“I GET IT, BUT THAT SUCKS,” I told Tamara this morning, referring to the way the flow of love can be constricted or even shut off by things like addiction, trauma, or other mental/ emotional/ physical illnesses etc.

Having grown up in a family largely affected by severe addiction and subsequent poverty, incarcerations and forced separations, I sometimes need a reminder that it’s not about whether or not they love(d) me or care about my feelings or opinions, it’s that obstacles came between us.

Learning to fend for myself in every possible sense wasn’t the merit badge I was looking to achieve but it’s also not the worst thing that could’ve happened to me either. As my therapist fiancé will tell you, practicing “radical autonomy” is the ONLY way to truly obtain soul nourishing relationships, inner peace, and even great sex.


Because until you are able to allow others (AND YOURSELF) to forge individual experiences in life without fear of judgment or retribution, without the need to placate or please you, everyone is held hostage by some really nasty co-dependency or counter-dependency. Either way, that rubber band is gonna snap and it hurts every time.



Obviously with the present pandemic of COVID-19, we’re all thinking twice about who to let into our inner sanctums, but beyond that, we should be also be mindful of long-term effects of certain relationships on our mind, body, and spirit.

Years of research has shown that those closest to you either activate your body’s healing systems OR your body’s stress response systems which can literally kill you over time.

Encouraging, supportive people in our lives lower our stress by helping us relax, see potential solutions, and feel like we have a place and a purpose in the world. On the other hand, the trauma response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) that gets activated anytime we’re around someone toxic (… which btw, doesn’t have to be, and usually isn’t purposeful on their part), becomes deadly over time.

Adrenal fatigue, lowered immunity, thyroid problems, weight gain or loss, muscle pain or spasms, headaches/ migraines, cardiac issues/ chest pain, anxiety/ panic attacks, depression … and much much more can all be caused or worsened by your body’s attempts to control stress from toxic people in your life.

As Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bryant McGill explains:

“Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally KILL you. Stress shortens your lifespan. Even a broken heart can kill you…Your arguments and hateful talk can land you in the emergency room or in the morgue.

You were not meant to live in a fever of anxiety; screaming yourself hoarse in a frenzy of dreadful, panicked fight-or-flight that leaves you exhausted and numb with grief. You were not meant to live like animals tearing one another to shreds…For your own precious and beautiful life, and for those around you — seek help or get out before it is too late. This is your wake-up call!”

PONDER THESE 4 CHOICES you have in response to negative relationships:

(courtesy of Dr. Will Cole)

  1. Accept the relationship as it is and be at peace with it as it is. This can actually reduce a lot of stress based in trying to change someone else.
  2. Change the relationship by creating boundaries for yourself. Remember that you can’t change other people, but you can change how you react and what you will allow into your own life.
  3. Leave the relationship. Sometimes, sadly, this is the best course, if the other person’s behavior is intolerable to you.
  4. Feel miserable. This is the choice that will continue the stress cycle.

Personally, I tend to start with the top one and work my way down through levels 2 and 3. Option #4 is never ok. It’s not even fun to be around someone who chronically chooses to stay in #4 and I pray you’re not willing to be that person either.

… and hey, if you need help working on the physical stuff, I got you. There’s nothing a great massage can help with. 😉


Massage Therapy Pensacola

Ben Driskell, LMT is a massage therapist practicing in the greater Pensacola, FL area. Besides being a “muscle whisperer,” he greatly enjoys writing about issues related to healthy masculinity, mindful living and sacred intimacy. He hopes to aid men in embracing a lifestyle that is authentic to them and not what society says they should be.

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