The Hardest Pill to Swallow: You Have Toxic Traits Too

I’m sorry, but it’s true. 

My toxic traits? Well for starters, I solve every heartache by eating my weight in sweets. I also have this habit of lying to myself when it comes to wine. I tell myself I’ll only have a glass. But let’s face it, it’s never really just one glass. I don’t see a problem with the latter, but apparently my therapist does. What does she know anyway?

Jokes aside, I too have toxic traits. Some worse than others. Somewhere during my childhood I developed a very unhealthy pattern; potentially my most toxic trait. I became a runner.

As a child, I endured a string of traumatic events. In order to cope with my trauma, I would disconnect from my reality. I would let my mind wander and pretend none of it happened. Instead of letting myself feel negative emotions, I would push them away.  I developed a pattern of pretending I was somewhere else. Somewhere I couldn’t be hurt. A place where my soul was separate from the physical reality around me.

Later in life I learned there is a psychological term for what I had done; dissociation. In layman’s terms, it is a way the brain preserves itself from emotional trauma; a survival mechanism. The brain uses avoidance in order to cope with extreme feelings of fear, shame, hurt, helplessness, and pain. 

While I am fortunate enough that these moments of dissociation did not lead to a lifelong disorder, it still impacted me in a negative way. Since I had never taught myself healthy problem solving skills, I developed a pattern of fleeing from my problems. In midst of difficult or confusing situations, I would avoid them. If someone had hurt me, I was quick to leave them behind instead of communicating how I felt. If I hurt another, instead of apologizing, I would act as if it didn’t happen. If an employer offered constructive criticism, I’d look for a new one instead of looking to improve at the one I was at. Every conflict resulted in withdrawal all because I never taught myself how to sit down with my feelings.

This is my toxic trait. What once was a tool of survival turned into self destructive behavior. For so long I neglected myself. I denied myself the right to work through these negative emotions. My escapism stemmed from my unhealed inner child. There was a deeply wounded little girl inside of me. She came out every time I refused to face my feelings, begging to be acknowledged. Pleading to be healed.

I never saw a problem with how I coped, until I noticed it was a reoccurring pattern which brought me more emotional distraught than healthy solace. 

Most of the time our toxic traits stem from an unhealed part of us. 

Negative self talk stems from a time someone made you feel that way about yourself. 

Fear stems from a time something did not work out ideally, resulting in discomfort. 

Impulsively doubting others stems from a trust which was betrayed. 

Building walls up stems from a hurt we endured by someone we loved.

Co-dependency and clinginess stems from a childhood emotional neglect. 

Most of our toxic behaviors are adopted through great hardship. This does not excuse our behavior, but it helps us understand the wounds which need healing. 

We must learn to be comfortable in seeing our faults. We grow when we accept we are not always our best selves. Sometimes certain behaviors no longer serve us, so we need to be open to correcting them. 

This is how we find and correct our toxic behaviors; 

1.) Look at the seasons in your life which were plagued by hurt, discomfort, or stagnation. 

2.) Dissect your reactionary patterns which welcomed this season. 

3.) Take hold of what did not feel good in your season, then asses why it didn’t feel good. How did you cope with the negative emotion? How did you react to your emotion?

4.) Pin point the first time you reacted in this way, or the first time you felt as though you needed to act this way. 

5.) Reflect on similar situations which influenced this kind of behavior. Look at what resulted because of this behavior. 

6.) Follow this through with deciding whether the behavior is worth continuing or worth correcting. Is the result hindering you more than it is helping you?

Finding your toxic traits is not an easy process. Sometimes it takes a lot of hurt to realize we are the ones self sabotaging. It is so hard to be self aware when our reactions come from our subconscious. But friends, self awareness is the first step taken down the road of self improvement.

For it is only when we are courageous enough to delve deep inside the darkest parts of us, we become exposed to the healing power of our light. 

I want to leave you all with this; While we should always see the fault in our toxic behavior, we should never resent our self for it. There is nothing shameful in realizing our unhealthy behavior. There is everything dignified in ownership followed through with conscious change. There is nothing healing about punishing yourself for your mistakes. It’s okay to be a work in progress.  Love and honor yourself in midst of self realization. You are worth being patient with yourself. You are worthy of growth. You, my friend, will always be worthy of your light.  


Faith Edwards

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