This is a very complex topic to explore and write about. I want to help people to understand their emotions with more clarity and to first of all be happy with who they are through self-acceptance and self-care. After all this is the most important thing, for a person to be happy and comfortable in their own skin. From this position we can see others and the world around us with much more clarity, as we have a foundation of self-acceptance and love for ourselves. We will explore key signs of toxic people and toxic relationships. Please note it is natural and important to go through challenging times in romantic relationships, with family dynamics and also in friendships and with colleagues at work. People can work their way through the hard times, if both participants are willing to meet the other person half way, admit their flaws, and grow as a team with love and compassion. Sometimes these situations do form into what we may call toxic relationships and it might be healthier to both walk away and regain our sense of strength and identify again. At other times people can purposely manipulate others and this can go to the extent of gaslighting. I hope this article will first of all help you be happy and in love with your own skin, and moving on from this I hope it will help you recognise unhealthy scenarios, toxic people, and how to handle such situations and individuals.
Signs of a toxic person
Some people can be ‘needy,’ and want your attention a lot; this can be due to their passion and care for you but also due to a lack of self-confidence with themselves. This does not make someone toxic. People can be jealous at times in their lives, and this is a completely normal human emotion. Someone being toxic however, can involve the ingredients of a lack of self confidence and also continual jealousy which is matched with intent and manipulation over another person. Relationships will always have their ups and downs and people can shout and become angry; again this can be completely normal. However, if someone is purposely manipulative of a situation or very erratic in their emotional changes, they could be toxic people and this could be a sign that things need to change. What is a toxic relationship versus areas of a healthy relationship?
- Respecting Boundaries: Healthy relationships respect each others needs and boundaries. It is normal to miss our loved ones and partners. A sign of a toxic relationship might be when someone continuously disregards your boundaries after you have spoken to them clearly over and over again.
- Insecurity: If you feel insecure in your relationship there is a balance at play. It is important that we work on self-acceptance and practice compassion for ourselves so that we can feel comfortable in our own skin. It is possible that someone can feel insecure in a relationship due to their own insecurities; however a sign of a toxic relationship is often when the other person makes you feel deeply insecure through a lack of love, regular criticism, and erratic high and low behavior. If this person is very negative towards you one day and then does a complete U-turn the next on a regular basis, then this can be a sign of a toxic person.
- Gaslighting: According to Dr. Forshee says, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where one person is targeted and they engage in tactics that result in questioning your own memory, perception, and sanity.”
Gaslighting is definitely a key one regarding an abusive relationship. It is possible to be in a relationship which is damaged; there is a lot of heart ache, arguments and mistrust. This could be deemed a toxic relationship. It is important to find a balance of what is healthy, what is unhealthy and also respecting at times what is normal over a length of time. Gaslighting and manipulation is in particular a key area of an extremely toxic and an emotionally abusive relationship.
Below we will break down key areas:
- How to feel secure in our own skin
- How to rediscover your sense of identity
From here it will help you look at these areas from a broader perspective on how you can become a happy and healthy individual and also have happy and healthy relationships (friendships, loved ones and relationships). From here we will be able to define more clearly if we feel we have toxic people in our lives and how to handle these people and situations that may arise.
What causes toxic behaviour?
According to Abigail Brenner M.D. (2016);
‘When the word “toxic” is used it often describes the more extreme end of the spectrum. It’s when we’re engaged with people who continue to challenge us in a big way, who are unwilling to entertain a point of view different from their own, who are incapable of imagining what it’s like to walk in our shoes, and who demand our undivided attention, that we need to recognize that a line has been crossed, that our boundaries have been violated. Sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors take us to the very end of the spectrum where lying, stealing, cheating and manipulating are the norm and we are no longer in control of the relationship, and often, of our own life.’
Abigail Brenner further goes on to clarify the myriad of complexity when identifying toxic people;
‘In no way did I mean to imply that individuals who exhibit toxic traits are not human beings who deserve the same understanding and compassion we would all want to receive. Unhealthy traits should not define the people who exhibit them, but unfortunately, these traits do get in the way in relationship. While we all need to be sensitive to the fact that many of these people may have had and/or are having a hard time in life, we also need to balance this with the consequences their behavior has upon those with whom they are in relationship.’
How to handle toxic people
What can we learn about how to deal with toxic people and how to get out of a toxic relationship?
