Have you ever thought about a situation and realized that maybe you were the one making the situation bad? That maybe in a relationship or situation you were the toxic person?
Sometimes I read back through something I’ve written in the past and receive a punch to the gut. That’s what happened as I reread my post on three things to remember when dealing with toxic people. As I read that post, I realized that sometimes I AM the toxic person.
In particular it was a bit about passive aggression and how it plays out. As I read it, I realized that in a recent situation I had been that very person I was talking about. As I struggled to deal with a tough situation I found myself lashing out. It wasn’t intentional. And, as I read the words I’d written years ago:
We all have our moments when we are passive aggressive. We hold back on saying what we really think and instead take subtle jabs at the person near us. This is also a sign of internal pain.”
I realized that that is exactly what I was doing. I was struggling to work out what had me bothered and stressed with the situation. As a result, I found myself lashing out. I knew I felt disrespected in the situation but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was causing it so I couldn’t really address it.
As I reread those words and those that followed in the original post it was a light bulb moment. We all find ourselves in toxic situations and chances are that in every one of those situations we play a role in that toxicity. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who are completely toxic for us to be around. Sometimes just being around those people can cause us to react and become toxic ourselves. Sometimes, though, it’s just a situation. And sometimes, the toxic person is the person in the mirror.
What are signs that you are being toxic?
- You lash out often with no reason. Whether it’s a jab, and insult, or just assuming that everyone is doing things specifically to hurt you. If you find yourself in this spot, you likely are the toxic person in the situation.
- You constantly complain. It’s difficult when you are in chronic pain not to complain. But, constantly complaining becomes toxic in relationships and it will drive people away. It will also result in them reacting negatively back.
- You blame everyone else for everything. In every situation there are at least two sides and at some point you have to take a look inward and ask yourself what you do have control over and how you can change those things. Even if the answer is that you have control of being able to leave the situation.
- You badmouth others. Often when we are hurting we try to bring others down with us. It’s not that we purposefully want them to hurt, but we just don’t want to be alone in our pain. So, we bring them down with us.
- People avoid you. We all have those people that we do our best to avoid because they bring us down. But, if you find that everyone is avoiding you, it may be time to look inward and ask yourself it’s due to your behaviors.
- You can’t admit you might be wrong. No one wants to be wrong, but an intense need to be right all the time is not healthy. Understanding that sometimes you are wrong and allowing others to show you the correct answer or a better way is a sign of maturity.
How do we avoid being the toxic person?
I believe the answers lay within the same advice I’ve given previously on dealing with or avoiding toxic people.
- Avoid toxic people and situations when possible. It’s not always possible. But, when you are able to identify people or situations that are unhealthy for you, the best thing you can do is separate yourself from those people or situations. That may be mean cutting certain people out of your life. Or, it may just mean setting boundaries and holding to them.
- Create and enforce healthy boundaries. I believe that often toxic situations are created by a lack of boundaries. We can’t hold others responsible for our own boundaries. Nor, can we expect others to be aware of our boundaries. It’s up to us to not only establish healthy boundaries bu to ensure that those around us are aware of those boundaries. I am the only one responsible for enforcing my boundaries.
There are times when you may find that certain people bring out the toxic in you. It may be that they are toxic themselves, or it may be that the repeatedly infringe on your boundaries (despite your efforts to enforce them). In those cases, your best bet is to remove that person from a place in your life where they can cross your boundaries.
- Work to understand the source of your feelings. If you find that you are reacting passive aggressively in situations, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself why you are reacting that way. Personally, I found that I react this way when I perceive disrespect. If I feel someone is “poking” me, I will poke back. It’s not a healthy response. It’s something I am working on. Meditation helps. When you find yourself struggling, feeling anxious, stressed, or simply unhappy with a person or situation, spend some time meditating on those feelings. Ask yourself what you are really feeling and dig into the why behind it. Identify the specific actions that cause you to feel that way, to react negatively, and ask yourself what they have in common.
- Don’t excuse your behavior. When we live with chronic pain it’s easy to blame it for everything, including our own bad behavior. It’s easy to say “of course I’m lashing out, I’m hurting.” Yes. You are hurting. And, yes, often pain will cause us to lash out, simply because we don’t know any other way to express the pain inside (whether it’s physical or emotional). But, that’s not an excuse. Instead of simply trying to excuse our behavior, we need to work to understand the root of the pain and deal with it. While we may be dealing with both physical and emotional pain, it’s often the latter that causes this type of behavior. We may not be able to make the physical pain go away but we can get help and learn how to cope with the emotional pain.
- Focus on positives. When you find yourself in a loop of complaints and criticisms, stop. Try to find one good thing to say. From there it becomes easier to find others. It can be helpful to remember the compliment sandwich. Instead of just criticizing things, try to sandwich every negative with at least one positive. If there is literally nothing positive you can think of for that situation, maybe just withhold your opinion for a moment. Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to bring everyone down.
- Give yourself grace. Looking back I realize that the worse I feel physically, or the more I’m struggling because I don’t feel I can do the things I want to be doing, the more likely I am to react poorly. Understanding these things helps me remember to focus myself on what brings me joy. Just as it’s important to remember that just because someone may be acting toxic towards you doesn’t mean they are a bad person, it’s important to do the same for yourself. We all have bad moments.
As I look back at past interactions it’s easy to see them differently. To understand the role I may have played in negative situations. Often, it’s a cycle that is perpetuated. Regardless of who “starts” it, it takes two people to keep it in motion. At some point we have to stop and realize what role we play and that while we can’t control the actions or reactions of others, we can control our own. If we find ourselves reacting in a negative (or passive aggressive) way it’s time to step back, take a look in the mirror and ask why, then do our best to avoid what lead to that reaction in the future.
- My past will not change, but I control my future
- 3 Things to Remember When Dealing with Toxic People
- 5 Tips for Handling Toxic Relationships
- 6 Things I Focus on When Dealing with Energy Vampires