Is there someone on your contact list whose name makes your blood run cold when it pops up on your screen? Perhaps there is a ‘friend’ you have on social media whose untimely death you secretly wish for. It might be a work colleague or boss whose forced insertion into your orbit has you scanning for ‘help wanted’ signs in far off lands. Maybe there is a family member you never mention without throwing up a little in your mouth. Toxic people are everywhere.
Many of us struggle with at least one relationship that confuses us. It would seem obvious that if you find someone truly repugnant, you’d be better off not having them in your lives. Unfortunately, it is hard to remain isolated from everyone revolting and, as recent World events have shown us, the stupid now almost certainly outweigh the sane.
It’s not like humans all over the planet aren’t trying to hold it together. ‘How to deal with your local twat’ self-help books are widely available and therapists send their kids to Private Schools on the backs of those blessed with self-awareness looking for coping techniques. Due to a seeming proliferation of narcissists, nowadays fighting off human toxicity can be a daily battle. Even the calmest and most level headed of us get to a point where the poison they ooze takes its toll.
So apart from playing out your revenge fantasies, which ultimately might lead to your arrest, what can you do to strengthen yourself when you must interact with people who makes you feel sick?
There are 4 easy steps to remember.
Firstly, and most importantly, stop and be honest with yourself. If you find yourself having a visceral response when you see or hear someone’s name or, God forbid, their voice, own up to it. There is something wrong with a relationship when you have to take a breath every time there is contact. Now that you are being true to your feelings, start to pay attention to what it is that’s putting you on edge. Toxic people manipulate and lie. They obfuscate and bamboozle in order to make you doubt yourself. You know there is something wrong, but according to them, it’s you.
So the next thing to do is, step back.
Narcissists need to appear perfect in order to hide their insecurity, so toxic people never take responsibility for problems or mistakes.
It is this very developmental stunting that makes them so hopelessly unable to cope. That’s why they manipulate other people. It is much easier to deceive than to repair for these types, and if you are half way decent you will spend your time trying to fix things when in actual fact the best advice is to walk away.
Of course, this is much easier said than done, and if the person causing you this stress MUST be in your frame, then it is time for the next step and that is to at least learn to set up, and maintain, strong boundaries.
Saying ‘No’ and sticking with it is one of the hardest things to do with someone who toxic. In polite society we are trained to be helpful and giving, and it is that learned behaviour that leads us down a path of dissatisfaction and the feeling we are being taken for a ride. Boundary setting means knowing what you will accept and what you won’t.
For example, if someone is always ready with a negative comment on anything positive in your life “Well, you have lost weight but now there’s all that loose skin on your neck” learn to place a boundary between yourself and their comments. Rather than agree and think later about that hurtful comment, either immediately say something. “That was rude”, or ask them to clarify why they would say that “that seems like a strange thing to say, can you explain why you needed to say it?”. Bullies never like to stand in the light exposed. They also do not like being held responsible for their actions. By asking for their purpose in the comment, you are handing back the statement. Most of what they say is projection anyway. They are far more interested in themselves than you, so their negativity is part of their self-loathing. If they say “You are being too sensitive” stop and think. Is it really about you, or is their sensitive low esteem self-speaking? If that all seems too confronting, you can literally stand there and stare at them, silently. Yes, it may be awkward for a bit, but you’ll survive it. There is no rule that says every moment of the Earth must be filled with noise. Silence, as well as golden, can be deafening.
Once you understand where your boundaries are, what you will and will not accept from the toxic people around you, you must pay attention to how they respond when you hold your ground. If you think grown-ups are beyond throwing tantrums, think again. Manipulative people like to get their own way, and they will use every bit of weaponry in the arsenal to emotionally blackmail you into backing down.
It’s time for step four, stand your ground.
Wait it out. Hold on to your standards. Strengthen your walls. You don’t owe anybody anything, and you certainly don’t owe anything to somebody who makes you feel yucky inside.
When you’ve recognized what is going on, and you’ve thought about what you need to do to make your life happier, whether that is limiting contact, or re-writing the rules of your personal human interaction manifesto, speak your truth plainly. If you wish to say ‘No’ to someone or something, say ‘No’, and leave it at that. We are also trained to think that we owe everyone an explanation for the decisions we make. That is not always true. If you are guiding young people, yes, help them see how you have reached that choice, but if the person you are saying no to is someone you believe to be harmful to your self-esteem, forget the reasons. They don’t really care anyway, they just want what they want for their own selfish reasons.
That’s why they upset you. You know that the time you spend pleasing them is like pouring sand into a black hole. Your mental health is worth more than that, so here are the ways to protect it.
Stand your ground.
These four simple things to remember can make the difference between a lifetime of clarity and happiness, and a longtime of bitterness and woe.
How have you coped with Toxic people? Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Send us a message on the comments section of My Grey Nomads, or write to us on our facebook page.