I hear a lot of complaining about toxic people. The word ‘toxic’ has become a slur to use to attack, rather than a tool to reflect on what one needs. I’ve struggled to let go of people who exploit, abuse, violate me. They began as positive relationships. By the time I realise they’re hurting me, their reasons for this behaviour take precedence over my feelings.
We’re taught to bear whatever is thrown at us in the name of love, loyalty, friendship. Terms like ‘forgiveness’, ‘support’, ‘trigger sensitivity’ make us believe we’re wrong to feel bad about being treated badly. Because we love the person & they’re going through something. Issues (mental illness, fat positivity, feminism, queerness) are campaigned for in a way that allows for “I suffer this so I am exempt from treating other people with respect”. We feel unable to protest any behaviour by someone shielded by a well-championed cause or relationship because we’ll be labelled toxic. Opposing a person becomes opposing the cause or devaluing that relationship. ‘Toxic’ goes from describing a situation to be managed to a crime one may be accused of. We lash out at people who we know will tolerate it because they have to. This is how toxicity is passed on by the very people deriding it.
Toxicity is in behaviours, not people.
1. Having a problem is okay. Not having a solution is fine. Asking for support is great. None of this can be assumed about or from anyone. Entitlement is toxic.
2. Lashing out keeps the person doing it in a corrosive place. It lays the responsibility for their upset on someone else. Using a cause/relationship to justify this, devalues the other person and is toxic.
3. Other people cannot heal me. I cannot heal anyone. Saviour complexes keep addictions alive and trap both people. This is toxic.
Upsets are normal. We can feel overwhelmed by them but we need to find better ways to relate to each other. It should be possible to say, “I am upset with you about XYZ.” and be able to function without poison. But don’t indulge toxic, don’t pass it on.