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Online Conference Transcript

Pamela Brewer, Ph.D., has 15 years of experience working with people who are emotionally distressed, or having marriage problems. Dr. Brewer says that there are times when the toxicity of our relationships with others is driven by a toxic relationship with yourself. As with many toxic substances, there are signs that may suggest you may need internal healing.

David Roberts: moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to

Our topic tonight is "Toxic Relationships: How To Handle Them." 

Understanding that everyone in the audience might have a different level of knowledge, here's a link to give you the basic information about Toxic Relationship.

Our guest tonight, Pamela Brewer, Ph.D., has fifteen years of experience working with people who are feeling emotionally distressed or having marriage problems. She is based in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. She also hosts a radio talk program.

Good evening, Dr. Brewer and welcome to We appreciate you being our guest tonight. So we're all on the same page, can you please define what a "toxic relationship" is?

What causes us to get involved in toxic relationships; a relationship that is abusive? And how do you get out of a toxic relationship? Find out.Dr. Brewer: A toxic relationship is one in which you are feeling harmed either emotionally or physically.

David: What is it that causes us to get involved in toxic relationships?

Dr. Brewer: There are many reasons why we choose toxic relationships. We may have grown up in a toxic household, we may have been taught that we are not deserving of happiness, or we may have learned to take responsibility for others. One of the most important things to remember about being in a toxic relationship, is that you do have choices and you can get out!

David: Can you give us some examples of a toxic relationship?

Dr. Brewer: Wow! That's a big question! But here it goes.

A toxic relationship is one in which you are chronically tired, angry, or frightened. A relationship in which you worry about a safe time to talk to your partner. A relationship in which you do not have the "right" to express yourself. In short, a relationship that is abusive in any way, may be a toxic relationship.

David: Many get involved in these types of relationships and find it difficult to break away. What is it inside ourselves that keeps us from being able to do that?

Dr. Brewer: Often, we stay in relationships because we do not understand that we have rights and options. Low self-esteem can be a factor in remaining, as well as depression, fear of being alone, or threats from the hurtful partner. Sometimes, people stay because the toxic relationship so much mirrors their lives as children, that they truly may not have a sense that it is a toxic relationship and that life can be better.

David: What is it that makes a toxic person tick? What motivates that person to hurt others?

Dr. Brewer: Low self-esteem. Although low self-esteem can be a very complex experience, the bottom line is that the person does not have a good and clear sense of themselves, and so it is almost impossible, without clinical intervention, for that person to understand that there is a better, healthier way to be.

Part of why the toxic person hurts, in addition to having to do with their own low sense of self, is that fear of being out of control and the fear of what exposing the true self would mean.

David: We have a lot of audience questions, Dr. Brewer. Let's get to some of them and then we'll continue with our conversation.

Dr. Brewer: Great!

michaelangelo37: Dr. Brewer, can you address the special issues when the toxic people are your parents who feel they deserve rights to your children.

Dr. Brewer: Tell me more about how they behave in a way that lets you know that they believe your children are theirs.

michaelangelo37: They express their displeasure to everyone about how they never see them, yet treat them badly when they do.

Dr. Brewer: How do they treat them badly? What do they do to the children?

michaelangelo37: They blame them for "acting like children," not allowing them to act age appropriate, and they over-discipline them.

Dr. Brewer: It's often very hard to set limits on parents, but the effects of not setting limits can be equally as difficult. How old are the children?

michaelangelo37: Seven and thirteen.