How can we learn to love ourselves through self-acceptance:
- Self-Acceptance: This process helps us to learn to love ourselves for who we are without the need for external resources or validation. We see with clarity our strengths and skill sets and we applaud them, not with arrogance but belief. We learn to accept our bodies and our mind without the need for comparison. Please read our article – You Are Good Enough & Learn To Love Yourself
- Mindfulness: Our page Calm shares several free meditation videos, breath work and advice for pausing life and regaining self-control – Calm Meditation Resources
- Sport: Through sport we can regain our strength, learn new skill sets, become part of a team and tribe. We can channel our emotions, channel anger, channel anxiety in healthy ways. We can lose our sense of time in sport and create a state of flow like being in the zone. Day one is always the hardest, but if you take up a new sport and build your confidence session by session you can really grow your self-belief and confidence. From this foundation you can stand up proud and be strong if others attempt to belittle you in any manner.
The below ancient wisdom can help us with how to deal with toxic people, further help us on how to get out of a toxic relationship. The below principles can in addition help others on how to stop being toxic, as we can lead by example and strength.
Stoic principles can help us to handle life’s challenges:
- Wisdom: What controllability do we have? Rather than becoming angry, notice the anger and ask yourself ‘what can I do in this situation?’ You cannot control other people, but you can always choose your response to others and you can always choose your actions.
- Temperance: This is about finding a balance in life. Go out into the world with kindness and compassion and take only what you need. This process can help you learn to love yourself again and find a new path in life away from a toxic situation.
- Courage: When other individuals disappoint us, we can find the courage deep within to make our own path in life and choose this based on a foundation of kindness. Do not become the other person, but do the opposite and always act with kindness.
- Justice: This is not to be confused with seeking revenge. When family members or loved ones upset us, this is about zooming outwards and looking at the bigger picture of life itself. Who do you want to be in the world? How can you become a strong person, help others in need and help nature?
“Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself that “the best way to avenge yourself is to not be like that.” Another Stoic, Seneca, put it this way, “How much better to heal than seek revenge from injury. Vengeance wastes a lot of time and exposes you to many more injuries than the first that sparked it.”
The Stoic principles above can help us to become happier individuals and help prevent us from losing our sense of identity.
Within toxic relationships or unhealthy situations, it is easy to lose our sense of who we are. By keeping or regaining our identity we can move forward with strength, compassion and kindness and create the life that we want to live.
The above principles will help people on how to get out of a toxic relationship, as they can learn to find their sense of identity and use this foundation to find strength to walk away from the challenges in their life. A mixture of stoic principles, self-acceptance practices and also finding our inner strength through sport can help with how to get out of a toxic relationship. Furthermore by participating in a new sport you can find strength and support in your tribe.
Dealing with toxic friendships
How to deal with toxic friends? We should use the same principles as above through learning to love our own skin and use the ancient stoic wisdom available to us.
How else can we deal with toxic friends and also how to deal with toxic people in general?
- Maintain Virtues: No matter what people throw at you, be kind to others, be an example of good virtues.
- Be a Success: Choose what success looks like to you, and base this on your values and passions. If people do not believe in you, it is due to the fact that they do not truly believe in themselves, and it says so much more about them than it does about you.
- Grow New Circles: Life is short. Spend time with people who champion you, shout your name and who believe in you. Start new hobbies and find your tribe.
How to deal with a toxic partner
In addition to the above principles, the key to dealing with a toxic partner and handling toxic people is to rediscover your SENSE OF IDENTITY.
Imagine a lawyer or solider wearing their uniform with strength and pride and then when returning home in their plain clothes, falling victim to manipulation. This same proud and strong individual in their uniform loses their SENSE OF IDENTITY when in their home environment in plain clothes.
Imagine wearing that uniform and bringing that strong person into the home environment – this person would say NO, and stand up to the manipulation.
This is just one example of how we can rediscover our SENSE OF IDENTITY.
How to deal with toxic family members
Many of the same principles will help with how to deal with toxic parents and also how to deal with toxic family members. The key areas are self-acceptance, finding a strong tribe potentially through sport and also rediscovering a sense of identity. Following on from this using the stoic ideals, that maintain focussing on what you have control over and being noble, kind and compassionate – do not rise to their negative and respond with strength and nobility.
Safety leaving toxic relationships and situations
If your situation is particularly extreme please see a list of charities that can help you.
Free Help in the United Kingdom:
Resources for victims of domestic abuse – Refuge
Women and Child safety – Home – Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk)
Men’s Aid – Home (mensaid.co.uk)
Free Help in the United States of America:
We have a wide range of articles that can help you from sell-acceptance all the way to personal growth. These can be found on our website or read through our free App. The Meaningful Paths App also has several free courses, you can meet your own tribe and is full of health and wellness resources. Meaningful Paths on Apple and Google Play.
No matter what position you are in, life can get better and you can be happy. Take one small step at a time, and a good place to start is by reading our blog articles listed within this article for self-acceptance. From here take one step to speak to someone who you feel might help. Take one small step to join a sports team and create strength within. Find a way to rediscover your sense of identity and use this as a foundation to make positive steps forward.
Please come back to this page any time you need to and feel free to download our free App for further health and wellness support.