What does Toxic Mean in a RelationshipJul 07, 2022
Overcoming Toxic Relationships
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Ande: Hello, Avaiya family. I'm Ande Anderson, my partner Ike Allen and I are teachers, mentors and the co-owners of Avaiya University. Avaiya is the creator of over a thousand books, films, courses, teachings and other supportive resources. Thank you so much for joining us.
Our fellow teacher Dr. Ameet Aggarwal is back with us today to talk about anxiety, depression and trauma therapies and connections to toxic relationships. Voted one of the top 43 therapists worldwide, Dr. Ameet helps you heal the root cause of mood problems, physical illness by focusing on healing personal trauma, negative beliefs, your ancestral trauma and your biology. He combines naturopathic and functional medicine, Gestalt psychotherapy, EMDR, family constellations and homeopathy to help you heal your mind and body together and much, much more.
Welcome back to Avaiya, Dr. Ameet.
Dr. Ameet: Thank you, Ande. It's great to be back actually.
Ande: Oh, always.
Dr. Ameet: I'm excited about really getting to the root cause really of pulling yourself out of the effects of toxic relationships and what gets us into them as well.
Ande: Well, let's do just that, I love it. So why don't we start with why, I guess let's start with why do people some people stay in toxic relationships? I know that you wanted to talk a little bit about how beliefs affect this, trauma, depression, all sorts of different things. So why do some people stay in toxic relationships?
Are relationships supposed to be stressful?
Dr. Ameet: One is from beliefs - negative beliefs about yourself - I'm not capable of making it on my own or I'm not capable of finding new love, no one will love me. Some people are afraid of actually hurting the other person or they're avoiding conflict, right? The other person might get angry. And the fear of being alone as well, that separation anxiety that people go through based on childhood trauma, right? A lot of people have had some sort of separation anxiety or separation trauma during childhood. And when we're to leave a partner in our adult life all those unconscious feelings get triggered again, and we avoid them like the plague - we really don't want to go to that place of separation or that place of conflict. And some people feel that they actually deserve it.
And a lot of people what I've noticed in my practice is that they blame themselves for what's going wrong in the relationship, they don't realize that the relationship is toxic, right? "I'm at fault. He's angry so I must have done something wrong. I'm not doing well enough. I'm not cooking well enough. I'm not dressing well enough. I'm not doing enough for the relationship. I'm not supporting them enough, so I got to do more." Because they don't have that feedback from other people. And this is based on, of course, early childhood programming where your self-value is not developed enough to point out somebody who's either narcissistic or toxic for you. We don't have that radar.
So there's many factors that cause people to stay in the relationship, self-doubt like they're saying and also not knowing that the relationship is toxic. And then we'll get into loyalties as well based on the types of relationships your parents were in, because I treat with family constellations therapy and we look at ancestral trauma I really want to talk about that as well.
Ande: So let's just take a step back for a second and I'm curious, like you mentioned wanting to avoid conflict, right? Someone stays in a toxic relationship sometimes because they want to avoid conflict, and that just pinged me, it resonated with me. So why do you think people ... what is it about someone's childhood that makes them want to then avoid conflict as an adult?
Dr. Ameet: So I know, for example, I grew up in boarding school and I was bullied and shamed by a teacher and some of the boys and it was almost impossible to stand up for myself because I was shy, I was timid, I was small. And so the feeling that when I have to stand up and confront somebody now brings up all that shame and feeling very small in front of people. It's still wired into my memory, I'm still working on it. Other people are afraid of the violence that comes with conflict. Other people are just afraid of somebody's anger, they just don't want to deal with it.
And so why is that? It's usually based on childhood wounds and the lack of support for healthy conversations. If your parents scolded you a lot and blamed you a lot then there's no self-confidence in having a confrontational conversation because it was always your fault or you might trigger somebody's anger or you just might not be supported. There's no safety, there's no safety. So a lot of people are lacking a sense of innate safety from childhood when it comes to confronting someone in their adulthood, meaning when they're growing up there's not enough safety to develop those emotional skills to feel emotionally resilient and confident in your own voice, right?
Dr. Ameet: And so that leaves gaps in us as adults when we're trying to have confrontational conversations because the environment will become too stable or we cannot predict how the other person will react, and that feels super unsafe for us because we might lose the support or the friendship or the love not only of that person but of the community around us because we might be doing something wrong by going into that conflict so we might look bad, and if we look bad we get outed or ousted by the community. And not belonging to a community, not belonging to a family, to a group can trigger a lot of deep fear for people and then they end up avoiding conflict and standing up for themselves.
