Toxic friends - PAU Cataluña 2008

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How to get rid of toxic friendsFor years, American psychologists have told romantic couples how to repair their rifts. But now therapists are being visited by troubled patients who want to know how to get rid of those “friends” who are ruining their lives. More than 10,000 psychologists and counsellors are offering sessions on relationships with friends in America. The phrase “toxic friends” is becoming common and has been recognised by the American Psychological Association. The publishing industry has quickly reacted with a succession of books with titles such as Toxic friends / true friends or A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship, that are at the top of the American best-sellers list.
According to psychologists, these toxic friends come in several forms: the passive aggressive debilitator, who delivers cruel criticisms dressed up as friendly questions; the naysayer, who undermines all your initiatives; the planbreaker, who ditches you at the last minute; and the non-stoppers, who won’t let you go home when you want to because they want you to solve their personal problems.
To deal with all these kinds of problematic friendships, Christine Northman, a relationship counsellor, has a common approach. She says that in order to maintain our emotional health in friendship there must be a level of reciprocity, so friendships need to be frequently evaluated.
She says: “Only with emotional maturity can we see ourselves and our relationships more clearly. It can seem a bit cruel to break up friendships, but sometimes all we need to do is put some boundaries around ‘toxic’ friends: keep them in our lives but see them less frequently.”
Not treating the “toxic friends” problem can have unhealthy consequences. A recent study found that when people meet a person who is considered a toxic friend their heart rates and blood pressure increase. Most therapists agree that toxic friendships are a more difficult problem for women than for men. Males, having a much lower threshold for complications in friendships, will disconnect themselves from a negative friendship more easily, and faster, than women. Women friends can become “energy vampires” like the “crying sister” who keeps you on the phone for two hours with problems but no solutions and who leaves you exhausted.
Not everyone is convinced that therapy is the answer, though. For some, it is part of the problem rather than the solution. Mike Albo, a self-help American writer, thinks that the psychological literature and the self-help industry have taught these toxic friends a new kind of language. With it, they are trying to convince us that we rather than they might be having some sort of psychological problem. “One thing that worries me about friendship counselling is that underminers predominate in the self-help society,” Albo says. By accepting the type of discourse that is common among therapists we might be internalising a problem we didn’t have in the first place.
Mike Albo has also another warning for those confronting toxic friends: “Listen to their side of it because perhaps it’s you who is toxic.”
  • rift: esquerda, desavinença / fisura, distanciamiento
  • get rid: desfer-se / deshacerse
  • undermine: sabotejar / sabotear
  • ditch: deixar plantat / dejar plantado
  • boundaries: límits / límites
  • threshold: llindar / umbral

Part 1: Reading comprehension

Choose the best answer according to the text. Only ONE answer is possible.

1. According to the text a “toxic friend” is…
2. “Toxic friend” is an expression thought up by…
3. Which of these definitions best describes a naysayer?
4. Christine Northman affirms that we should…
5. When treating the “toxic friend” problem, counsellors advise us to…
6. Most therapists agree that the “toxic friend” problem…
7. A “crying sister” could be defined as a person who…
8. Mike Albo thinks that…


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