How would you describe a toxic person? How would you identify them in your life? For many of us, the toxicity of a person may not be evident until the last minute. Until the moment when the “honeymoon period” or “love-bombing” phases are over. In other words, the toxicity of an unhealthy person may not become visible to you until you and the other person within the relationship begin to relax expectations and get to know each other better. The relationship could be any relationship in your life. It doesn’t have to be romantic. In fact, I believe that “love-bombing” can occur in all sorts of relationships and does not have to characterize a dating relationship. The term love-bombing implies that one individual in the relationship is showering the other individual with so many positive things that the person becomes almost “paralyzed” by the affection.
Concepts like these will be briefly discussed in this article. I will also discuss 15 things you need (as emotional and psychological tools) to escape the stronghold of the toxic person.
Note: May is also Mental Health Awareness Month and Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I will be discussing specific topics in favor of this month.
I find it quite interesting that almost everyone who writes on the topic of relationships has experienced some negative or earthshattering relationship themselves. Yours truly has met quite a few people around the world in my short life including family and friends who were nothing more than terrors to my soul. Being in the clutches of toxic people is one of the most traumatizing experiences you could ever have. Hence, part of the reason I became a trauma therapist. When a toxic personality negatively affects your life because of their unstable or psychologically unfit behaviors, thoughts, and views, you can begin to experience “symptoms” of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. In fact, individuals who are under stress because of a toxic person in his or her life, is susceptible to physiological or medical conditions as severe as heart disease. And we all know that obesity, high blood pressure, and weight gain can occur when overly stressed as well. I’m sure we can all agree that working with, living with, or co-inhabiting with a toxic person is not worth the cost.
But is it as easy to get away from the toxic person as it is to know you need to get away? Perhaps not.
Victims of toxic people often struggle to see the toxicity miles away and become vulnerable to their tactics. Most toxic people live in a world all of their own. They don’t consider your feelings or thoughts, even if they appear to on the outside. They also don’t see any reason for why you are overwhelmed by their attitudes or behaviors. Toxic people struggle to take another person’s perspective which can greatly affect their ability to be empathic. If you approach a toxic person to discuss your feelings and how you see the relationship, you may find yourself staring into the face of a cold-hearted, self-centered person. Even more, you may find yourself looking at a very aggressive and threatening person. But that’s no reason to fear.
At the core of their being, toxic people struggle with their self-esteem, self-concept, and thoughts about their existence in the world. Many people considered toxic meet the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or sociopathy. They are not as confident as they may project themselves to be and may only operate as “confident” and “courageous” enemies when they are surrounding by their “posse.” Toxic people triangulate (read my article on this here), manipulate, or calculate ways to get ahead of you, over on you, or step on you. Most have no conscience and if you do find someone with one, it’s probably very small. Their concern is not with you, but their own reputation, prosperity, or well-being. This is why most articles on this topic, including myself, encourage readers to end the relationship if all else fails. You are not going to win.
As a result, you must understand how to utilize the tools necessary for “defeating” your enemy. That’s right, I said it, your enemy. Toxic people aren’t nice. They aren’t caring. Through both personal and professional experience with this topic, I offer 15 tools below for overcoming the toxic person. You will want to consider:
- Running: Running doesn’t mean you are a coward or don’t know how to fight your own battles. Sometimes running means you have wisdom. I love the scripture verse where King David expressed that his enemies were too strong for him (Psalm). He surrender to God and prayed that God would sorely punish his enemies. He was a powerful King who was well respected by the people. You don’t have to always resort to fighting to “win” a battle. Sometimes a calm answer really does turn away wrath. It’s powerful if you decide to use it.
- Avoiding encounters with them: Toxic people seek to “win” and defeat you by tiring you down, overcoming you in some way, or seeing you flounder or sink. The best approach for people like this is to minimize the amount of time you spend with them and avoid them as much as possible. There are situations where you may not be able to avoid the person. But even in these situations, minimize the time spent with them. You can even meet with the person with someone you trust being with you. If you are in a job situation you may be able to see your toxic supervisor with a colleague present as well.
