The war against toxic people rages all over social media. You’ve seen the TikToks and Instagram reels. Maybe you’ve seen the pieces across mainstream media - like the article published in the Harvard Business Review advising how to manage toxic employees. A cursory internet search delivers thousands - thousands - of videos, blog posts and articles on how to deal with, escape, and defeat the toxic person in your life.
And you’ve decided that you have met or known, been the child of, befriended - or married - a toxic person. Consider the ever-expanding description of those who qualify: some sites list 7 types, some list 8 or 9 types - and some list 16 types of these society-labeled monsters. The person who is manipulative, subtly, or outwardly. The person who gaslights others. They are self-centered, sometimes even narcissistic. Always needy and sometimes malicious, the toxic person is characteristically dishonest to suit his or her own needs. Wherever he or she is, you can expect to find forlorn and frightened family members and friends, conflict, and financial or mental health woes.
Pseudo-experts, life coaches, and mental health professionals post videos and articles describing the signs of toxicity, the characteristics of (the 7, 8, 9, 16?) toxic people, and the dangers of associating with such people. The toxic person is “crazy,” unstable, dangerous, desperate, dramatic. The toxic person is a conversational narcissist, often mansplaining. The toxic person is a control freak and sucks the happiness out of a room. They are drama royalty and crisis junkies. They are jealous and judgmental. Many are said to suffer from…you guessed it: toxic masculinity.
When in contact with that person, you experience confusion and self-doubt. You feel bad about yourself. You are driven to help him (or her) - even at your own expense. Your boundaries - the time you accept a call, read a text, or the actions you will take to help - are violated. And you are forever walking on eggshells.
Advice for handling a toxic person ranges from:
- Set and assert boundaries. Say no you can’t, no you won’t. Be unavailable. Respectfully disagree when the toxic person insists or defends.
- Avoid the drama. No matter how curious you are or how helpful you want to be, avoid the toxic person’s chaos. (He or she won’t take responsibility anyway.)
- Resist trying to fix things for him or her.
- Remind yourself that it’s not your fault.
- Use breathing exercises and meditation to reduce or eliminate your anxiety.
- The recommendation to cut ties. Notice that a toxic person is toxic because his or her negativity spreads to everyone in his or her vicinity. If he’s a crisis junkie, always losing a job, getting into arguments, filing bankruptcy, anyone associated with him will feel anxious - and follow his negative energy right down the rabbit hole! In step with the movement, advisors, including the Harvard Business Review, recommend disconnection before you catch the disease! (Masks won’t work for this either.)
And what are the shared themes in each of these posts?
- Popular posts typically foist the toxicity label upon men.
- Society must shun the toxic person. Do not engage. Run away.
- You, the one associating with the toxic monster, are an innocent, blameless victim.
Can you appreciate those themes are dangerous? Why? Because…
Few of these viral, popular posts differentiate between a chronic and an acute condition. The guy who is jealous one time (and possibly with good reason) is now a toxic person. The girl who twists the truth about one project at work (again, the victim ignores the reasons behind the moment) risks being labeled a toxic employee. The employer who criticizes her assistant or the neighbor who asks for you to trim your bushes back is obviously toxic. Reasons, motivation, impetus, proximate cause - is not explored. Anyone and everyone could be a toxic person. The popular definition is too broad and too undefined.
Also note that this battle against toxic people is contemporaneous with the victim-blame-I’m triggered movement. Of course, if you want to participate in the blame-movement, you have to identify a target to blame. And here we have: Toxic People. Research confirms that 84% of women and 75% of men report having a toxic relationship. Well, every phase of human history needs a them to hate. In our misguided attempt to unify, without a them, there is no us. Better to pat yourself on the back and shout, I’m not one of them!!
Remember the Salem Witch Trials? Just point and you will out a toxic person.
And you had better point fast. You’ve taken that “Am I a toxic person?” quiz just to make sure no one will point at you! You answered the questions carefully. You lie when you need to lie, and sometimes you're pretty negative - and maybe you are controlling and manipulative - but you’re not toxic. Whew.
Are you afraid to ask your ex if you’re toxic?
Worse, the thousands of posts from unqualified speakers parroting what they hear from other unqualified speakers results in confusing the toxic person with the narcissist. Yes, experts (you know, not arm chair Tik-Tockers but doctors) assert narcissists make up 0-6.2 percent of the population. Experts also recognize narcissists and toxic people share characteristics - a person can be one or the other or both or neither. Often what we define as a trait is merely a state: the person exhibits toxic behaviors in the moment, but not chronically. And a healthy dedication to oneself is often mistakenly (and defensively) defined as narcissism.
And while each of these advice reels has the scent of mental health, each is only a bandaid on a hemorrhage. This blame trend is priming society to be unable to foster healthy and authentic relationships. The misguided advice leaves you in exactly the same place you have always been.
- You remain susceptible to attracting toxic people.
- You don’t get stronger.
- You are forced into awkward avoidance tactics, including disconnecting and avoiding, to protect your boundaries.
- And you are unaware of how you may be causing that other person to appear toxic.
Did you read that right?
You sure did.
The Break Method team has a no-BS, all truth, all-the-time approach. You may be causing the toxicity or you may be attracting certain types of people into your world so you can point your finger.
This is what we call Symbiotic Dysfunction in Break language.
The way to change your life, be empowered, and never fall susceptible to toxicity again is through the Break Method approach.
Ask yourself: How can I take radical, personal responsibility for my behavior?
Stop pointing. Unless you’re in front of a mirror. Change starts with you. Change starts in you. Consider the metaphor: You can hide the Twinkies, but it doesn’t help you create healthy habits. The better question, the life-changing question: What’s making you choose the Twinkies?
- What does associating with toxic people do for me?
- Am I drawn to the chaos so I can fix the situation or the other person?
- Does saving the other person make me feel powerful or superior?
- Does cutting ties from another person let me excuse my own behavior? Let me escape changing?
- Do I create scenarios to allow the other person to become toxic so I can play victim?
- Are my own boundaries weak, so I continue to attract abusive people? Does my script sing: Come over here and attack me, I love it! Does abuse feel comfortable? Does it feel normal?
- Have I labeled the other person to avoid taking responsibility for my own actions and triggers? What does pointing your finger accomplish for you?
That’s not a new way of looking at a “toxic” relationship - it’s been around for a while. It’s called the Break Method. By investigating your own triggers and issues, you better understand yourself. And others.
This same Break Method advice applies whenever another person triggers you: You’ll find, when you change, the other person’s toxic reactions will change.
Want to learn more? Check out this video: Toxic Relationships + Societal Trends - Tools to Break Free.
Or dive deeper and take the Break Method Brain Pattern Assessment. Much more worthwhile than another Am I A Toxic Person quiz!