive people –
Meet other like-minded friends. The moment you meet friends who are supportive, you will recognize the toxicity better and keep away from “friends” who are putting you down at the slightest.
- Engage in positive activities, meet new people –
The most important person is you and will remain always! So, the moment you start loving yourself more, you will surround yourself with positive people – people who will stick by you through thick and thin. More the self-love, the lesser you become a magnet for negative and toxic people. Say NO to toxicity.
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