Many years ago, a grandmother found a plant in the woods that, although it had been quite common in her youth, had become rare to find in those later days. That plant was a Jack in the Pulpit and was very interesting and beautiful and made her very nostalgic. The thing is, it can be poisonous, highly toxic… She harvested some of the seeds and planted them in her garden where things of beauty and significance grew and were nurtured. To her utter delight, the seeds accepted their new home and a couple of plants sprouted from the ground triumphantly and with much fanfare from the grandmother. She told her children and grandchildren how important these plants were to her and how they helped her to remember beautiful days gone by but warned them of their poisonous, toxic, possibly deadly impact. So…”Don’t touch these plants!” They were told that if the berries were eaten it could cause the throat to swell up restricting air to the lungs. The young children were warned often not just about the dangers, but also about how sad Grandma would be if something happened to the precious plants. Well…you do the math…children + curiosity + danger = ??? EMTs and an emergency room visit of course! While the entire volunteer fire department with their trucks and emergency vehicles was of great amusement to those grandchildren not being forced to vomit into the bucket, all of the adults were beside themselves with distress and worry. The next day brought the dilemma of a choice. Jack in the Pulpits or the safety of the children. In the end it was no choice at all. The plants got ripped out. There was sadness, but the choice was clear. The babies were way too precious to endanger and the grandmother couldn’t bear the thought of not having her grandbabies around her. Simple… but it took near tragedy to see that the toxic plants were just not a good idea to have around.
Relationships can be just like this… Someone can be rare and beautiful, elusive and intriguing, nostalgic and familiar, but…also toxic to us. Weighing our desires to embrace this person against the threat to our emotional, mental and/or physical wellbeing can be downright painful and any disconnect from the relationship can feel impossible to implement! Our sense of self-preservation should be enough to help us “rip out” the proverbial Jack in the Pulpit from our life, but often times it takes horrible abuse and “near tragedy” to pull us to our senses. Sadly, some people never get it. Wouldn’t it be an interesting idea if we took the time in our lives to periodically identify and clear our lives of toxic relationships the way we go through and clear out our closets and drawers? It would be an emotional and mental exercise in remembering who we really are and what is important to our wellbeing on all levels of existence. Each exercise would be a self-empowering and self-loving journey into our hearts and souls…
Exercise: Sit comfortably, close your eyes and breathe deeply and completely. After a few very deep, relaxing breaths, allow yourself to feel as if you are “breathing in love”, both self-love and love for others. Feel as if you are breathing right into your heart filling it with comfort and warmth. When you breathe out, let all feelings of self-doubt, pain and mostly fear drain out with your breath. Do not hurry through this, indulge your beautiful heart. When you are experiencing the feeling of love surrounding you, start filing through the important people in your life; place them in that space that you have created and experience what they conjure up. Do they resonate pleasantly or do they cause an uneasiness, discord or downright distress? You will feel it in your body. Identify where in your body you feel this (heart, solar plexus, stomach, throat, etc.) and exactly what the sensation is. These physical sensations in your body are your barometer of what is healthy or unhealthy for you. They are your “little voice”. Listen to them, they will guide you. As you get better at this exercise it will be easier and easier to instinctually feel who you should or shouldn’t allow into the inner sanctum of your being.
Some Life Coaching questions: • What is it within myself that allows me to accept toxic people into my life? • Why is it more important to keep this person in my life, even at the risk of my wellbeing, than to cut the cord? • If I could exclude this person from my life, how would it change my sense of wellbeing? • What would be the best way to implement this change? • If it is not possible to completely exclude this person from my life (ex: child’s other parent, co-worker, etc.), what are some possible changes that I could implement to minimize the contact and stress? • What scenarios could occur to sabotage my plan and what will my strategy be to stay on task? • What support system could I put in place to support my plan?
Remember to always breathe deeply and wield a loving heart!
Joni Holub, CPC gratefully lives and works in Nambe, NM, a bit north of Santa Fe. Sessions are held either in person for locals, or on skype. Please visit the website for more information, to make inquiries, or to schedule an appointment.