Ande: Got you. Thank you. I appreciate you going deeper into that, that's just something that I know so many people who have had less than perfect childhoods can relate to in the world of just not wanting to ... never wanting to dive into a conflict or even risk a conflict, right? So I think that's important to kind of get in touch with, the origins of that.
So let's talk a little bit about family constellations therapy. You mentioned it a bit ago. And how you use that to treat ancestral trauma, so how is all of this connected to toxic relationships?
Dr. Ameet: So family constellations therapy is one of my favorite therapies combined with homeopathy, of course. So in family constellation therapy we notice that there are certain loyalties people have to their parents, to their ancestors, they carry certain wounds. These wounds are actually passed down through generations. A typical example I see very often, I'm not even exaggerating, really often in clinic, is a client who has parents where one of the parents is alcoholic and one of the parents is abused. I don't want to stereotype but usually it's the father who's alcoholic and the mom's abused.
And now the clients will almost mirror their mother. First of all, they'll be rejecting their father subconsciously or even consciously just to side with the mother, but there's a certain loyalty, a very deep unconscious loyalty that I see in people that they don't want to be happier or they feel guilty being happier than their mother (1), or they associate that being abused or being in that kind of relationship and that environment is normal, it's a sense of familiarity. So it almost becomes like a safe zone, a place of belonging. "I belong in this family dynamic because like as a child if I kept quiet and showed fear or took on my mom's problems, listen to my mom a lot, I felt the sense of connection." And so my despair, my depression while I'm doing this also gives me a sense of connection to my family. It kind of creates my personality.
And so now I leave the family and I go into the adult world, I am somehow attracted to these miserable situations. I don't realize that I deserve somebody who can treat me really well, better than my father treated my mother. It's almost like, "Okay, I get why this person's talking to me like this because this is how men work." This is one example. Or I don't have a radar for what joy feels like, I don't have a radar what it feels like to be supported and cherished and really admired by a partner. It's not in my radar because I didn't grow up with that. So I don't even look out for it. And I go and I'm attracted to what's familiar. So there's that familiarity of mirroring a parent. And what we see often is this guilt about being happier than the mom or the other parent.
And what we say in family constellations is we do certain healing sentences like, "Dear mom, I'm your daughter or I'm your son and I love you very much and I leave this with you. I leave this grief and this burden with you with all respect. And I still love you. I cannot carry it because I am the child, you are the adult." But we do different versions of that sentence that really get to the energetic experience of saying those words.
And when you say those sentences there's a certain disentanglement. And a lot of people when they say those simple sentences they will experience a lot of guilt as if they're betraying their mom or their dad, right? And the fact that that guilt is triggered means that we are waking up some unconscious belief and compensation that's been going on and the guilt is an awakening of like, "Okay, there's change happening." It's a sign that you were stuck in a role of taking care or being loyal to a hurt parent or an unhappy parent and we wear that like a badge, "You know, my mom suffered and I took care of her. And I'm angry at the world. And this is what people are like." And we carry it out of love and honor not realizing that it's sabotaging our own ability to receive love and happiness.
Ande: So much gold in there, Ameet. I love that. Like just the depth of that, the familiarity of feeling depression or anxiety or lack of hope or any number of like really negative heavy kinds of feelings but feeling them because that was what was familiar so if I feel it now then I'm still connected, right? I'm still like accepted even if it's an abusive, harsh, toxic environment, I'm still in that playing my role. And then also what you said about the radar for joy - if you didn't get to experience that as a kid then I guess like how would one start opening up to joy and start to recognize that that's a different way of living?
Dr. Ameet: Yeah, because if it's not on your radar you don't even know how to receive it or even trust it. It's like, "Okay, how do I even respond to somebody admiring me? How do I even resonate with that?" Because it doesn't land well. It feels more about them, right? It could be about the other person but it's like there's an inability to receive and almost become undepressed, like lift up your spirits with that. And the deeper inner work you do by really giving back to your parents their misery, maybe doing some somatic experiencing therapy or Gestalt will really express the anger release all that pain and suffering inside. Energetic release therapy so that there's room to receive lighter energies, lighter thoughts. When we do those therapies then we can begin to receive these lighter relationships and converse with healthier people in our lives and also create expectations of our partner not to mess us around and also to live up to respect and just live up to those healthy expectations rather than just give up our integrity and our autonomy.
