Toxic People: Recognizing & Dealing With Them

One of the biggest issues people, that I’ve run into, sometimes have, as Empaths, is that of dealing with Toxic People.  I’ve heard topics as wide ranging as the types of people they draw to themselves who they feel are toxic to their own inability to deal with these kinds of people.  I’ve heard them talk about feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, anger, judgment, depression, hopelessness and more negatively charged emotions, that they either feel from the other person pressing in on them or tend to begin to emulate through long term interaction with these types of people.  And I’ve watched as long term interaction with such toxic types of people have cause others to change their perception of the world; morphing it into one of apathy, prejudice and/or judgment.

Now, with that being said, I would say this it is an unavoidable truth that when certain types of personalities come together, they do not mesh well.  Some are naturally more dominating, aggressive, assertive, and/or predatory than others.While others are more passive and are easily dominated in during an interaction.  And while it may seem to onlookers as though they mesh well on the surface, one tending to be more submissive while the other more dominant, this is often not the case.

Some Toxic Personality Types

So how do we categorize Toxic personalities?  Out of all the lists I searched for online, this is the one I felt was the best at describing some of the more toxic personality types.

Eight Toxic Personality Types

1. Manipulative Mary:
These individuals are experts at manipulation tactics.  Is a matter of fact, you may not even realize you have been manipulated until it is too late.  These individuals figure out what your ‘buttons’ are, and push them to get what they want.
  • Why they are toxic: These people have a way of eating
    away at your belief system and self-esteem.  They find ways to make you do things that you don’t necessarily want to do and before you know it, you lose your sense of identity, your personal priorities and your ability to see the reality of the situation.  The world all of a sudden becomes centered around their needs and their priorities.
2. Narcissistic Nancy: 
These people have an extreme sense of self-importance and believe that the world revolves around them.  They are often not as sly as the Manipulative Marys of the world, but instead, tend to be a bit overt about getting their needs met.  You often want to say to them “It isn’t always about you.”
  • Why they are toxic: They are solely focused on their needs, leaving your needs in the dust.  You are left disappointed and unfulfilled.  Further, they zap your energy by getting you to focus so much on them, that you have nothing left for yourself.
3. Debbie Downers: 
These people can’t appreciate the positive in life.  If you tell them that it is a beautiful day, they will tell you about the impending dreary forecast.  If you tell them you aced a mid-term, they’ll tell you about how difficult the final is going to be.
  • Why they are toxic: They take the joy out of everything.  Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity.  Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself.
4. Judgmental Jims
When you see things as cute and quirky, they see things as strange  and unattractive.  If you find people’s unique perspectives refreshing,  they find them ‘wrong’.  If you like someone’s eclectic taste, they find  it ‘disturbing’ or ‘bad’.
  • Why they are toxic: Judgmental people are much like Debbie Downers.  In a world where freedom rings, judgment is sooo over.  If the world was a homogeneous place, life would be pretty boring.  Spending a lot of time with these types can inadvertently convert you into a judgmental person as well.
5. Dream Killing Keiths: 

Every time you have an idea, these people tell you why you can’t do it.  As you achieve, they try to pull you down.  As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.

  • Why they are toxic: These people are stuck in what is instead of what could be.  Further, these individuals eat away at your self-esteem and your belief in yourself.  Progress and change can only occur from doing new things and innovating, dreaming the impossible and reaching for the stars.
6. Insincere Illissas: 
You never quite feel that these people are being sincere.  You tell  a funny story, they give you a polite laugh.  You feel depressed  and sad and they give you a ‘there, there’ type response.  You tell them you are excited about something and you get a very ho-hum response.
  • Why they are toxic: People who aren’t sincere or genuine build relationships on superficial criteria.  This breeds shallow, meaningless relationships.  When you are really in need of a friend, they won’t be there.  When you really need constructive criticism, they would rather tell you that you are great the way you are.  When you need support, they would rather see you fail or make a fool of yourself.
7. Disrespectful Dannys:
These people will say or do things at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate ways.  In essence, they are more subtle, grown up bullies.  Maybe this person is a friend who you confided in and uses your secret against you.  Maybe it is a family member who puts their busy-body nose into your affairs when it is none of their business.  Or maybe, it is a colleague who says demeaning things to you.
  • Why they are toxic: These people have no sense of boundaries and don’t respect your feelings or, for that matter, your privacy.  These people will cause you to feel frustrated and disrespected.
8. Never Enough Nellies: 
You can never give enough to these people to make them happy.   They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you.   They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.
  • Why they are toxic: You will spend so much time trying to please them, that you will end up losing yourself in the process.  They will require all of your time and energy, leaving you worn out and your own needs sacrificed.

