I strongly believe that each of us is on this planet to learn lessons of spirit and grow our souls. In this journey one calls life, one encounters all sorts of challenges and people who will test our strength, challenge our beliefs, rock our foundation, and makes us doubt ourselves. Interestingly enough, these times and people they seem to come in “bunches” make keeping our inner balance much more challenging… But not impossible!

The related scenarios I have personally experienced have to do with illnesses that hit us unexpectedly and then finds out one has to live with them for the rest of our lives. Furthermore, the people who were our “good friends” when they thought one could be of use to them but turn into our backstabbing enemies –even making hurtful stories about us- and disposing of our persona as if we were an outdated magazine. Or… how about that brother, sister, mother, or other relative and friends who used to be close to us but are too busy to call now that one needs them the most, but they cannot handle seeing us in pain?

Life is not easy, that’s for sure! And, to my naïve nature of caring about others, it took me a very long time to realize that there are people “out there” who are just mean, cruel, and built out of pure toxic material. “Unbelievable,” I thought and resisted for a long time… but unfortunately, true. And just like a single rotten apple can spoil others, this toxicity, although it might not get to one’s core, can make a person’s life miserable until one makes the choice to cut the losses and move on.

Here are some lessons learned to keep one’s life free of toxicity, the mind sane in times of cruelty, and the body healthy when there is plenty of spiritual poison at work or in one’s personal life to go around:

Assess your pros and cons. Take a careful look at your current circumstances: is staying in this job or relationship worth your suffering and its consequences? Only each person knows the right answer to this question. For example, many individuals stay with employers because of huge benefits, unsurpassable compensation packages, or retirement plans that cannot be matched. They decide that these material things are worth sacrificing just about anything. I have often termed this situation “wearing the golden handcuffs,” and I propose that one takes a careful look at the price of these tempting but deceiving benefits. After all, if the situation is so toxic that it affects one’s health at all levels, one might not last or live long enough to be around to enjoy the outcome! And… how about enjoying today, which is the only day we have for sure?

Forgive. To be able to move on, one has to learn to forgive not only the person (or people) who have done one wrong but also oneself. A person is not at fault when he or she encounters cruel and vicious people in his or her path. One has no control over other people’s nature and behavior. Remember that there is a lesson to be learned in each of these situations, which might not be apparent right away. By holding on to what was done onto us, one “feeds the monster” with the same poison one was given. By forgiving and choosing to move on, one takes the power back to morph it into positive energy. Isn’t it amazing we have the equivalent of “spiritual photosynthesis”?

Don’t forget, but work on “moving on.” However, forgiving does not mean forgetting. One must learn from each of these experiences, otherwise, one runs the risk of repeating the same scenario in other relationships or situations. Work at understanding the lessons in the experience, write them down, process them with a friend, and make a conscious effort to focus your personal energies into the future. If one makes the brave choice to break the “golden handcuffs,” reap the benefits! It is tempting and easy to get stuck in the victim or “look-what-was-done-to-me” mode. Without undermining the severity of many of these situations, one only hurts oneself but obsessing about justice done onto those undesirables. The “universe,” or whichever word one chooses to describe the “higher power,” will take care of them sooner or later, even if one is not there to see that justice has been served, one must trust to be able to move on.

Circumstances do not define you, unless you allow them to do so. One of the unfortunate consequences of these experiences with toxicity is that most individuals take it personally and question themselves in this process. No doubt one has responsibility in the life, yet when it comes to toxic people and workplaces, there is little one can do. It can be very confusing, though, since the poison is the norm one experiences every day, it is not until one leaves the environment that one is able to find one’s true self again.

Kindness still exists, and it is up to each individual to make sure one spreads it as much as the “bad stuff.” Under difficult circumstances, one may be tempted to blame oneself. Take your power back! You deserve a life that is meaningful and toxin-free. It is up to you to make that choice. And as the wise Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Author's Bio: 

For almost 20 years, Eugenia has held several leadership and managerial positions creating and heading training, professional development, and human resources programs as well as has consulted for Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit agencies in the United States and Latin America. Her educational foundation includes a Masters degree in Counseling from Seattle University and a Bachelor’s from California State University, Hayward, with a degree in Human Development. Eugenia's unique creations, including employee and career development resources, workshops on numerous topics, interpersonal communication tools, and innovative training materials, have earned her numerous awards and recognition. Her latest innovative products, "Talk to Me... I'm Human"™ Interpersonal Communication Tools and the Career Journey Toolkit™, are a reflection of her commitment to providing individuals with practical products for personal and professional growth.