Cutting someone off is a difficult decision.
I should know, as I just had to make the difficult decision to cut off a good friend last year.
Whether it’s a romantic partner, family member or friend, the decision of excluding someone from your life can weigh on you.
Sadly, however, we can sometimes reach a point where it is the only solution to toxic behavior that somebody won’t stop engaging in with us.
Here’s a look at what somebody goes through when cutting someone off.
What is the psychology behind cutting someone off? 10 ways it works
Cutting someone off is hard.
Here’s what happens when the thought of excluding someone from your life takes shape and leads to a final decision.
Although you may also consider other alternatives, if you do reach a point where excluding someone from your life becomes a real possibility, there’s a definite chance that it’s the right thing to do.
Almost nobody would cease contact with someone close to them just on a whim, after all.
Here’s what happens on a psychological level as you go through the phases of cutting someone completely out of your life.
1) You reach a breaking point
Let’s be honest: you don’t cut someone out of your life if you’re just slightly annoyed with them or they made a small mistake.
At least I sure hope you don’t.
No, deciding to exclude someone from your life involves reaching an apex of discomfort in which the psychological pain and suffering of remaining connected to them outdoes the affection and loyalty you feel to this person.
In a work context, it means you reach a point where the toxic behavior or attitudes of a coworker or superior become so overwhelming that you cut them off and, in the process, sometimes even lose your own job.
That’s the thing about understanding this process. If you want to know what is the psychology behind cutting someone off, you need to fully grasp this breaking point.
It’s not necessarily rational or easygoing, but it’s definite. And once that breaking point is reached the next phases of cutting someone off begin to unfold.
2) You value yourself more highly
What is the psychology behind cutting someone off?
Well, a big part of it is learning to love yourself and really meaning it. Instead of treating your own wellbeing and needs as an afterthought or something that you consider second, you put them first.
People that are grinding your gears to an extreme extent, including family members or romantic partners, cease having a trump card over your life.
Even your deepest connections can come under scrutiny, such as longtime friends or people who have relied on you for a long time.
You have to value yourself highly in order to know what treatment of you is unacceptable and in order to put your foot down about it.
That is not OK, and that is the last straw are two things that only confident people say.
And they say it in a way that’s not about starting a fight.
It’s about walking away from bullsh*t and drama which is unnecessary and counterproductive.
If you’re in this position I sympathize, but know that all the pain you’re going through is building the new you.
There is light at the end of the tunnel and cutting this person out of your life is sometimes the only option.
3) Working on your most important relationship
There are times that we have to sacrifice for those we love and even feel compelled to do so.
I believe that this can be noble, heroic and necessary.
The idea of only ever putting yourself first is, to me, incorrect and toxic.
That said, when we let our relationships define our boundaries we can often end up in very codependent and weak positions.
No matter how much you love someone, they do not have a right to abuse or use you.
When they do so repeatedly and often, refusing to stop, you may reach a point where you must cut them off and circle back to what’s most important and cracking the code about love…
Have you ever asked yourself why love is so hard?
Why can’t it be how you imagined growing up? Or at least make some sense…
When you’re dealing with [article topic] it’s easy to become frustrated and even feel helpless. You may even be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on love.
I want to suggest doing something different.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
In fact, many of us self-sabotage and trick ourselves for years, getting in the way of meeting a partner who can truly fulfill us.
We cut people off too easily, or we never cut them off, even when they drag us down to hell with them.
There’s a solution to this.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way that ends up stabbing us in the back.
We get stuck in awful relationships or empty encounters, never really finding what we’re looking for and continuing to feel horrible about things like knowing when to cut someone off, especially someone we may love deeply.
We fall in love with an ideal version of someone instead of the real person.
We try to “fix” our partners and end up destroying relationships.
We try to find someone who “completes” us, only to fall apart with them next to us and feel twice as bad.
Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective.
While watching, I felt like someone understood my struggles to find and nurture love for the first time – and finally offered an actual, practical solution drawing a line for your limits of how much sh*t you should put up with or not in the search for love.
If you’re done with unsatisfying dating, empty hookups, frustrating relationships and having your hopes dashed over and over, then this is a message you need to hear.
I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Click here to watch the free video.
4) You don’t cut people off easily
Cutting people off is a big decision. Sometimes it happens in one big fight or drama, but often it happens bit by bit.
You reach that apex of frustration and then it either propels you into fully cutting someone off or rethinking it.
Despite reaching that breaking point I wrote about earlier, cutting someone off does involve a process of judgment.
Once you decide that somebody really needs to go, you then sit and think about how you will go about this.
An important aspect of the psychological decision-making behind this process is to not react too hastily.
Despite that initial burst of a desire to “never talk to someone again” or truly be rid of them for good, it is important to judge whether this is the optimal thing to do as opposed to confronting them, staging an intervention, and so on…
Cutting too many people out of your life can be very damaging, as reputed psychology studies have demonstrated.
As Psychology Professor Glenn Keher puts it:
“Having a high number of estrangements in one’s world, regardless of the factors that sparked the estrangements, is associated with adverse social and emotional consequences.”
5) You take a firm but fair look at their track record
I hate to use a business metaphor, but here goes:
If you were assessing whether to collaborate with a business and met with their team, imagine you were to find out they lied about their revenue, overstating it by about 40%.
