The Science behind Why you should keep away from toxic people.
We have all had less than stellar relationships, some worse than others. They come in all sizes and shapes: the toxic work relationship, the friend that turned foe over time, the siblings that never overcame their jealousy, a parent that can’t let go, and the spouse that is controlling, physically or verbally abusive or unfaithful. The list goes on. These relationships make up a large amount of our lives. Beyond the well-known effects of these relationships–poor self-esteem, depression, and a propensity to continue unhealthy relationships– there is science that says they are so much worse for us than we thought. The bottom line is that these toxic relationships are bad for our health. And here is why this is so and what we must do to avoid them.
I first became interested in these relationships after watching the effects from these types in my family. Everyone has the weird uncle, the itchy aunt or the nice gal that married the real controlling guy. I started to look around, and it seemed everyone had one in their families, business and so-called friends. As a personal trainer, I entered homes and witnessed noxious personalities that I couldn’t believe and couldn’t believe their behavior. In most of these, the women or men were smart, well-rounded individuals, not the characters society depicts them as-a victim wanting or warranting this kind of treatment. I wondered: Did everyone have a toxic relationship? Why do individuals engage in such relationships, and what impact did these have on their health? Hell, my health suffered from what seemed to be constant narcissistic or just very inappropriate business acquaintances- those people that you just “have to” put up with to pay the bills. I will admit I have had more than one “mental health day” because it seemed like I was at the end of my rope.
But many times, this kind of relationships starts in your very own DNA. Or is it everyone’s DNA? My grandmother was divorced at a young age, infidelity and verbal abuse-so it said in her divorce papers in 1938-at a time when a divorce costs just $7.50 cents. She left to be a single mother …but wait a minute isn’t that what’s happening now? Marriages presently have less than a 50 percent success rate. But even so, work relationships are often so stressing research show people don’t quit jobs, they often quit bosses. I’ve done this myself. So, what does toxic relationships do to you or worse. Or from my research what does it do to your brain?
We all know of the nature vs. nurture debate. As many people have, I recently had my DNA test done by Ancestry.com. I wonder with all the generations of split relationships what happens on the cellular level during generation to generation of toxic relationships. This is what is most interesting to me- because if you knew what those negative words were doing to you physically and how they were changing the structure of your brain, or that you will bring this new brain chemistry to the next generation -you not only would get out of the relationship, but more importantly you would stay clear of these individuals and these negative verbal transactions daily. Let’s be honest-negative relationships aren’t a ONE-hour thing. It’s a career thing, a marriage thing, a “but I’ve known them since high school” thing. However, in the work environment I will be the first person to admit you can’t always do that-someone has to pay the bills.
It turns out that constant negatively impacts your brain wiring.
Neuroplasticity is new to me but has such a profound meaning to me now as a person that must work closely with the public. But also, Because I go into homes and work one-on-one, watching those around me suffer in relationships, marriages and toxic work environments.
“Neuro” is the nervous system, which, simplified, includes the brain, the nervous systems (sympathetic, para sympathetic), the spinal cord and all the nerves that send and receive information from your environment.
You can you imagine the information that is sent to your brain in a minute-to minute toxic relationship through all your senses?
“Plasticity” is the ability to mold your brain, to physically, cellularly, change to better adapt, learn, and recover throughout your lifespan.
Let’s look at a verbally abusive relationship. It usually takes a few years of dating before the marriage and a few years into the marriage to settle into a pattern. If the average marriage lasts about 5 years, we are looking at around 12 years total. 12 years! That is 4,380 days and 52,560 minutes of perhaps subtle insults, fighting, in addition to feelings of angriness, isolation and embarrassment. Can you imagine for a moment how those feelings have molded your brain? How many neuro-transmitters via repetitive negative responseswere created in such a long duration? In addition, you must include the often-self-inflicted abuse from your own mind talk while in the relationship. To top things off, your brain doesn’t decipher what is a real situation or what is just a replay. So how many times did you go over what he or she said, the insult or the cutting comment? One insult can make you feel awful a thousand times.
An individual can make themselves happy by increasing serotonin levels or make themselves depressed by decreasing serotonin levels. For example, think about that bully from high school or think about how happy your dog is when you drive up in the driveway. The feeling you have after fitness, eating or having sex. Or how about that aunt that never liked you, your mother-in-law, or estranged sister. Enough to make you poke your eyes out? These opposing examples result in two very different chemical responses from the brain. It’s the reason you become enervated when you “have to interact” with toxic people and become energized when you’ve experience someone you perceive as awesome. Neuropsychology asserts that repeated chemical response will produce more of the same over time. This means that after 52,560 minutes of someone’s negative noxious behavior, you can bet you brain has changed to adapt to this toxic treatment. Your brain has built chemical pathways to be able to accommodate the toxic behavior because your brain thinks this is forever. During my work as a personal trainer, I’ve seen strong, wonderful women and men just cave when their husband, wife, boss, or sibling walks in the door. Their brain has learned to acquiesce at the right time. I can almost see the serotonin drying up as the person walk in the door. This is neuroplasticity.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some powerful ways to change the course of the organ that makes you, you— your brain. These techniques will work, whether you’re in a toxic relationship or just out of one, if it was a childhood of negative relationships or a complete lifetime. Unless you choose to be a hermit, you can’t totally avoid people. There is never just one in your life. When I realized this, I looked around and I cleaned house.
Building new pathways means you are intentionally producing feel good chemicals(serotonin) to form a new path in your brain. So how do we start?