I have entertained the notion and the fear, that I might be or might have been a toxic person. I did not exactly know what a toxic person was. I had this feeling that a toxic person might be someone that makes others feel bad.
It was a very loosely defined sentiment.

There are many ways that people can make others feel less than. 

We can do it on purpose to hurt people. We can do it inadvertently when we are in a negative place and the vibe we give off is negative. We can be critical, or pessimistic or always see the bad in everything. We can be boring or cynical or sarcastic to extremes. 

There are lots of ways, and I had no clue what the true definition of a toxic person could be.

So I googled it like any lazy person in the modern age. 🙂

The definitions that came back were not exactly what I expected. I have been reading a number of self help books over the last year. Many of them focus on relationships and codependency in particular. I am a codependent in recovery.

This means that I have been codependent in the past. I was triggered by the behavior or actions of someone else facing their own inner demons and their expressions and their actions triggered me to react in ways that I would not normally react if anyone else were to exhibit these same expressions.

Lately, I have been using the analogy, and this is not a good analogy, a hypothetical question more than an analogy, “If you were walking down the street and someone stripped off all their clothes and ran in the opposite direction, would that have an impact on the way you went through the rest of your day?”  

I’m not asking if you would talk about this odd experience. I’m asking would you behave differently towards other people? Would you feel compelled to go clean up your house, or buy take out Indian food to feed your family, or would you write off an angry email to someone at work because you witnessed this odd behavior

For most of us, the answer is no, although it is not a very good hypothetical question.

The point is that some strangers odd behavior is not going to generally ‘trigger’ or ‘compel’ us to change our ways.

When we are in a relationship with someone or living with our parents or maybe even other family members, when they start to act in ways that are not normal or act in ways that appear to have no basis, this behavior can start to bother us if we are not in a very grounded and solid place emotionally or psychologically. Sometimes, they are even hurting in some form or fashion and they go out of their way to find our buttons, crete are buttons if they can’t find them, and then push them and push them and push them.

Allowing a button to be created, allowing a button to be pushed, this is one of those steps towards being a codependent. We can all exhibit these traits to different degrees. Sometimes we get in such a habit of having our buttons pushed that we walk around ‘keyed’ up all the time. We stop existing in a state where are buttons are not being pushed. In fact, when our buttons are not being pushed, we even seek it out a bit. We make a habit of the feeling we get from having our buttons pushed. At this point codependency becomes more of a problem as our reactions start to have impacts on the people around us, sometimes even the original button pushers. 

It can escalate a back and forth cycle of one person pushing a button, another reacting and their reaction is like a game of tennis, it hits the ball back automatically to the first person and the volley war begins

This is not healthy.

It can feel normal to people that have been caught in the cycle their entire lives. It can feel normal to someone that has forgotten what it feels like not to be caught in this situation.

Sometimes we start transposing our reactions from one relationship to another. Our reaction to a dynamic at home might seem like a good choice to a similar dynamic at work or in a group of friends or in many situations.

These reactions, these behavior expressions that we would normally never use, start to make other people feel that we are doing something out of the ordinary, maybe even as odd as a person removing their clothing and running off down the street.

If they do not enjoy our behavior, this can give them that feeling that we are toxic.

In this example, toxic is a judgmental label for someone that has a problem, a type of bad relationship addiction. They have an inability to not react to the bad behavior of others around them. They seek to control that bad behavior instead of just letting it go and walking down the street away from it. They themselves cannot turn away from a toxic person.

It is not a fair label. 

The general prescription for society is to ‘stay away from toxic people’. Disinvite them, don’t have them as friends or lovers or partners or anything.

I think there is some logic to that, but it speaks to the weakness of the person that uses it. They too probably have a toxic problem, they must have been codependent as well at some point. They are in a fragile stage of recovery where they cannot simply let the acts of others slide even when those acts have nothing to do with them. Instead, they cast them aside and hide from facing their own problems by shedding their exposure to ‘toxic people’.

Its not a bad step. Probably a necessary step on the initial path of recovery. It is not a cure. It is not a way of building your soul up such that you can live a happy life by shutting out humanity and negatively associating the challenges of others as toxic.

It puts a person into this negative role of constantly judging others, their friends, their relatives, their coworkers, their lovers. Judging people in this regard is not a positive and a slippery slope to many other problems.

I am an optimist. 🙂

Nice statement, doesn’t mean much…

I believe that anyone can heal, anyone can learn, anyone can change, anyone can find inspiration.

I believe we all have this potential within us.

This means even codependents can learn. They can become aware of their expressions of codependency and start to change. They can learn about their buttons, they can learn how they are wired. They can learn to rewire themselves such that things that should not have an impact on them, do not impact them. They can learn not to react. They can learn to go on living their life in their own way even after they witness a large woman run out of the credit union naked and on up Main Street in Peoria, Illinois.

Yes, I did witness this once. I do have a memory, but the memory did not have an impact on my life other than to come up with an analogy and hypothetical question.

We do not have to go around judging and labeling people as ‘toxic’ no matter what the memes on Facebook tell us to do. We can rise above the memes and be true to our own nature.

We can recognize that other people have their own challenges to overcome and let them get on with doing that without adding to their challenges by excluding them or reacting with our own controlling behaviors that do not allow others to be themselves around us.

Some of us as we go through early stages of recovery may need a break from others that are not yet in recovery, not yet self aware, not yet owning their own shit, not yet developing. But this purgatory of defriending people who are in a bad place, need not be our eternity. We do not have to get stuck there ourselves.

We can learn to heal and grow to a place where we can be with anyone and not allow buttons to be pushed or installed.

We do not have to give people the power to hurt us. That is a choice and not a healthy one. We do not have to play carrot and stick control games with others though either.

This afternoon as I write this, I’m sitting outside on a beautiful wood porch in the mountains just outside Boone, NC. It was slightly rainy this morning and clouds that look like they could rain a bit more are breezy just over head. The sun is more out than in the clouds and it feels wonderful.

I no longer worry about whether I am or was a toxic person.

I know the answer. I also know that my self awareness need not include self judgment of this type any longer.

Not only do I believe that others can heal and learn and find inspiration. I know that I can too!

I hope you join me in seeking this out. I’m not going to cast you aside until you fix yourself, figure yourself out, nor before you uninstall the buttons that may hold you back.

I will recognize that you are going forward doing the best you can as am I.

We can get where we are going, where we need to be, where we want to be.

I can witness your journey as I make my own and without my effort to witness your journey eroding my soul.

So can you!


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