Ande: Can you give an example or just like kind of go a little deeper into how it would look for someone to go into one of those therapies, somatic experiencing or Gestalt, to release some of that negative emotion to make space for receiving joy?
Dr. Ameet: I'm getting tingles. So I know we're on the right place, I'm getting vibrations, let me just channel that, okay? So each person's individual, right? And I will feel energetically what the right sentence for them to say is. So for example, a child, a daughter could say, a client of mine could say to her father, "Dear dad, I really believed this was normal." And even just saying that sentence they'll feel the discrepancy of their belief in what's reality. "And I really believe you love mom, but it hurts me how she took over your pain."
So expressing deep emotions, it doesn't always have to be anger, sometimes it is anger, like sometimes I'll get somebody to really smash a mattress or a pillow and just use swear words and say, "Please leave her alone, please ..." Because sometimes kids are frozen when they see violence between their parents and they don't know how to emote it. So I'll get some clients to say, "Please leave her alone, please leave her alone, please like, mom, run or, mom, I can't protect you anymore, I can't protect you anymore." Because they didn't protect the mother, it didn't come out, right? They just felt paralyzed in their body. So mom, I can't protect you anymore. Suddenly you get in touch with the weakness in your body and the honesty in your somatic experience.
And then I support that person in that vulnerability. It's like, "Gosh, stay with that weakness. There's nothing wrong with it. This is your place of vulnerability, intimacy." It's a really intimate place that I couldn't help mom and all the shoulds that come, I should have done it, I'm not good enough, da, da, da. But when you can really support a person in that place of intimacy and helplessness and get them to feel their body again and their breathing and their own personality without the job of protecting somebody else, now they get a certain breathing space in their mind, in that part of the mind that often dissociates from all the chaos that was going on, then the body starts changing, the physiology starts changing. Because let me explain this a bit better.
When somebody is in that place of like, "Gosh, mom, I couldn't help you," suddenly they're exposing that weakness. And as they're exposed I make contact with them as a therapist, I'll say, "Okay, great, now look at me, how does that feel to say that?" They'll often say like truthful and powerless and I have judgments around this, I'll say, "Great, give the judgments a break. First feel your body and just breathe with me. How does it feel to be received as you are now a helpless person? How does it feel to make contact with me and still feel loved and accepted?" And then they'll get a paradigm shift, just like, "Okay, I get it. I was busy trying to solve my parents' problems and suddenly I don't have to do so much and I'm still in contact with someone, I still have connection with someone. I can often let go of that busyness that was keeping me entangled in the past." Does that make sense?
Ande: Yeah, oh, yeah, I feel like we've gone at a much deeper, deeper place than ever before. I love that. That's so powerful for people and hopefully people watching right now could see themselves in that example or different example and how that might be able to help them open up to that space of joy and start living from that. So I love that.
Let's talk homeopathy, how can homeopathy help people either get out of let's say or heal from a toxic relationship?
Dr. Ameet: Super. So homeopathy is a system of medicine and energetic medicine and we can use it to heal trauma from the past, like I use this very often. There's certain remedies like aconite, for example, it is a great remedy for fear and shock where you have palpitations and night terrors. Ignatia is a great remedy for heartbreak, I cover all these remedies in my Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online but I want to mention some really important remedies here. Ignatia is a great one for heartbreak and shock and fear and you have this lump in your throat and a lot of tearing and crying. Natrum muriaticum, for example, is another great remedy for grief and loss of a loved one where you withdraw, you might feel resentful, depressed, maybe get headaches, things like that. There's other remedies where you feel guilt and suicidal thoughts.
But why I mention these different flavors of remedies is because (1) they can heal trauma from the past and when you have trauma in the past then you often become neurotic, depressed, fearful, scared, shy, lack of confidence. And those are the things that sometimes keep people in toxic relationships. And these same remedies can also be used to heal the mood of a person, so if a person is very depressed, fearful, anxious and they don't know about their trauma but the state of being disables them from living an autonomous life, a healthy life and leaving a toxic relationship. Homeopathy can be used to clear the mind, to help create a healthier mindset and more self-confidence.
I've seen a lot of people, myself included, have healed from self-doubt, like negative thoughts that invade the mind and create self-doubt. They feel like reality, until you step out of them you realize, gosh, they're separate set of thoughts from my true personality, but while you're in them it feels like you, right? So homeopathy can heal these negative thoughts.
