T is for Toxic People

500 Words on … Toxic People.

I was well grown before I ever heard the label “toxic people”.

But, like most people, I have spent a lifetime dealing with them.

What is a toxic person, anyway?

Toxic people are not willing to let you be who you are. They seem to have an idea that you must interact in a manner defined by them. In relationships with toxic people, they permit you to behave only in ways they approve of.

Toxic people are quick to get angry, to take offense, and to feel disrespected – and often, their intense and extreme reactions are to the precise types of behaviors they themselves routinely inflict upon others, including you.

A relationship with a toxic person is never equal or fair. The toxic personality demands preferential treatment, and also the dominant position in the relationship. They aren’t likely to realize that they are doing so; if asked, they would have reasons to defend their anger, their abuses, their quickness to punish you for your perceived crimes.

And they will tell you that you deserve it, and they had no choice but to do as they did.

They will always have excuses that allow them to hold you to a far higher standard then they demand of themselves.

There is very little chance of altering the behavior of treatment you receive at the hands of a toxic person. They have already set themselves in a position of power and authority over you, and the relationship is not likely to survive if you insist on a more equitable form of interaction.

During or after time spent with toxic people, you may feel emotionally drained, or less kind and patient than you usually are. You may be exhausted, or find yourself defending your life and choices.

It is likely that, at some point, you will find yourself drawn into a hostile confrontation without really understanding how you got to this point. The most innocent comment can be twisted into a reason for a verbal or even a physical interaction, and you may find yourself wondering what was so horrible about what you said.

The answer is that you may not have said anything horrible. You simply may not yet have realized that you are in the presence of a toxic person, and that toxic people often interpret things through the poison within them.

What a toxic person hears may have very little to do with what you said, but they are very likely to punish you – with great relish and energy – for the story they create in their own minds.

What makes people toxic? I believe the poison comes from the wrenching pain of wounds so deep they stretch far back into childhood. Rather than face the depths of their anguish and learn to heal or live with them, they have simply built a ragged and fragile scab over them – and, deep within, the untended wounds begin to fester and ooze.

The scab is fragile, and can be easily broken by the slightest perceived insult, which blends with the festering wound, and causes an explosion of ugliness that can shock and wound you, even as it blames you.

Recognizing the toxic people in your life can help you to develop strategies to deal with them – or to avoid them.


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