When discussing toxic people and how they affect you, it’s important to understand the difference between toxic and toxic people. The term toxic is used to describe something that is detrimental to your health. I usually think of things like toxic chemicals, something that when I’m exposed to them I can get sick, and they may lead to death if the exposure is high enough. The term toxic people is used to describe people that suck the life out of you, bring you down, and may be overly needy or unreliable. These types of people tend to stress you out and are very draining.
Just a label
Now that we know how to identify toxic people, it’s important to remember that toxic is just a label we personally give to these people in our lives. The friend you label as toxic won’t actually kill you if you spend lots of time with him or her. So it’s not really fair to the friend or to you to continue labeling them as so harmful they can result in death. Instead try the term negative influence. These are still people that stress you out, but you own the term instead of pushing judgment onto them.
Remember that you are the one labeling them, and in that act you’re giving them power over you. Calling someone toxic is like giving them permission to poison you, to weaken you and your sense of self. Referring to them as negative influences will help you remember the role they have in your life and why you tend to remove yourself from interacting with them.
The next time you think of your toxic friend, who is now just a negative influence, take some time to think about how you feel and how the relationship impacts you. By turning the focus onto yourself you’ll begin to understand your triggers and why that friend seems so negative. If you spend some time to think on this you’ll see that your trigger probably stems from childhood. Questions you can ask yourself to begin to identify your triggers include:
- How does this person make you feel?
- What does this person make you feel about yourself?
- When was the first time someone else made you feel this way?
After spending some time reflecting on your current and past relationships you’ll understand why you get triggered and will begin to understand what you can do about it. The best way to handle this friend and your relationship with them is to manage your stress, not to just get rid of the friend. By pushing the friend away you won’t deal with the feelings and triggers you have in your life. Chances are this won’t be your last toxic relationship, so it’s best to focus on yourself and how you feel now so the next time you’re in the same situation you’ll know how to handle it.
The answer won’t always be to break up with your friend. Through exploring yourself you may learn how often and for how long you can tolerate this friend, and in what context.