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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd



Toxic Relationships

Along the same lines as the 'Toxic Parents' Procedure, the enmeshment with past or current relationships, such as with a lover, spouse, close friend or work colleague, may be examined with respect to Beliefs, Emotions and behaviors, along the lines of Rational-Emotive Therapy. As with parents, there are inevitably conflicts between what seemed best to the other person in the relationship, and what is needed and wanted by you. You may be in touch with some of your emotions, but on other issues, you may feel the need to protect yourself from the intensity of your emotions by burying them.

Step 1. Person Addressed

The first action is to make a list of the people with whom you have had relations of one sort or another, and address the following procedure towards the person who brings up the strongest emotions.

Step 2. List One: Emotions

The checklist is divided into four groups: guilt, fear, sadness and anger. You are looking for automatic, reactive, negative emotions - the ones that usually cause self-defeating behaviors. The statements in the following list are read out, and statements that ring as true are noted.

In your relationship with (Person), which of the following statements is true for you, now or in the past?

1. I feel guilty when I don't live up to (Person's) expectations.

2. I feel guilty when I do something that upsets him/her.

3. I feel guilt when I go against his/her advice.

4. I feel guilty when I get angry with him/her.

5. I feel guilty when I disappoint (Person).

6. I feel guilty when I hurt his/her emotions.

7. I feel guilty when I don't do enough for him/her.

8. I feel guilty when I don't do everything he/she asks me to do.

9. I feel guilty when I say no to him/her.

10. I feel scared when (Person) yells at me.

11. I feel scared when he/she is angry at me.

12. I feel scared when I'm angry at him/her.

13. I feel scared when I have to tell (Person) something he/she may not want to hear.

14. I feel scared when (Person) threatens to withdraw his/her love.

15. I feel scared when I disagree with him/her.

16. I feel scared when I try to stand up to him/her.

17. I feel sad when (Person) is unhappy

18. I feel sad when I know I've let (Person) down.

19. I feel sad when I can't make (Person's) life better for him/her.

20. I feel sad when (Person) tells me I've ruined his/her life.

21. I feel sad when I do something that I want to do and it hurts (Person).

22. I feel sad when (Person) doesn't like my friends.

23. I feel angry when (Person) criticises me.

24. I feel angry when (Person) tries to control me.

25. I feel angry when (Person) tells me how to live my life.

26. I feel angry when (Person) tells me how I should feel, think, or behave.

27. I feel angry when (Person) tells me what I should or shouldn't do.

28. I feel angry when (Person) makes demands on me.

29. I feel angry when (Person) tries to live his/her life through me.

30. I feel angry when (Person) expects me to take care of him/her.

31. I feel angry when (Person) rejects me.

Further instances may be elicited by completing the sentence:

'Regarding (Person), I feel guilty when .....', and similarly for other emotions.

Alternative emotions may also be elicited by completing the sentence:

'When I don't live up to (Person's) expectations I feel...', and similarly for the other situations above.

Step 3. Release

Use the Procedure for Releasing to focus on, experience and finally release the most moving or strongly felt emotion from Step 2.

Step 4. List Two: Beliefs

The second checklist identifies beliefs that underlie one's emotions. The statement corresponding to the most moving or strongly felt emotion from Step 2 is read out, followed by 'because ....' and then each of the following Beliefs:

(emotion statement from Step 2) because:

1. It is up to me to make (Person) happy.

2. It is up to me to make (Person) proud.

3. I am (Person's) whole life.

4. (Person) couldn't survive without me.

5. I couldn't survive without (Person).

6. If I told (Person) the truth, it would kill him/her.

7. If I stand up to (Person), I'll lose him/her forever.

8. If I say how much (Person) hurts me, he/she will cut me out of his/her life.

9. I shouldn't do or say anything that would hurt (Person's) emotions.

10. (Person's) emotions are more important than mine.

11. There's no point in talking to (Person) because it wouldn't do any good.

12. If (Person) would only change, I would feel better about myself.

13. I have to make it up to (Person) for the things I've done wrong.

14. If I could just get (Person) to see how much he/she is hurting me, I know he/she would be different.

15. (Person) must not have any control over my life.

16. I can't stand (Person's) behavior.

17. All men/women are like (Person).

18. Because??? (Is there some other belief that underlies this emotion?)

Step 5. Seeing the Connection

The emotion and underlying belief are then repeated as a whole statement, e.g. 'I feel guilty when I do something that upsets him/her because I shouldn't do or say anything that will hurt (Person's) emotions'. Any further emotions that emerge are handled by the Procedure for Releasing.

Step 6. List Three: behaviors

Having recognized relevant emotions and beliefs, behavior patterns can now be addressed:

Does (the connected statement from Step 5) lead to any of the following behaviors?

1. Tending to give in to (Person) no matter how you feel.

2. Not telling him/her what you really think.

3. Not telling him/her how you really feel.

4. Acting as if everything is fine between you even when it isn't.

5. Being phoney and superficial when you're with (Person) .

6. Doing things out of guilt or fear, rather than out of free choice.

7. Trying very hard to get him/her to change.

8. Trying hard to get him/her to see your point of view.

9. Becoming the peacemaker between you and (Person).

10. Making painful sacrifices in your own life to please him/her.

11. Having to bear (Person's) secrets.

12. Trying to prove to (Person) that you're right.

13. Doing things you know (Person) won't like to show him/her that you're independent.

14. Screaming at (Person) to show that he/she can't control you.

15. Restraining yourself to keep from attacking (Person).

16. Cutting (Person) out of your life.

Step 7. Complete the Procedure

Go back to Step 2 and see if there are other strongly felt emotions regarding your relationship with this Person and handle these in the same manner, until you really feel released from any bad emotions, however much you might have previously been suppressing them. And clear your relationship with other people on your list at Step 1.

Move on to The Dilemma

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