Peter – Toxic People

I am dedicating this week’s column to my dear late girlfriend Lois. After her passing, I had to go through her private papers and found proof that she had had dealings with toxic people in her past. It made me very sad to know that even that part of her life had not been pleasant. So this week, my topic is toxic people.

Now I have been in several toxic relationships myself, but I have no desire to make this week’s effort a “pity party for Peter.” Although I found myself in these situations, with the help of a number of supportive people and a great deal of thorough self-examination and hard work, I was able to free myself of these shackles and get myself back on track, enabling me to have a better chance of achieving my various personal goals.
I should add that I have no formal training in analyzing toxic behaviour, this is one area where one definitely has to be a graduate of the “school of hard knocks”.
Toxic behaviour often starts when one is young and impressionable. Growing up, there are many external factors which can influence thinking and development. How others speak is a powerful force, as words and beliefs and values can imprint on a young mind and forge their attitudes to those of different cultures, races, religions, sexes, social standing, even occupations.
While negative influences can have a negative impact on someone’s life perceptions, overly positive input can be equally harmful to the young mind. The youngster who is bathed in effusive praise for something as banal in the general scheme of things as his athletic ability may develop a sense of entitlement, an inflated idea of his own importance. This lack of grounding may lead to toxic behaviour in the future.
Being a teenager is difficult enough as you have to deal with the demands of puberty, peer pressure, growth spurts, acne, questions about sexuality and questions about Life itself, often crowned by the desperate need to “fit in”. You don’t always think clearly, and you may accept dismissive treatment from the “cool kids”, just to be accepted. You may wind up casting doubts on your own personal worth in a worse case scenario, just to be relevant to a group of people, most of whom you will never see again after graduation.
You can wind up feeling that you are seriously flawed and that you deserve everything that Life throws at you.
As you embark on your adult journey, these influences, this feeling of “unworthiness ” may colour the entire spectrum of your life. Let’s take your romantic life, for example. A toxic partner will attack the very foundation of your being. They will insult your intelligence, attack your sexuality and belittle you. They might go so far as to “insulate” you from your family and friends, forbidding you to have any contact with them unless your partner is there. Your partner may even tell you that “no one else would put up with you”, that you are lucky that they are in your life. This verbal assault will continue on a constant basis, and after a while you may come to believe it.
Of course physical abuse normally follows. Generally speaking, something strange happens next. The victim will defend the victimizer. When and if the police are called, the victim will normally not press charges, and in fact will often react angrily and violently when the police attempt to arrest the abuser. My brother was a Toronto Police Officer for over 20 years and he told me that he hated domestic calls for that very reason.
Likewise the victim will generally live a life of apology and excuses, whether they are at work, with their family or interacting with friends. In a misguided attempt to justify their relationship decision, they will deny the evidence which is visible for all to see, the bruising, the nervous manner. Sadly, their partner’s campaign of verbal abuse has taken root, and the victim feels that they are living the life which they deserve.
Thankfully people are starting to speak out about this epidemic of violence. Some bars, for example, have enacted methods of letting them know if you are in a precarious situation on a date. At least one group has developed a nail polish which changes colour when dipped into a drink which has a “date rape” drug added to it. With the growth in online dating and instant messaging, more opportunities exist for exposure to toxic people, and in fact, it is entirely possible to have a toxic person have a negative impact on your life without even ever meeting them face to face.
All of these “secret codes” and other measures are good, but they are only a palliative.
What is really required is a major change in attitude. I think that it is important to set a good example for not only “growing boys”a), but for anyone whom you come in contact with. People aren’t changed by your words, but they can be changed by your example. So I encourage everyone reading this to be more understanding and inclusive in their daily lives. Watch your words too, because words can hurt. Try your best to be a good person and keep the people around you aware of how great they really are. Remember that you don’t have to tolerate negative people in your life. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right and verbally defend a member of your circle when someone else says something which you find repugnant. Words are powerful, as is the example you set by taking this stance.
And your partner? They should be the most important part of your life. Treat them accordingly.
I set out to dedicate this column to Lois. I want to extend that dedication to include those who have freed themselves from a toxic partner and those who are currently in such a situation. I hope that you find the inner strength and the supportive network of friends and family and that you realize that you are a lot better than your partner says you are. Get out of there and enjoy the life which you deserve.
See you soon
a) Although I am all too aware that there are toxic women as well.

2 Responses to “Peter – Toxic People”

  1. marlene schuler Says:

    Lois was a bright and loving woman.

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