Damn. That is crazy. You contact their CEO and he explains that the CFO has been fired and was a loose cannon and had a drug habit.
OK, well, you’ll give them another chance. You move forward on another deal and are planning to launch a line of health products.
Then the company gets busted for insider trading. And you find out that the health products they wanted to help sell with you were being sourced from a factory which had been written up for three toxic waste violations last year.
What the f*ck.
You now move into the process of finding more reliable and honest companies to work for.
This process involves cutting off and ceasing involvement with the current company, which involves a firm but fair look at their record.
One rogue CFO? Fine.
Insider trading, toxic substances and a trail of lies?
As N’Sync sang in their hit song Bye Bye Bye.
“Don’t really wanna make it tough
I just wanna tell you that I had enough
Might sound crazy but it ain’t no lie
Baby, bye, bye, bye.”
6) You’ve had enough of the victim mentality
We’re all victims in some way, some of us more than others.
Life can be a real b*tch, and when it is, we get scars and damage that comes as a result of that.
Welcome to the show.
The victim mentality isn’t just about acknowledging that you’ve been a victim, however.
It’s using that status to manipulate, shame, insult and control others.
The victim mentality is often most harmful to the one who clings to it, locking them in a cycle of constant disempowerment.
But like wearing sunglasses you never take off, it can be hard to see you’ve been in a victim mentality until someone calmly and patiently explains that there’s an entirely different way of looking at this life and its experiences.
You may be a victim. You may have been a victim. But you can also be so much more.
So when somebody uses their victim status to harm, shame and control you, this can cause a separation that is hard to bridge.
There’s only so much manipulation and poor treatment that a person can take, and watching someone gaslight and harm themselves and wanting you to enable it can be so upsetting that you eventually cut them off in order to try to help them find their own way as much as your own wellbeing.
7) They have used you for the last time
None of us like to be used in our lives.
When somebody treats you like a vending machine or a tool they can make use of when they think of it, it is vastly disempowering and hurtful.
This can be where you must choose to value yourself enough to tell them goodbye and really mean it.
Because the awful truth is that if you allow people to treat you like sh*t you will become to really be and resemble sh*t.
You have to appraise your value highly if you want others to also perceive that you’re not just another bum.
Cutting someone off can be a basic function of self-respect and self-valuation.
Relationship expert Rachael Pace writes about this and makes a savvy point:
“Letting toxic people become manipulative and use you for their own good is never a good sign.
Remember that any type of relationship should not feel like an obligation or a burden.”
8) Finding your own path instead of following someone else’s
One of the main things about the psychology behind cutting someone off is that it can go two basic ways.
It can be reactive and desperate in a disempowering, bitter way…
Or it can be proactive and intentional in an empowering, neutral way…
The key to cutting someone off in a proactive way that actually means something is to find your own path and mission.
Instead of just knowing the people you don’t want in your life, it’s crucial to know the kind of people you do want in your life.
If you don’t have this, I can relate to it, because it’s not easy to find.
So how can you overcome this feeling of being “stuck in a rut”?
Well, you need more than just willpower, that’s for sure.
I learned about this from Life Journal, created by the highly-successful life coach and teacher Jeanette Brown.
You see, willpower only takes us so far…the key to transforming your life into something you’re passionate and enthusiastic about takes perseverance, a shift in mindset, and effective goal setting
And while this might sound like a mighty task to undertake, thanks to Jeanette’s guidance, it’s been easier to do than I could have ever imagined.
Click here to learn more about Life Journal.
Now, you may wonder what makes Jeanette’s course different from all the other personal development programs out there.
It all comes down to one thing:
Jeanette isn’t interested in being your life coach.
Instead, she wants YOU to take the reins in creating the life you’ve always dreamt of having.
So if you’re ready to stop dreaming and start living your best life, a life created on your terms, one which fulfills and satisfies you, don’t hesitate to check out Life Journal.
9) You think of alternatives
Before cutting somebody off, your mind will look for all sorts of other choices.
Could you confront them instead?
Maybe you could try to get them psychiatric help?
Maybe you could involve a friend and do some kind of intervention?
What about couples counseling, therapy, some kind of tete-a-tete with this person where you can break through the noise and really connect with them?
Is there some way this can be salvaged or walked back?
What about one last chance?
This may keep you awake at night as you go over all the other possible alternatives, and as long as it doesn’t take up all your time this can be useful.
Sometimes there are alternatives. Sometimes one more chance is feasible.
Other times, unfortunately, a reflection of the past and the nature of your relationship to the person in question tells you that things really are over.
And it’s up to you to make it official and cut off all contact and connection with this individual.
10) Once you decide to commit you go for it
The thing about cutting someone off is that you have to actually do it or not do it eventually.
And if you do it, you have to mean it.
How many people have cut someone off only to have that person pop back up a few months later acting all nice again?
Then they give them another chance…
It goes off the rails, and the cycle begins again.
This will go on unless and until one person changes and grows or you decide to cut them off for good.
It’s sad, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Cutting someone off
Cutting someone off in traffic is a really annoying and dangerous thing to do.
Cutting someone off by ceasing contact with them, on the other hand, can be sadly necessary.
If you’re in the process of making this decision I sympathize with the difficulty.
It’s not that easy.
But sometimes it’s the only way.