Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Toxic People: Recognizing & Dealing With Them

One of the biggest issues people, that I've run into, sometimes have, as Empaths, is that of dealing with Toxic People.  I've heard topics as wide ranging as the types of people they draw to themselves who they feel are toxic to their own inability to deal with these kinds of people.  I've heard them talk about feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, anger, judgment, depression, hopelessness and more negatively charged emotions, that they either feel from the other person pressing in on them or tend to begin to emulate through long term interaction with these types of people.  And I've watched as long term interaction with such toxic types of people have cause others to change their perception of the world; morphing it into one of apathy, prejudice and/or judgment.

Now, with that being said, I would say this it is an unavoidable truth that when certain types of personalities come together, they do not mesh well.  Some are naturally more dominating, aggressive, assertive, and/or predatory than others.While others are more passive and are easily dominated in during an interaction.  And while it may seem to onlookers as though they mesh well on the surface, one tending to be more submissive while the other more dominant, this is often not the case.

Some Toxic Personality Types

So how do we categorize Toxic personalities?  Out of all the lists I searched for online, this is the one I felt was the best at describing some of the more toxic personality types.

Eight Toxic Personality Types

1. Manipulative Mary:
These individuals are experts at manipulation tactics.  Is a matter of fact, you may not even realize you have been manipulated until it is too late.  These individuals figure out what your 'buttons' are, and push them to get what they want.
  • Why they are toxic: These people have a way of eating
    away at your belief system and self-esteem.  They find ways to make you do things that you don't necessarily want to do and before you know it, you lose your sense of identity, your personal priorities and your ability to see the reality of the situation.  The world all of a sudden becomes centered around their needs and their priorities.
2. Narcissistic Nancy: 
These people have an extreme sense of self-importance and believe that the world revolves around them.  They are often not as sly as the Manipulative Marys of the world, but instead, tend to be a bit overt about getting their needs met.  You often want to say to them "It isn't always about you."
  • Why they are toxic: They are solely focused on their needs, leaving your needs in the dust.  You are left disappointed and unfulfilled.  Further, they zap your energy by getting you to focus so much on them, that you have nothing left for yourself.
3. Debbie Downers: 
These people can't appreciate the positive in life.  If you tell them that it is a beautiful day, they will tell you about the impending dreary forecast.  If you tell them you aced a mid-term, they'll tell you about how difficult the final is going to be.
  • Why they are toxic: They take the joy out of everything.  Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity.  Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself.
4. Judgmental Jims
When you see things as cute and quirky, they see things as strange  and unattractive.  If you find people's unique perspectives refreshing,  they find them 'wrong'.  If you like someone's eclectic taste, they find  it 'disturbing' or 'bad'.
  • Why they are toxic: Judgmental people are much like Debbie Downers.  In a world where freedom rings, judgment is sooo over.  If the world was a homogeneous place, life would be pretty boring.  Spending a lot of time with these types can inadvertently convert you into a judgmental person as well.
5. Dream Killing Keiths: 
Every time you have an idea, these people tell you why you can't do it.  As you achieve, they try to pull you down.  As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.
  • Why they are toxic: These people are stuck in what is instead of what could be.  Further, these individuals eat away at your self-esteem and your belief in yourself.  Progress and change can only occur from doing new things and innovating, dreaming the impossible and reaching for the stars.
6. Insincere Illissas: 
You never quite feel that these people are being sincere.  You tell  a funny story, they give you a polite laugh.  You feel depressed  and sad and they give you a 'there, there' type response.  You tell them you are excited about something and you get a very ho-hum response.
  • Why they are toxic: People who aren't sincere or genuine build relationships on superficial criteria.  This breeds shallow, meaningless relationships.  When you are really in need of a friend, they won't be there.  When you really need constructive criticism, they would rather tell you that you are great the way you are.  When you need support, they would rather see you fail or make a fool of yourself.
7. Disrespectful Dannys:
These people will say or do things at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate ways.  In essence, they are more subtle, grown up bullies.  Maybe this person is a friend who you confided in and uses your secret against you.  Maybe it is a family member who puts their busy-body nose into your affairs when it is none of their business.  Or maybe, it is a colleague who says demeaning things to you.
  • Why they are toxic: These people have no sense of boundaries and don't respect your feelings or, for that matter, your privacy.  These people will cause you to feel frustrated and disrespected.
8. Never Enough Nellies: 
You can never give enough to these people to make them happy.   They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you.   They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.
  • Why they are toxic: You will spend so much time trying to please them, that you will end up losing yourself in the process.  They will require all of your time and energy, leaving you worn out and your own needs sacrificed.

Recognizing Toxic Personalities

Are there warning signs that might help you recognize toxic personalities?  One way to help you recognize this is described here.

If you are in what you believe to be a toxic relationship, I suggest that you become the observer, step outside yourself and observe what is going on within the context of your relationship. As you observe, begin to ask yourself some questions and provide yourself with honest, heartfelt answers, questions such as:
  • - Knowing what I know, if I observed my best friend in this type of relationship what would I advise that person to do?
  • - What responsibility do I take in the toxicity of this relationship?
  • - If I changed by perspective and relative behavior could I help to neutralize the toxicity and improve this relationship?
  • - Should I remove myself from this relationship?
  • - Is this relationship slowly killing all of my spirit?
  • - Do I define who I am, or am I allowing the other person to define me?
  • - What are my options?
  • - What doors or windows are available to me?
  • - Who could I reach out to for help?
Know that you always have options, that no one is truly stuck. Even in the darkest of hours, there are always alternatives.
Another website suggests this:

One way to identify toxic people in your life is to measure your own feelings when around them. Do you feel pain, craziness, and aggravation whenever they're around? Do you feel sick and experience physical symptoms like a headache or stomach pain at even the thought of their coming by for a visit? Are they constantly talking negatively about everyone they know? This may even include your spouse and children. Do you somehow feel blamed for their problems and bear the responsibility for making things better for them?

