L.E. is a freelance writer living in North Carolina. She has a wide, eclectic range of interests, experience and knowledge to share.
Stop the Toxic Whirlwind
Most of us have a toxic person in our lives that we cannot just walk away from because they are an integral part of our lives. They are our bosses, co-workers, or exes we co-parent with. Yes, you could eliminate those situations, but finding a new job, or distancing yourself from your minor child's parent is easier said than done. And so, you must find ways to successfully deal with a toxic person and still have peace of mind.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could press a couple of buttons and reboot our brains to “last known good configuration” like we do our computers after a bad update? Dealing with a toxic person has no doubt driven you to question your own sanity and you probably don’t even feel like you anymore. In fact, you feel an awkward combination of angry and numb from dealing with noxious blasts of drama that have impaired your ability to process a logical thought and left you feeling like you are trapped in a swirling vortex of chaos. The good news is you can reboot and take back your sanity almost as easily as pressing a few buttons but, in this case, not pressing buttons is what’s going bring your exhausted, foggy mind back to the last known good configuration. What I mean by that is, don’t engage in the drama the toxic person so desperately needs to create. It can be done. Showing a toxic person that you aren’t going to be his/her source for toxic nourishment is the most successful way of dealing with them.
Toxic people feed off of results - the term emotional vampire is most fitting. They need to see the chaos, destruction and sadness they’ve caused. They crave anger, tears, yelling and retaliation from you. Ultimately, their toxic nourishment is knowing that they’ve ruined your day and caused drama that will echo throughout your life. Don’t feed them; for example, don’t use social media to vent. We’ve all seen ambiguous posts that read something like “ Idk why people have to be so immature. I’m so tired of stupid drama.” Or, "I wish I could punch someone at work". Guess what? You’ve just simultaneously created more “stupid drama” and satisfied the emotional vampire to some degree. Vent to a friend, scream into a pillow, talk to yourself, take deep breaths and pity her because she is an incredibly unhappy person and probably always will be. Write down everything you’d love to say to her on a piece of paper and then burn it (in a safe place of course). Watch it burn - let your anger and frustration burn up with paper until it is ash. Just make sure whatever you do doesn’t give this toxic person ammo for more drama or the satisfaction of having caused you grief.
When you're dealing with a toxic person at work or the person you co-parent with, keep a record. Whenever possible, only communicate through email, text, anything that is an original transcription of the conversation. Record all conversations that are not able to be had through written means. Always have a record. My experience with this is when you call a toxic person out (let's say for lying), in writing, they suddenly want to talk to you on the phone. They don"t want record of them lying. I flat out refused to have a verbal conversation (I know that is not always an option), with the toxic person in my life and she slowed way down on the drama - involving me anyway.
Listen, I know at times you want to tell her how horrible she is or make her feel as bad as she makes you feel or cause chaos in her life but know this - a toxic person already hates herself and she loves the drama and chaos because it makes her feel powerful and important. You will never make her understand that she is the genesis of her miserable existence so don’t give her your energy. Not responding to her isn’t being weak and it doesn’t mean she “wins”. It means you are choosing to leave the drama behind. It means you are choosing to be smarter. It means you are taking control of the situation by diffusing it. You are taking back your sanity and she will be confused by that. Not getting a reaction or creating problems will disillusion a toxic person. Be prepared, she may try a little harder to cause issues since things that use to bother you don’t seem to be working anymore but, don’t give in. Be in control. Don’t feed her; like a stray cat - if you put food out, it will come looking for more. When you stop feeding it, it will eventually move on. It may come back looking for food every now and then but as long as there isn’t any (not even a crumb), it will meow a little and go away.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 L E Chase
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 28, 2018:
I had a friend from my high school days who recently became very toxic.
Dealing with a toxic person, you said to avoid verbal conversation. I understand the reason for this is that they are usually in denial and will never remember a conversation anyway.
It’s better to put things in writing in that case, assuming that they will have the initiative to actually review the letter. I’ve done that. I put in writing why I felt I didn’t want to be friends any longer. The problem I discovered is, he never read the letter.
Nevertheless, I’ve avoided further negativity by communicating my feelings and removing myself from the situation. His desire to remain in the dark is his problem.
What does it matter on October 11, 2017:
Hi- I think you are frigging awesome