toxic relationships

Seeing Patterns Instead of Personalities

My toddler daughter loves to press her face against translucent Tupperware lids. Suddenly the whole world becomes red or blue. Everything is the same, but different.

I think anxiety works in a similar fashion. Anxiety is a lens through which we see the world, and our families. But an anxious focus on those we love limits our ability to see reality—all the colors, complexity, and capability of others.  

As a therapist, I try to pay attention to the adjectives that people use to describe their family members. Words like critical, lazy, sensitive, emotional, toxic, or overbearing are commonly deployed.  I try to challenge people to consider what gets lost when we view people through the lens of an adjective. When we say to ourselves (and our therapist), “That’s just the way they are.” (more…)