Yesterday, one of the Centrd Life team members suggested that we make a reel about the idea of toxic people. She pointed out that there is a reel trend currently where people do a little dance while miming the words “See that toxic person, we are walking the other way…” She also posed the question–is there actually such thing as a “toxic person,” rather than people who challenge us whom we struggle to create boundaries for.
After she posted this on our chat board, the rest of the team shared their thoughts, and it turned into a great, enriching discussion.
This is a very delicate topic as many people are deeply affected and hurt by toxic relationships. However, I have strong objections to calling another person toxic in any circumstance.
I have seen those reels going around and I have to say I don’t agree with the idea of labelling people as toxic. My main issues with this are:
- We cannot go around diagnosing and labelling people, especially if we are not qualified. The term “toxic” is thrown around a lot in a shaming way.
- Most of the time those “toxic people” had horrendous childhood experiences, and they have developed those traits as a defence mechanism. This is not making excuses for their behaviour, but putting it into context.
Here is what one of the team members (currently doing a degree in Psychology) had to say about it:
“Whilst there are some people who perhaps have ‘bad’ intentions and do ‘bad’ things to others, usually underneath that is a history of abuse, neglect, or just not knowing how to deal with their emotions. Instead of viewing these people as ‘bad’ people, it is better that we approach these people with compassion and loving kindness (sometimes from a distance!). I think on social media, there’s a big trend around toxic people and personally I think it’s quite dangerous and shaming.”
I believe that there is a need for the conversation, but it has to be conducted with a sense of curiosity, openness and seeing each other as human beings. The moment we start labelling people and putting them into groups we are in dangerous territory.
There is also a tendency on IG especially for certain coaches to prey on people who have recently been hurt by what they call “narcissistic abuse.”
Last year and earlier this year, I was regularly reading those posts as they helped me restore my faith in the world. So, I get why they can be so attractive. At that time, I had to make sense of certain things that I had been going through and had to try to understand why someone can cause so much pain, knowingly. After months of self-reflection (and working with a qualified therapist, not with an Instagram coach!) I started looking at my part in that relationship dynamic and looking at what I can do to not get tangled up in something like that in the future.
You will never hear me saying that it all happens for a reason, or it’s all good it’s all god or any of the usual spiritual bypassing. There are plenty of horrendous things happening in the world that shouldn’t be happening, there are plenty of people being abused right at this moment and none of that it’s okay. But, we cannot change other people and other people’s behaviour (unless they want to change), the only thing we can do is change our own ways.
What can we do to avoid being involved in a toxic situation or relationship? It all comes down to boundary settings, understanding our own emotions and needs, which all require intimacy with ourselves. This is something that can be learned and developed even if we did not cultivate these skills in childhood.
- Learn to trust ourselves, acknowledge our feelings and emotions
- Listen to our own needs
- Effectively communicate those needs
- Learn to set boundaries
- And yes, if necessary, walk away from the toxic situation
We can have compassion for ourselves, for our behaviour, and offer the same to others, yet still not stay in a toxic dynamic or accept mistreatment.
Note: if you are in an abusive relationship, please know that you are not alone and that there is help available.