Recognizing Toxic Personalities

Are there warning signs that might help you recognize toxic personalities?  One way to help you recognize this is described here.

If you are in what you believe to be a toxic relationship, I suggest that you become the observer, step outside yourself and observe what is going on within the context of your relationship. As you observe, begin to ask yourself some questions and provide yourself with honest, heartfelt answers, questions such as:
  • – Knowing what I know, if I observed my best friend in this type of relationship what would I advise that person to do?
  • – What responsibility do I take in the toxicity of this relationship?
  • – If I changed by perspective and relative behavior could I help to neutralize the toxicity and improve this relationship?
  • – Should I remove myself from this relationship?
  • – Is this relationship slowly killing all of my spirit?
  • – Do I define who I am, or am I allowing the other person to define me?
  • – What are my options?
  • – What doors or windows are available to me?
  • – Who could I reach out to for help?
Know that you always have options, that no one is truly stuck. Even in the darkest of hours, there are always alternatives.

Another website suggests this:

One way to identify toxic people in your life is to measure your own feelings when around them. Do you feel pain, craziness, and aggravation whenever they’re around? Do you feel sick and experience physical symptoms like a headache or stomach pain at even the thought of their coming by for a visit? Are they constantly talking negatively about everyone they know? This may even include your spouse and children. Do you somehow feel blamed for their problems and bear the responsibility for making things better for them?

Here are also some warning signs to take note of when contemplating whether or not you are involved in a toxic relationship, be it romantic or platonic.

Seven Characteristics Of A Toxic Relationship Pattern

1. Repetitiveness
You have been involved in more than one relationship that initially offered the conditions of hope but failed to live up to its fulfillment. The people may be different but the beginnings and endings are the same again and again.

2. A conflict
No matter how good the feelings are initially, deep down inside, you knew and felt that there was something about the relationship that made you uncomfortable, or left you feeling anxious, uncertain, worried, jealous, distressed etc.

3. A bodily sensation

You experience a discomforting but familiar biological response that is triggered by something the other person said or did. For example your anxiety level jumping ten points, a sudden knot in your stomach or pain in your forehead.

4. A feeling of deep loss
When a relationship ends, you are left with a sense of loss of something (or rather the hope of something). You experience emptiness where you once felt a ‘real’ connection, no matter how infused with uncertainty, shame, humiliation, pain or suffering the relationship was.

5. Obsessing

You’ve thought about it or actually believe that the rejecting response of the other is due to your own words or actions driving them away but still entertain the notion that you can somehow transform the other person into the loving accepting person that you are so desperately and obsessively seeking.

6. An underlying vulnerability
Your sense of your own self-worth is threatened; and you feel bad in the sense that, as much as you have functioned as a resource for others and have done well where the use of good coping and conflict resolution skills are maximized, you feel overwhelmed and very vulnerable.

7. Disowned parts of self
Underneath the surface, there are deep roots from which your boding patterns have grown. These imprints of are like the fuel that intensifies the negative bonding pattern.

Dealing With Toxic Personalities

Now, after we have looked at a few of the different types, we come to the question of how to deal with people like this?  But before we move into this portion of the blog, I’d like to say one thing first.

As Empaths, we have the unique ability to step into another person’s perception and emotions.  In saying this, it is important to understand something about people in general.  Saying that someone is one of these types of personalities, doesn’t necessarily mean they are always this way or that their motivation is to harm you or subdue you emotionally.

Human beings have multifaceted personalities with complex emotional and cognitive motivations, so to simply lump someone into a category is bordering on allowing superficial prejudices to blanket your perception of them.  I’m not saying they are angels…or that they aren’t rotten to the core.  I’m merely suggesting that as you gauge someone you take a deeper look inside of them.  And then you decide what you feel about this person and what you can handle emotionally from people like this. Then you act accordingly.

So how do we deal with these personality types?