- Avoiding arguments or justification: Arguing or justifying yourself is a complete waste of time. As stated in this article, toxic people don’t operate like empathic and caring people. They are in an entirely different mindset. They don’t seek to share experiences with you or understand your experience. They seek to appear that way only.
- Avoiding competition: Competition to the point of destroying a relationship is a “fools game.” You have question why someone would be so competitive that they are unable to be friends with or at peace with the person they are competing with. Why is it so difficult to appreciate who I am without competing? Good question. I don’t even think the toxic person could answer this! The best approach with these people is to stay in your lane and avoid their internal need to stay on top.
- Not getting even: Again, it’s not worth trying to “teach him a lesson.” Teaching someone a lesson only helps you feel better. It rarely teachers the self-centered, unstable, and arrogant toxic person. They need life, the law, and/or some kind of higher authority to derail them. Not you.
- Ignoring down playing attempts or attempts to minimize you or your status: Toxic people want to be on top, they want to be in control, they want to enslave you, and they seek to manipulate you. Ignore this. See the toxic person using these tactics as a weak bully on the playground. They fear being viewed as inadequate, unintelligent, or unimportant. They truly are weak in character. Don’t waste your time. I know it’s very hard sometimes but you will gain the victory by taking the low road.
- Ignoring immature passive-aggressive behaviors: As stated above, these behaviors are all done in an attempt to fulfill some kind of interpersonal and intrapersonal deficit. This is not your problem, it is theirs. Your job in a situation where you are noticing the toxic person engaging in passive-aggressive behavior is to rise above. Rising above may be quitting your job (if you can), raising the kids on your own, putting distance between you and the other person, learning psychological tools for maneuvering the weak person, etc.
- Abandoning thoughts of proving yourself: Abandon the thought that you have to prove yourself. You do not! You only have to be who you were made to be and once you get comfortable with seeing yourself as you truly are, you can overcome feelings of needing to prove yourself. No one needs to prove himself or herself in this life unless they have wronged someone.
- Reminding yourself of who you are at ALL times: Remind yourself of the long, tedious road you have traveled, how successful you have become, how strong you are or are becoming, how talented you are, etc. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of the things that make you who you are. Toxic people strive to derail you from your identity because they don’t have one themselves.
- Reminding yourself that you were strong without them: Before you even knew this toxic person you were strong. You don’t need to feel dependent upon them or needy for them. If they are destroying your soul and your spirit, move away from them.
- Leaning on friends, family, or confidants: Sometimes you need family and friends to help you jump ship when things are going downhill. We can’t always see, like we should, what is happening to us when we are in the middle of an unhealthy situation. Close family, friends, or others you may trust can be a great second pair of eyes to help us see. That person for me is my mom.
- Using your faith: Faith has always been the foundation of my personal and professional life. When things go awry, faith is where I turn. It is not a religious seeking of statutes or formal rules that no human being can achieve without “special powers.” But rather, it is a seeking for wisdom, strength, and stamina through spiritual consultation with God. There is nothing like it. Sometimes you need to be reminded of how powerful your faith can be in your life.
- Taking the humble road away from them: You can’t win every fight. You can’t win every battle. Did our ancient kings win every battle they came across? No. Sometimes what appears to be losing is actually winning. Walking away and being humble, by not engaging the toxic person, can make you a winner faster than you may think. It has worked for me. Try it.
- Remaining silent in confrontations: Trying to justify yourself, explain yourself, argue facts or pints, explain away how something happened, making promises, etc. can backfire. Toxic people are toxic because they don’t think or behave like most people would expect. They are vampires of the soul. They suck every ounce of your energy and really could care less. You have the right to avoid confronting them. Choose your battles.
- Walking away peacefully no matter what: No matter how angry or hurt that toxic person may make you, walk away peacefully. Try as best as you can to avoid allowing them to control your emotions. Self-management is the best approach, according to Katherine Schreiber from an article published by the most recent issue at psychologytoday.com.
What has been your experience with this topic?
Stay tuned for my Youtube video on signs you are dealing with a toxic person. In the meantime, visit my website to connect to my new Youtube channel (signs up!) for videos discussing this topic and more!
I wish you well