Is Your Life Plagued by Toxic People?
Curled into a fetal position, sucking your thumb as you watch The Devil Wears Prada. “This is so my life!” you think in despair.
Or does your life sometimes feel like a weird Twilight Zone episode featuring the Mean Girls?
Toxic People–We all know the type: Nasty. Passive aggressive. Confrontational. Physically aggressive.
No matter how they present in your life, chances are you would like to find a way to kick them to the curb (or if not, at least to minimize the impact they have on you).
You may have heard the maxim that “hurting people, hurt people.” Let’s start there. In order to ameliorate the influence that toxic people have in your life, you have to begin to separate the behavior from your judgment of the person–as difficult as it may be.
If you want to change the impact of toxic people on your life, you’re going to have to do the work to heal the things their dysfunction brings up for you. So let’s take a look at how this works in a practical way.
Toxic People Behave Sickly
Judging someone negatively because they are unhealthy, hurting or scared doesn’t serve you. Sick people act sick. This is especially important to recognize if you are in close relationship with the person (such as family or close friend).
Venting your frustration at their behavior patterns by continuously judging them negatively will support your ego’s need to feel “better than” but it won’t serve your healing or your desire to grow.
Releasing the expectations you hold for the person behaving badly in your life won’t be easy because you truly want them to be different than they are. Trying to change another person through manipulation or coercion is a fool’s errand. If you will understand this truth, it will save you a world of hurt.
1. It’s not personal!
They are sick (or fearful, or hurt, etc), so they are behaving as a sick person would. It doesn’t give them an excuse to victimize you; however, it does give you the freedom to release your expectations of them. That’s big, if you can absorb it. Sit with that one for a bit, if you need to.
2. You do not have to take anything personally.
You have the power to liberate your soul from the burden (and pain) of taking the disappointment of those unmet expectations personally.
There are no toxic people, only toxic behavior.
Stick with me here and I’ll show you how this is true.
Your negative judgment of another person is an indictment of yourself–always.
Because we cannot fully love and accept ourselves, we judge others (tweet it). We want to judge each other because we have criticized and condemned ourselves so harshly, first.
When the ego needs to prove its worthiness, then everything and everyone must be judged. (How else would it know its worth?) The need to judge someone else evaporates when there is no need to set myself up as “better than…”
No separation exists between us. If you loath a quality or characteristic in another person, you must have first recognized it in yourself. Otherwise, you would not be triggered emotionally by another person’s actions.
The ego seeks to project the dysfunction outwards onto someone else (i.e., “he/she is toxic”). It is easier than facing the truth.
What is the truth?
When you are whole and healthy, the pathology–or bad behavior patterns–of another stimulates compassion in you, not judgement.
When you feel judgement rising within you, it is a sure sign that your own pathology has awakened. There is pain or an unhealed wound within me which surfaces, stimulated by someone’s unhealthy behavior.
The Inadvertent Gift of the Toxic Person
Think about the last time you saw a child throwing a fit in the store. You probably shook your head or rolled your eyes. Maybe you just walked away. You noticed it, but it didn’t trigger a response within you.
Why? Because it wasn’t your child!
It is the same in your life. Someone else’s tantrum (bad or unhealthy behavior) won’t cause an emotional reaction within you when it’s not your “child”.
When you recognize that you are emotionally triggered, use the opportunity to lean into awareness. This isn’t a bad thing! It’s a gift. Embrace it. Stop and observe. What do you feel in your body?
The feeling of emotional charge that urges you to react is a signal that there is some fear, pain or wound within you that remains unhealed. When you recognize it, you can choose to heal it. This is the gift that the toxic behavior of those in your life brings to you.
Release the need to judge–even your own feelings. You are not your feelings. You are the one observing them. Allow them to flow in and through you.
So the first step to alleviating the pain of toxic behavior in your life is to begin to separate the judgement of behavior from the person. Next, it is to recognize that the judgement of someone else always begins at the doorstep of our own sense of failure. Learn to ask: Where is it in me?
When you bring it out, you can work it out.
The people you believe to be a toxic influence in your life actually offer you a great gift–the gift of awareness. They invite you to awaken to your own pain and hurt in order to heal it. They can be your greatest teachers if you will let them. It’s up to you.
What About You?
How do you cope with the toxic behavior of people in your life? Have you been able to heal these relationships? Please join the conversation in the comments.
In the next post in this series, I’m going to discuss these relationships and how we can strive to move them from dysfunctional to healthy.
NOTE: Be sure to check out the rest of the series.
Part Two: How to Set Boundaries for the Junkyard Dogs in Your Life
Part Three: The Truth No One Ever Told You (but should have) About Ending Toxic Relationships
Image Credit: greg lilly