Here are also some warning signs to take note of when contemplating whether or not you are involved in a toxic relationship, be it romantic or platonic.

Seven Characteristics Of A Toxic Relationship Pattern

1. Repetitiveness
You have been involved in more than one relationship that initially offered the conditions of hope but failed to live up to its fulfillment. The people may be different but the beginnings and endings are the same again and again.

2. A conflict
No matter how good the feelings are initially, deep down inside, you knew and felt that there was something about the relationship that made you uncomfortable, or left you feeling anxious, uncertain, worried, jealous, distressed etc.

3. A bodily sensation

You experience a discomforting but familiar biological response that is triggered by something the other person said or did. For example your anxiety level jumping ten points, a sudden knot in your stomach or pain in your forehead.

4. A feeling of deep loss
When a relationship ends, you are left with a sense of loss of something (or rather the hope of something). You experience emptiness where you once felt a 'real' connection, no matter how infused with uncertainty, shame, humiliation, pain or suffering the relationship was.

5. Obsessing

You've thought about it or actually believe that the rejecting response of the other is due to your own words or actions driving them away but still entertain the notion that you can somehow transform the other person into the loving accepting person that you are so desperately and obsessively seeking.

6. An underlying vulnerability
Your sense of your own self-worth is threatened; and you feel bad in the sense that, as much as you have functioned as a resource for others and have done well where the use of good coping and conflict resolution skills are maximized, you feel overwhelmed and very vulnerable.

7. Disowned parts of self
Underneath the surface, there are deep roots from which your boding patterns have grown. These imprints of are like the fuel that intensifies the negative bonding pattern.

Dealing With Toxic Personalities

Now, after we have looked at a few of the different types, we come to the question of how to deal with people like this?  But before we move into this portion of the blog, I'd like to say one thing first.

As Empaths, we have the unique ability to step into another person's perception and emotions.  In saying this, it is important to understand something about people in general.  Saying that someone is one of these types of personalities, doesn't necessarily mean they are always this way or that their motivation is to harm you or subdue you emotionally.

Human beings have multifaceted personalities with complex emotional and cognitive motivations, so to simply lump someone into a category is bordering on allowing superficial prejudices to blanket your perception of them.  I'm not saying they are angels...or that they aren't rotten to the core.  I'm merely suggesting that as you gauge someone you take a deeper look inside of them.  And then you decide what you feel about this person and what you can handle emotionally from people like this. Then you act accordingly.

So how do we deal with these personality types?

Ways Of Dealing With Toxic Behavior
  •  Recognize the toxicity. This is the first step in helping yourself find resolution to this issue.
  • Take responsibility. By continuing a toxic friendship or relationship, you’re allowing your friend/partner/coworker/family member to hurt you, but you’re also hurting yourself.  
  • Make them aware of how they are treating you. Speaking up and letting them know how you feel can sometimes bring changes in how people treat one another.  
  • Put your foot down. Putting your foot down about the treatment can bring about change, so try being proactive about the situation by being assertive.
  •  Walk away. You do not have to stand still, like a deer caught in the headlights, when someone is behaving this way to you. Walking away can potentially allow people to cool off and come back at a later time with clearer heads.
  • Mentally walk away.  If this behavior comes from someone you can not readily escape, like a family member, a coworker, a friend or a partner, allow yourself to mentally disengage from those people during those times. And remember, dissociating does not mean that you don't care. It is an essential tool to be able to detach and let go of these things, for preserving your own mental health.  
  •  Suggest that they see a mental health professional.
  • Cut them off completely. If you have tried to be patient with these kinds of people, spoken out about the treatment, and find it hard to cope with the connection you have with this person, stop forcing yourself to be around them at all. Do not return phone calls. Do not answer emails. Do not respond in any way, because any attention, even negative attention, is enough to keep them coming back to you again and again.
  • Avoid their company. Again, if this behavior is coming from someone you can not cut off completely, like a family member, a coworker, a friend or a partner, attempt to spend as little time with this person as possible. Just because you can not walk away from this person completely, doesn't mean you have to place yourself around them all the time. You are not a glutton for punishment, after all.


  1. thanks for the info ... toxicity is all around us these days, it seems.

    maybe we could discuss ways on how to neutralize this toxicity ... because it exists all around us and very easy to take it on, from person and / or
    even the environment - as empaths are sensitive to these energies, too.

  2. Brilliantly written ... thank you !!! This is and always has been my approach, EXACTLY as you wrote it above. And after a period, the "elegant cut-off" ... I mean no matter what my feelings for these people may be, I just accept that I can not change them and will not force MYSELF on them.
    I have most often felt guilty that I do these things ... other people tend to continue relationships and avoid confrontation. So I often feel rather like a freak when it comes to these things.
    My understanding has always been if a person has a peanut allergy you wouldn`t give them a peanut. So in the case of EMPATHS, staying around toxic people is exactly the same thing.
    Your description of feeling `"sick" really hit home as well ...