And so when we heal trauma and negative beliefs and depression and anxiety I believe it's more possible for people to leave a bad relationship. You also make better connections with the other people in your life to get better support which helps us leave a toxic relationship or confront somebody where you have less fear of confrontation. Then the other side comes in where the toxic relationship created in you depression, negative belief, self-blame, self-hatred, maybe self-cutting, inability to receive other people who believe that somebody else can like you, so low self-esteem, so we use those similar remedies to treat those symptoms and the trauma of being in an abusive relationship.
So in homeopathy there's remedies for ailments from abuse, ailments from being scorned, ailments from sexual abuse, ailments from abandonment. So I'll listen to the story of a person, understand their experience - what happened to them (1), (2) I'll also look at their overall picture - how are they behaving, right? Are they doubtful, are they fearful, are they vengeful, are they hateful or do they have intrusive thoughts, are they worse in the mornings, evenings, daytime, night time, etcetera? Those individual characters help me point to the right remedy for their picture. So then I'll treat the after effects of being in abusive relationship as well.
And then I combine that with natural medicine, naturopathic medicine, because a lot of people who have come out of toxic relationships are in burnout, they've been working too hard and their mind is stressed so their adrenal glands just get depleted and then their cortisol levels go off which affects their brain chemicals. So serotonin, dopamine, everything, all start plummeting and when that happens they have more anxiety and depression. So they need some sort of rebuilding of the adrenal system as well as the homeopathy to get fully better. Only doing thought therapy could exhaust them further if they don't really rebuild or re-nourish their organs that suffered during the stressful time.
Why do i feel stressed in my relationship
Ande: Right. And that's what I've always loved about what you do, Ameet, in the world of like the whole person and tackling this from all these different directions as opposed to just mental health or somatic or whatever but you're also coming from I guess medical direction so to speak, right? And I love that.
Here's a question I'm curious about, we've kind of talked about toxic relationships when we're adults like with a romantic partner, what about when we have toxic relationships as adults with our family of origin? And like how to navigate those relationships that are still toxic?
Dr. Ameet: I'm in the middle of that myself right now.
Ande: Well, that's probably why I asked.
Dr. Ameet: Well, I'm reading a course in miracles, we've talked about this before, very powerful book and that's helped me a lot actually. Because in a way we are triggered most by our family of origin I believe, right? And the way we're triggered depends on the childhood wounds we've had - how did our parents treat us? Were we bullied at school? How was our relationship created between our siblings by our parents? What structures we put into place? So what role are you falling into?
And so a good therapist will get you to become aware of the role you're playing to maintain your position in the family, right? And awareness itself can release you from that entanglement and say, "Gosh, my role was to be the suffering person who gave up a lot because that's how I feel more accepted, as if I'm sacrificing makes me look good." And you realize the cost that it comes with is pain. And it doesn't actually improve the situation by looking like you are the sacrificer. What's it called? The martyr.
And so we do work around that and emotional support about feeling accepted even if you value yourself or if you step away from the family and you feel, "Okay, you know what? I don't have to suffer for everybody. Will I be accepted, will I not?" Get them in that place of uncertainty and let them feel fully their body in that place of not being in the same role.
Then I get them to tap, for example, tap the collarbones or do some EFT or EMDR while they're in their place of vulnerability so that their nervous system can get used to not being entangled in that role. That's a very simple example.
What causes toxic relationships
Communication skills, so rather than going into blaming, when we're in a toxic relationship being triggered by our family of origin like, "Oh, she's not doing this or he's not doing this and they don't support me, they don't love me," etcetera. And effective communication is using I. "I don't feel supported right now, I feel unsafe, I feel like I need a break from this." So rather than putting the blame on others which keeps us more entangled I often encourage clients to use I statements and then they take ownership and responsibility of what actions they need to take to either move away or say something differently. "I don't feel safe when you raise your voice or I don't want to be in the same room when you two are arguing. I'm still part of this family, I'll come back when you guys are done," rather than, "I hate when you guys are arguing, you trigger me, you mess me up." There's a different language there.
And when you practice this language there's so much freedom and relaxation of your nervous system. It's a real ... I think you're feeling it right now. I can feel some vibrations in the air.
Ande: Yeah, so I was thinking about what you said about the blaming then just entangling you more and how maybe tempting the blaming can be especially as it relates to family of origin, but, absolutely, then you're just like falling right back into that role and getting entangled in it. So I love that. Thank you.
Dr. Ameet: Because also when you blame somebody you're expecting them to change based on your blame, you're guilt-tripping them. And then they don't change then there's more disappointment and anger and resentment. There might be a temporary change but nothing happens.
