We all know someone who is as toxic (psychologically) as a poison mushroom, and sometimes it’s easy to just avoid that person. What do you do, though, when it’s a person in your life – or worse – multiple toxic people – who you have to interact with on a regular basis – like your mom or a spouse? What do you do, when your family delivers a heaping, daily dose of soul-crushing toxicity to your life?
What Is a Toxic Person?
Before jumping ahead with this, it feels important to give a bit of a definition of a toxic person.
A toxic person is one who exhibits behavior that inflicts emotional pain on others, using tactics like manipulation, constant criticism, and even jealousy. The surprising detail, is that, according to PsychCentral, these toxic people are coming at you from a place where they were deeply wounded in their own lives.
The problems with toxic people arise from the fact that rather than take responsibility for their own feelings and needs, toxic people inflict pain on those around them by playing the role of victim, martyr, bully, or perfectionist that they fell into at some earlier point in life.
So… They’re Being Jerks Because They’re Hurting???
Understanding that the toxic person is coming at you from a point of pain can help you distance yourself from the situation and open the door for you to forgive the behavior that injured you, but it can’t take away that knot in your stomach, and it won’t necessarily take away any rage you feel from being victimized by the toxic person.
How to Protect Yourself Emotionally From a Toxic Person
There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from the unhealthy behavior of a toxic person, but one of the most important is to love yourself enough to be good to yourself.
Record Your Feelings
Keep a journal of how you feel after interactions with the toxic people in your life, go into as much detail as you comfortably can, and if you are concerned that the toxic person might find your journal, put your thoughts in a password protected document or blog so no one else can access them.
Re-read your journal entries and look for patterns, and as you begin to recognize that you get sick every time ‘Aunt Bertha’ is coming over or that you find yourself in the bathroom throwing up and checking the scale every time your ‘hubby says you’re chubby’, then you can start looking for healthy ways to process the stress caused by the toxic person in your life.
Try Some Deep Breathing and Meditation
When you are in the heat of an exchange with this person, recognize that you don’t have to engage them. Toxic people ‘feed’ off of your responses like parasites feed on hosts. If you don’t respond, and they get even more demanding, and more vocal, then you have even more confirmation of their toxicity. You might have to respond to keep the toxic person from resorting to physical violence, but try to take a few deep breaths and speak from an earnest place rather than delivering the emotional response that your toxic person is craving.
Should You Run?
If you are too deeply entrenched in the anger and nastiness that’s being thrown your way from the toxic person in your life, the time may come when you have to separate yourself physically and emotionally from them if you ever want to be ‘okay’ – but only you can decide that – and only you can do the work of allowing yourself to grow stronger, and allowing yourself to see your own worth.
What About Love?
Separating yourself from this person doesn’t mean you don’t love them (talking family members here for this part – not so much co-workers). In fact, it’s pretty obvious that if you are tolerating someone’s toxic behavior, then you must love them or you would have already bailed on the toxic relationship.
Psychology Today suggests a number of ways to know when you are the victim of a toxic person, and two big ways to know are when you dread being around the person and when thinking about the person is taking a lot of your energy and crushing your self esteem.
Chances are pretty good that if you have been the victim of a toxic person, now is the perfect time to put some self-analysis into it, and be real with yourself about recognizing and breaking unhealthy patterns in how you interact with the toxic people in your life.
By Laure Justice