I’ve learned something recently and it has freed me in ways I didn’t expect. The relief is enormous and the amusement an added bonus.
You see I have been dealing with a toxic person in my life for a couple of years now, and ceasing to care what this person thinks of me has been a long process. I’ve had to fake it until I made it. Oh boy, have I made it! The rewards are wonderful. I realise that a lot of us have people in our lives that for one reason or another we simply cannot cut them out. Family, co-workers, friends spouses, whatever the case there are often people we simply cannot avoid. So I share this with you now, so that if you’re stuck like I was you can see that it can get better. They can’t control how you react to them. You do not have to be telling bitter stories about their cruel behavior forever.
There will come a time in your experience with a Toxic Person (TP) when they push you once too many. When your inner voice screams ENOUGH. For me that happened and I felt the familiar heart thump of what I thought was adrenaline. That feeling of gearing up for a fight, the ‘oh shit, I’m going to have to say something’ feeling. Only I realised that wasn’t it. What I felt was akin to celebration. The same heart racing expectation, only this time I did nothing. I talked to my friends. I got support. I fact checked whether this person’s accusations were founded. As usual they were not. The relief washed over me like cool water.
I began to think of my TP as a spider in a jar. Striking repeatedly, yet unaware that no hits were landing. TP became an amusing creature to watch. Fascinating, yet entirely harmless. I even enjoyed shaking the jar from time to time. As with all insects TP became rapidly less interesting. Until finally I took the dusty jar down from the shelf and tipped it into the garden. Be gone little spider. Here’s the door slamming shut. I won’t think of you.
So the secret of this approach actually relies on them. It makes it a little easier to cope with. Toxic people will infiltrate and manipulate. It’s hard to get out sometimes, but you can if you let yourself see them for what they really are. They are not magicians capable of making everyone around you agree with them. They are nothing more than school yard bullies. Some people will join you and see that one day. Some won’t. That’s not on you. And yes, you do have to do some work your end. Ready yourself and neatly return their serve. You don’t have to confront them if you don’t want to. Oh how they hate your silence more than your words! I needed to have some strong, repetitive self talk going. Here’s a few of my mantra’s:
I don’t care what you think.
I don’t care what you say about me.
I don’t like you anymore.
I can’t trust you.
If you can have this soundtrack playing in your head, the anger you feel next time they do or say something awful lessens. The impact hurts less. The urge to retaliate fades. Once that happens, you’ll find you are becoming free of them. Next time you see them, that rush of emotion won’t happen. Now it can be different if it is someone you despised from the start, the process is already half done. But if it was someone you loved like a relative or friend, expect it to take longer. Do the work though. You deserve to be happy and free of this person.
Unexpectedly I started to find my spider amusing. They would say something hurtful and I would smile, causing them to stutter and redirect. They do things and I do not pick up the phone or shoot out an angry text. I simply laugh, maybe relate the story to my support people. More and more often it simply slides away. I have bag fulls of anecdotes. As a writer they are now material when I create a despicable character. I have ‘get a load of this latest’ stories to share with my friends. Who shake their heads in horrified wonder.
So you see dear readers, my toxic person is only a byline in a story. A sidenote. Someone may ask ‘how did it go with such and such there today?’. It went fine. I snorted my tea laughing, and let them think it was because they were funny. I stopped talking to them and found something better to do.
Their power over me is gone. They might enjoy my silence for a time… until they need something from me again. But I won’t be there to ask. I won’t answer that call. If somehow the question comes to me, I will say No. It took a while, but I’m really good at that part now.
Before I go, I should emphasize how important that word is. No becomes a tool, and then a way of life. You might feel like you have to help them, maybe you care about their partner, or their children or whatever the case may be. Trust me, they will find someone else, or they will angrily cope just fine on their own. Never think that a TP is alone. They want you to think that, but they are expert manipulators and will always find someone else. They might even use you to do it, start saying things like ‘oh they let me down so badly and now I’m in a tight jam with no support’… etc. Rest assured, they will always find a way.
So walk away. Conscience clear. Go step into the sunshine. Learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again. Be free.
And as always, stay weird peeps.
**NB: this advice is not suitable for abusive relationships. Domestic violence is very dangerous and outside my realm of experience. Seek urgent help if you or someone you know is experiencing this.