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Valencia High School

Mindfulness Matters: Signs that you’re in a toxic relationship & the psychology behind toxic friendships

Mindfulness Matters is a column by Vivian Wang that highlights the simple ways that she maintains mindfulness and self-care through the treacherous, life-changing journey of high school. In this week’s article, Wang shares her perspective on toxic friendships, some indications of toxic friendships, and the toll that it takes on an individual’s mental health.

We’ve all experienced moments in life when we consider our friends and colleagues that we surround ourselves with, especially when there are doubts surrounding the relationship or friendship.

As a rising high school senior, I have seen the idea of friendship evolve as I grow up. From the early elementary years when friendship meant sharing Goldfish with one another and playing “tag” on the field to my current high school years when friendship means spending time with friends that lift each other up and support one another by expressing gratitude and loyalty.

It’s often difficult for friendships to come to a clean end, especially toxic friendships. The friend experiencing the toxicity finds themselves cornered while the toxic individual does not realize their potent, toxic disposition.

In delineating the indications of a toxic relationship or friendship, it helps individuals realize that some of the friends that they surround themselves with may not be positive influences in their daily lives.

Here are some indications that you might be in a toxic relationship or friendship:

  1. Dominating daily conversations: When considering the day-to-day conversations that you have with your friends, it is important to recognize if your friend also listens to your thoughts and respects your emotions or if they only care that you listen to their own thoughts when they dominate the conversation. Are your thoughts recognized and respected, or are the conversations always focused heavily on your friend or companion?
  2. Copying and mimicking your projects, work or disposition: As explained by Lindsay Dodgson from Business Insider, toxic friends find themselves trapped in a superiority complex as they continue to compete with their friends and constantly seek to outdo their friend or counterpart. “So it’s not uncommon for toxic friends to be very jealous of you, tear you down, and to some extent try to steal your identity,” psychologist and therapist Perpetua Neo explained, according to Business Insider.
  3. Competing with you: Whether it be through demonstrating superiority in a relationship or always trying to outdo you, indications of constant competition demonstrate the prevalence of a toxic relationship or friendship. In tandem with the idea of copying, the desire for the toxic individual to constantly compete with their friend may be a strong indicator of a lack of transparency and loyalty.
  4. Expecting constant attention and being extremely attention-seeking: “They want all your time, so it’s a very codependent kind of friendship… So they’ll text you all the time and expect a reply. Even if you say I’m going to be really busy over the next six hours, they’ll text you just before, and throughout. And if you don’t reply, they will kick up a storm,” Neo describes. In several toxic relationships and friendships, the individual experiencing the toxicity find themselves always at demand as their toxic friend or partner calls and texts them several times a day. With obsessive FaceTime calls or multiple missed texts, these are indications of a toxic, demanding relationship. The texts of “Hello???” and “I called you seven times and I wanted to show you something” followed by the missed calls may be indications of the desire for constant attention.
  5. Frequently playing the victim in the friendship: In many friendships, it is possible that the toxic companion could be trying to play the victim and assert the blame on you so the general public shows compassion toward the toxic individual, according to Psychology Today.

To understand the psychology behind toxic friendships and relationships, it is crucial to consider the emotional and mental toll that your friends or companions have on you. In an article for Mental Health First Aid, Rubina Kapil explained how humans are naturally drawn to companionship, whether it be through friendships or relationships and so regardless of one’s age, healthy relationships are essential for promoting positive mental health.

“These friends can celebrate with you through the good times in life and be there for you through the bad,” Kapil said in the 2019 Mental Health First Aid article.

During this pandemic, having support systems and friend circles to converse with and share stories of successes and failures is more important now than ever before.

Surrounding yourself with toxic friends or hurtful significant others heavily impacts your mental health when the people who should be supporting you are instead trying to bring you down.

It can be difficult to end a toxic relationship or friendship but knowing when and how to set your boundaries is one of the most resilient actions you can take for yourself. Take a quick moment to video call your friends that have been by your side or send them a quick “thank you” text to remind them of all the memories that you have had with your friends or partner.

You’ll find that you can live without burdens while having your true friends and counterparts that have been by your side are beyond enough for true bliss and gratitude.