Are you caught up in a toxic relationship, workplace, friendship or family? Toxic people use their defences to repel you from their lives or control you to stay in their lives. It’s basically a defence mechanism they have developed from years of themselves feeling worthless, inferior, sad, destructive and unable to get their needs met in healthy ways. If never healed from their past, toxic people cannot see (or want to see) that their behaviour is in fact toxic and poisonous to themselves and others. If not apprehended, toxic behaviour leads to toxic relationships, unhappy homes and work places, violence and in some cases, death.
Toxic behaviour is usually a result of a personality disorder such as Narcissism, Borderline Personality or Histrionic Personality. All of these disorders have a central theme of selfishness, and getting ones needs met at the sake of another. People who have these behaviours basically do not have a defined sense of self or understanding of what love is. Their energy is scattered, up and down and unpredictable. Their own boundaries are blurred and stop at nothing to invade others’ boundaries without respect. People say living or working with people who have toxic energy is like having to walk on eggshells.
Toxic environments are the antidote to healthy growth. Being surrounded by toxic people (or if you are one!) never allows for normal human growth and development. Dreams are never realised, support is never given, promotions are never had and happiness is never felt. This toxicity continues because often others feel like having to ‘fix’ them or ‘care’ for them, but at the same time neglect their own needs, health, well being and personal growth.
In the end, fear keeps the toxicity alive, fear for one’s safety but still needing to belong, regardless of the offensive behaviour, environment or attitude. The caring aspect of this toxic relationship allows for some ‘peace’ for awhile, but runs thin after years of walking on eggshells, modifying ones behaviour to suit the other and keeping the peace. Parents have a responsibility not to indulge, smother, abuse and neglect their children’s needs. Parenting children in this way induces toxic behaviour and unless recognised early in life, will take a life time to undo. Media and public forums often feed toxic behaviour by glorifying crimes, violence, hatred and objectifying women.
If you feel you are involved in a toxic situation….RUN!! You are not responsible for these people. If you feel that you are the TOXIC one or parenting in this style, do something to rid yourself of your poisonous ways! If you know someone who is in a toxic situation, help them escape before it’s too late!
Toxic people are basically immature and a little damaged. They have not confronted their past issues, losses or hurts and thus carry them with them wherever they go. They inject their poison into others. They blame others for their behaviour and predicament, and see the world as their enemy to be warded off or to be controlled. They take from others what is not theirs and are not fearful of crossing boundaries with inappropriate words and actions to get want they want. They have not balanced their childhood ways with their adult self, so act from no real moral compass or integrity.
Here are 10 red flags that you or another person is toxic:
1. Not true to their word. (Say one thing but do another) and have high opinions about everyone and everything and how they should live their lives, but live incongruently themselves, showing secretive and sneaky behaviour. Tell lies or exaggerate to ‘support’ their story.
2. Competitive and controlling and do anything to get what they want. They cross boundaries through words and actions. They are often ‘nice’ but then turn when things don’t turn out for them. They are extremely competitive and jealous of others. They use force, violence, manipulation and emotional blackmail to control others and to put others down.
3. Complain about their life but do nothing to change it. Remain victims and blame others. Unable to manage their emotions and are forever dumping on others.
4. Bossy, bullies, self centred and childlike and then swing to being overtly moralistic and parentlike. They only see the world through their own lense, feel entitled, and do not own their ludicrous behaviour or take responsibility. Sorry is not in their vocabulary. They have tantrums to get what they want (childlike) or preach and moralise from an authorative point of view (parent like) if the tantrum doesn’t work.
5. Cruel and lack compassion. They say and do vicious things to hurt others just to feel better about themselves, or just to project the hurt they are feeling themselves. Gossip and judgement of others is prominent in toxic environments and people.
6. Allow others to provide for them when they are quite capable to do so themselves. They leach off others for their own gain. Are often lazy or in the workplace, steal people’s ideas and claim them as their own
7. Reckless with drugs, alcohol, money, sex or use these to manipulate others
8. Drama queens/kings, thriving off their issues and using them as an excuse. Their behaviour is explosive or secretive, unpredictable and feels like always having to walk on eggshells around them. They often have ‘rages’ or screaming matches to offload to others.
9. Have no moral compass, lack empathy and show no respect for others
10. Are not able to give and take and ‘meet half way’ for the sake of resolution. They do not know the meaning of collaboration, inclusive decision making, solution focussed problem solving or active listening. They do not understand putting their needs aside for the ‘higher good’. It’s their way or the highway!
Stay tuned for Part II where we explore what to do if you’re in a toxic situation.
This article was written by Delappe’ Russell, a Counsellor / Psychotherapist MACA at the Vive Health Clinic. She specialises in Personal and Relationship Counselling. To book an appointment contact 07 3399 1002.