Monday, March 24, 2008

Toxic people

This weekend I had an opportunity to be around someone who I consider to be a trusted friend. Unfortunately, I also witnessed rage in this person that was blown entirely out of proportion to the situation that occurred.

I have suspected for some time that this fellow has adult ADD. He is a long-time recovering alcoholic. I've witnessed several other episodes of rage by him in the past.

I know that the rage triggers something in me that makes me want to get away from the person as soon as it happens. My inventory tells me that 1) I am frightened of the rage, 2) the rage brings up memories of my father's anger and my wife's behavior when she was drinking, 3) I am finding that the rage is detracting from my friendship with the individual, 4) I am becoming resentful of this person, and 5) I don't believe him when he tells me that he is sorry about the anger.

What I'm wrestling with is whether to back away from the friendship entirely or to continue it at a limited level. I talked with my sponsor and expressed my feelings. The similarity between feeling emotionally battered when my wife was drinking and the emotional upheaval that resulted from my friend's tantrum are similar. In other words, it triggered feelings of wanting to get far away. I don't believe the remorse and think that the words "I'm sorry" are meaningless because they are said over and over without a change in behavior.

So I decided to read more about toxic people and the effect that they can have if you let them.
Here is what I found:

* Every one has had a toxic person in their life at one time or another.

* A toxic person will continue to hurt you , until you stop allowing them to do so.

* You are powerless over the actions of the toxic person, but you can walk away from the toxic person and not allow them into your life anymore.

* Toxic people can drain your health, energy, well being and sanity. Get away from toxic people and associate with those who are positive and around whom you feel good.

* Trust your instincts. Toxic people exude the dark side of human nature. If you allow them to, they will create pain, craziness, and aggravation. If you feel sick and empty and experience negative physical feelings, then it is likely that you are in the presence of a toxic person. Once you identify someone as toxic, you can begin to eliminate them from your life.

* A person is toxic because of their own issues. It has nothing to do with you. Toxic people don't take responsibility for their own actions. They like to turn things around so that you feel bad, you feel guilty, and you feel at fault.

* The best thing you can do when dealing with a toxic person is to walk away. If you cannot walk away, then mentally walk away. Allow yourself to disengage, disassociate, and detach. Detachment is the best process to get you back into yourself.

Like my sponsor tells me, "Keep the focus on yourself". It's good advice. This is something that I'm not going to resolve immediately, but it is something that the program will help me get through.


  1. life is waaaaay too short to hang around people whose anger is out of control for more than 10 seconds.

    I avoid em like the plague.

  2. You said: "it's as if I have become older on the inside." That is exactly it. The safety net is gone.

    Sounds like you know very well how to handle your friend.

  3. "If you feel sick and empty and experience negative physical feelings, then it is likely that you are in the presence of a toxic person." Syd, I have felt this way a number of times and I never really had a term for it. The above statement makes so much sense. However, what if the toxic person is a close family member? I have struggled with this person/s for years and though I have limited my time with them, there are times when I am forced into their company. This is the difficult part for me. Any suggestions? I would love some feedback.

  4. run forest run (i'm sure you saw Forest Gump :))

    take care of you

  5. I learned something about detachment in "Courage to Change".
    I need reminders, so thanks.

  6. Here's a minority opinion:
    I have had to learn that nice people sometimes act "bad"... I just dislike labeling a whole person as "toxic" or anything else. We all have varied traits... but if someone else is bothering me, I probably need to learn something or stay away - or both.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.