• Friendships can be abusive and you can spot the abuse by simply learning to listen to your inner self.
  • You can tap into your inner self by paying attention to bodily sensations: which might be a tightness or heaviness in the chest, for example.
  • Now, to understand how you feel about a certain friendship, prompt yourself with some questions: How do you feel when you spend time with them? Do they build you up? Can you grow properly with this person in your life?
  • Answering questions of the like and listening to your inner self will help you to realize feelings you may have been suppressing.
  • If you have decided that a friendship is unhealthy and you need to sever ties, you can ease this process by doing a few things, like writing them a letter (which you don’t actually send).
  • It’ll also help to spend time with people that have a positive impact on your life, and keep business regarding the fallout with this individual to yourself.

We can spot an abusive friendship when we practice listening to ourselves. Your inner self will let you know what’s going on inside. Your mind constantly oversees your needs, wishes, and dislikes, and communicates to you through the language of bodily sensations. If you take the time to slow down and tune in, you can listen to what it’s saying: I’m hungry, I’m full, I’m hot, cold, thirsty, uncomfortable, in pain… sometimes, these messages are loud and clear: “Ouch! That hurts.” Sometimes, they’re quite subtle: a slight tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, a heaviness, a lightness, or a feeling of expansion and openness. Ask yourself the following questions and tune in to what you sense inside of you:

  • How do I feel when I spend time with my friend?
  • Do I feel safe and comfortable to be myself and to reveal my fears and vulnerabilities, or do I feel compelled to act and conform in a way that pleases and impresses my friend?
  • Can I grow with this friend at my side, or does my growth feel stifled from negative talk and behavior?
  • Does my friend build my sense of self or does she belittle me with hurtful comments?
  • Is it a mutual friendship? Do we respect each other, do we feel for each other, and do we act with kindness to each other?

Listening to yourself may show you some things you might have been trying to ignore (and that’s uncomfortable, which is why you ignored it in the first place). But when you get good at listening to yourself, you can let the outside world—people or situations—be what it may. You draw calmness and security from within, so you don’t need to change or fix anyone. You’re able to check in with your needs and pick up on your own “yes” and “no,” your okays, and not-okays, and get guidance and direction from your internal GPS. And if your intuition is signaling to you to end this friendship, here are some tips to help ease the process:

1) Write a letter to your friend… that you never intend to send.

    • This is a safe way for you to share how you feel about ending a friendship that has meant a lot to you. It gives you the chance to say things that haven’t been said, and to say goodbye. After you put your feelings on paper and you understand yourself better, you may want to discard it so that you can start a “new page” in your life.

2) Gently encourage yourself to take part in activities that bring new people in.
Write a list of your hobbies, family members, supportive teachers, kind neighbors, etc. Then write a list of at least five inner strengths, like a sense of humor, imagination, determination, etc. Just writing the list can help you find your inner strength and feel more open to all that life offers you. Do this every day and watch your list grow.

3) Keep things neutral.
It may seem obvious, but don’t try to get other people to take sides. Get comfortable with the fact that they may still spend a great deal of time with your lost friend and this is not a reflection on you. Resist bad-mouthing her to others. It will only make you look bad. If you need to vent, reach out to someone who’s totally outside of the situation.

Ending a friendship isn’t easy, but often it leads your life in a new, better direction. By letting go, you free up more time for healthier, more satisfying friendships, and you’ll likely learn a little more about yourself in the process.

*Libby Kiszner is a weekly columnist, author, educator, and mother of nine with over 25 years of experience in the education of emotional intelligence. Her most recent book is Dear Libby: Will You Answer My Questions About Friendship?*