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Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is a Toxic Person?

toxic person, emotional abuse
On this blog I have purposefully not used terms like narcissist, manipulator, codependent, alcoholic, sociopath, etc for a reason. Unhealthy relationships and people can take many forms and can follow many different patterns and I want this blog to be useful to many readers. I'm pretty sure that most people who read here aren't a child of highly-toxic parents, that is my issue, but I know that my experiences can be universal in some ways. This post is about one of those universal things that we are all fighting:  Toxicity. 

What do I mean by toxic? I have given this some thought and I offer these descriptors as ways that a person or a relationship can be toxic. It's not a race. It's not a rule. If you can relate, you can relate.

A toxic relationship can be one with an employer, a friend, a partner or spouse, a parent, a child, church leaders, a teacher or group leader, a psychiatrist, even a culture.

  •  At first things will seem golden, perfect. You will feel as though you are being swept off of your feet, rescued.
  • Toxic people treat you like you are worthless, secondary to their own issues.
  • Conversations and interactions with toxic people leave you feeling more confused, not less, more alone, less supported or understood.
  • Toxic people often brag and boast in a grandiose manner about their own value, generally exaggerating accomplishments or successes.
  • A toxic person will not address issues that you bring up in the relationship.
  • A toxic person will blame you for issues that you bring up to them and will not accept responsibility for their own words or actions.
  • A toxic person does not respect boundaries or privacy. Your car will be searched, your phone calls questioned, texts read, your visit to doctors, laundromats, nights out with friends, even time spent at work will find the toxic person accompanying you.
  • Toxic people are often involved in some type of addiction:  power, pornography or sex, alcohol, food, competitive activities, gambling, exercise, drugs...
  • A toxic person or relationship will undervalue your input.
  • This person tends to tell you (with words and actions) that they value and need you while also telling you that you are worthless, lazy, crazy, wrong, delusional, ugly, and many other negatives and insults and labels that attack who you are.

    And there is more...
  • Secrets, lies, hiding things, changing stories about reality, false flattery to others.  These are hallmarks of a toxic person or system.
  • This person will belittle you, tease you, point out any small error.
  • They will work less while you work more, and it is never enough. More and more you feel like you can't keep up with the demands of the relationship or system.
  • This person or system will actively seek out praise and esteem from those around you. This need for praise seems insatiable.
  • These people can not identify a single weakness or error in themselves.
  • This person will talk negatively about you behind your back, tell stories about you, falsify stories, generally create a public smear of you, in spite of your efforts to please him or her. They will tell stories about you to your friends, co workers, family, and others. These stories are attempts to separate you from your support system. They appear to know you better than you know yourself.
  • Shame and guilt are used to control you.
  • This person will belittle your friends, your job, your interests, your accomplishments, your plans, your successes, your ambitions, your goals, your family, your children, your appearance, your clothing, your reactions, your questions, your concerns...
  • A toxic person will tell you how you feel, what you think, what has happened to you, and who you are. They may even speak for you, so much so that people start wondering if the words are yours or not.
  • You view of reality is invalidated, belittled, and condescended.
  • They expect total loyalty to who they are, what they believe, their choices, and their public persona.
  • Important and supportive messages are withheld, horded, kept from you. They believe that any positive messages that you receive removes power from them.
  • This person demands sex from you without offering any sort of emotional connection or as payment for anything.

    Can you relate to any of this?
  • Toxic people do not apologize or acknowledge pain they have caused. At first they might but as time goes on more and more apologies will be turned around to blame the other person.
  • They seem to have no compassion whatsoever.
  • This person criticizes, belittles, is cruel, vindictive, withholds affection or approval, or adds more pain when you are hurting or struggling.
  • This person's integrity is questionable or absent.
  • Your healthy boundaries are not respected, are overrun, are disrespected. You have no private places, thoughts, time.
  • This person or system will knowingly say things that belittle your belief system, your ideals, your personality, your past.
  • Event recounting will change events, stories will alter reality, conversations will be recalled erroneously. History will be treated as malleable and arbitrary. Reality will be skewed.
  • Moods will be hard to predict and impossible to calm.
  • You will be blamed for the moods and behavior of others.
  • You are being sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused, spiritually abused, or abused in any other way.

If you are feeling depressed, low self-esteem, confusion about who you are, disconnected, broken, or worthless consider the possibility that you are in a toxic relationship that has brought confusion to your mind... I have known toxic employers, toxic parents, toxic partners, toxic clergy, toxic friends, toxic teachers, toxic family members, toxic group leaders, toxic children...

If you can identify that a person or system or culture or employment is toxic in your life, find out more information and figure out how to get away. If you think someone in your life is toxic, you are probably right. No more ignoring, no more guilt, no shame, no blind eyes. Even small steps to health and safety are better than no steps at all.  So consider this a baby step.

In every case of this type of toxic person I recommend getting to safety immediately.

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