When you pull yourself out of that entanglement and use I statements, "I'm going to walk away, I'm not ready to have this conversation right now," you practice self-support. Whenever you practice self-support you become less of a target to abusive people because abusive people feed off your entanglement and your vulnerability. So giving them less fuel to work with will change the dynamic in the family.
Ande: Okay, got you. Awesome. Thank you.
Dr. Ameet: Pleasure.
How to deal with stress in relationship
Ande: Thank you for going into that as well. I'm glad we touched on that. And since we are running low on time I want to make sure you get a chance to talk about some free gifts as well as an offer you have for everyone, and there's buttons below that link over to all that. So what do you have for us?
Dr. Ameet: So if anyone wants to know, first of all, how to heal their gut, their liver and adrenal glands and emotional trauma so that their brain chemicals come more into balance and they can really feel healthy and resilient I've got Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online, there's a free e-book as well there. And it will walk you through some beautiful emotional healing exercises as well as how to balance your neurotransmitters. And that I've seen, especially the emotional healing exercise I find, helps people release from unconscious blocks that they might be having. Check it out, I'm very curious.
And then another free offer I have is a whole bunch of interviews I've done in the past on weight loss, healing from trauma, family constellations therapy, reversing brain degeneration, also emotional trauma related to weight gain as well. So it's all there for you.
Ande: Awesome. Thank you. And every one, Avaiya students watching right now, again, those buttons are below so you can just click on them to head to Ameet's site and check all that out.
Do you have any last insights before we wrap up?
Dr. Ameet: Well, I talked about course in miracles which is very important too. I don't know why it keeps on coming up. It's important to check out. And then self-love, if you're in a toxic relationship and you have a tendency for self-blame then become aware of that tendency. Don't make it wrong, it's an intelligent adaptation. Every time you have a negative thought or anxiety or fear or some whatever, just a wrong ... traumatic ... how do I say it? A stressful feeling. I don't want you to make it wrong thing, I want you to look at as this is an intelligent adaptation to an stressful event. I am trying to figure how to do things differently, I'm looking at maybe false with myself or I'm trying to keep safe, I'm trying to remain connected. So look at the agenda behind this fear, anxiety, doubt that's coming into you because you're really working hard in order to maintain love or connection or freedom. So that's called compassionate ... kind of compassion ... I don't know if you do that in compassion and quiet therapy but it comes from there and other fields of work. Really looking at the agenda behind your neurosis, because all you're trying to do is keep safe or loved.
Ande: Right, got you. Thank you. Thank you.
Dr. Ameet: My pleasure.
Ande: A great compassionate note to end on. Thank you so much as always, Ameet. It's great to see you again.
Dr. Ameet: Thank you as well. Bye, everyone.
Ande: Thank you, Avaiya students, for watching or listening right now and we will see you all again very soon. Take care.
Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for this latest class with Dr. Ameet Aggarwal. He talked with us today about anxiety, depression and trauma therapies and connections to toxic relationships. I always enjoy my conversations with Ameet and I think he gave us so much great information today as it relates to mental health, suffering from anxiety, depression, trauma, these kinds of things and how does this relate to having had toxic relationships as a child, having had childhood trauma, those kinds of things, and then how does that all connect to our adult relationships.
So I think one of the biggest things that I took away from this is just thinking about how if we experienced certain feelings as children, if we experienced a lot of anxiety, if we experienced a lot of depression based on being in an unstable home environment we might have this connection to those feelings that if I keep feeling depressed, if I keep feeling anxious as an adult this keeps me connected to my family of origin. That really hit home for me and gave me a lot to think about, so I hope you as well.
So how are the feelings that you experience as a child, how are you continuing to experience those today? And are you experiencing them as a way to stay connected to that family? Even if that family was very toxic or super unhealthy, if that's what you're familiar with, if that's what your nervous system and your body was familiar with maybe you're maintaining those states in order to feel that connection because that was your connection, that was your security, that was so many different things for you as a child.
And then just recognizing once again that a lot of people having grown up in a scenario like this they don't even have a radar for feeling joy, right? There's no spectrum for feeling joy, it's not something that they felt a lot at all as a child so it's no wonder that you have trouble feeling it today. So just recognizing that by releasing some of these old feelings you can open yourself up to new feelings like joy, happiness, fulfillment, those kinds of things.
So I hope you really enjoyed this and got a lot out of it. And we will see you all again very soon. Take care.
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