Ways Of Dealing With Toxic Behavior

  •  Recognize the toxicity. This is the first step in helping yourself find resolution to this issue.
  • Take responsibility. By continuing a toxic friendship or relationship, you’re allowing your friend/partner/coworker/family member to hurt you, but you’re also hurting yourself.  
  • Make them aware of how they are treating you. Speaking up and letting them know how you feel can sometimes bring changes in how people treat one another.  
  • Put your foot down. Putting your foot down about the treatment can bring about change, so try being proactive about the situation by being assertive.
  •  Walk away. You do not have to stand still, like a deer caught in the headlights, when someone is behaving this way to you. Walking away can potentially allow people to cool off and come back at a later time with clearer heads.
  • Mentally walk away.  If this behavior comes from someone you can not readily escape, like a family member, a coworker, a friend or a partner, allow yourself to mentally disengage from those people during those times. And remember, dissociating does not mean that you don’t care. It is an essential tool to be able to detach and let go of these things, for preserving your own mental health.  
  •  Suggest that they see a mental health professional.
  • Cut them off completely. If you have tried to be patient with these kinds of people, spoken out about the treatment, and find it hard to cope with the connection you have with this person, stop forcing yourself to be around them at all. Do not return phone calls. Do not answer emails. Do not respond in any way, because any attention, even negative attention, is enough to keep them coming back to you again and again.
  • Avoid their company. Again, if this behavior is coming from someone you can not cut off completely, like a family member, a coworker, a friend or a partner, attempt to spend as little time with this person as possible. Just because you can not walk away from this person completely, doesn’t mean you have to place yourself around them all the time. You are not a glutton for punishment, after all.

~ by Misuchi Sakurai on August 3, 2010.

9 Responses to “Toxic People: Recognizing & Dealing With Them”

  1. thank you very very much for giving me the most helpful advice I’ve found so far into relationships that are downright toxic ! Moving away to another part of the country and being as anonymous as possible has helped a lot, as well as going some way to calming the intense emotions. Family of origin and in-laws just don’t get to pull my strings anymore and I really like it !

  2. thanks for the info … toxicity is all around us these days, it seems. maybe we could discuss ways on how to neutralize this toxicity … because it exists all around us and very easy to take it on, from person and / oreven the environment – as empaths are sensitive to these energies, too.

  3. Brilliantly written … thank you !!! This is and always has been my approach, EXACTLY as you wrote it above. And after a period, the "elegant cut-off" … I mean no matter what my feelings for these people may be, I just accept that I can not change them and will not force MYSELF on them.I have most often felt guilty that I do these things … other people tend to continue relationships and avoid confrontation. So I often feel rather like a freak when it comes to these things.My understanding has always been if a person has a peanut allergy you wouldn`t give them a peanut. So in the case of EMPATHS, staying around toxic people is exactly the same thing.Your description of feeling `"sick" really hit home as well …

  4. It has taken me a long, long time to understand that I was in a toxic relationship with someone that I was very close to. It all came to a head after the sudden death of my daughter when I was constantly getting into arguments with her(sometimes at screaming frantic levels) because I wasn’t going along with her ideas. She tricked me by offering to take me for a ride and then drove me by the accident scene. I had my eyes closed with my head down so she then described the road skid marks to me!! Everytime I brought up something that was upsetting to me she would dismiss it as “you are taking things the wrong way, look at it this way instead”. I now can see how she was manipulating me- pushing her opinions at all cost to me. After 3 months of torture, I broke off all contact. This has wreaked havoc in our family, especially since she has played dumb and told everyone she has NO idea why I am upset. How I wished I had seen it sooner. It would have saved me alot of mental anguish at a terrible time in my life.

  5. Hi Misu
    I just stumbled across this blog after searching the internet for answers to my questions. ‘Why’ have I been in a toxic marriage with a narcissist for over 20 years.
    Why…..was I so blind to his unnaturally giving nature, overprotective, jealous, controlling, manipulative, pretentious behaviour and all the while, trying and succeeding in succumbing to my every whim as long as I played the role of trophy wife. As long as I was his puppet…..He succeeded because I lacked the ability to lay down personal boundaries. Because I had abandonment issues perhaps…an absent father, a very strict mother, a bullying sister.
    Am I an empath?
    That is why I am here, looking for answers. If I am an empath, this knowledge helps a great deal in steering me in the direction I seek.
    How to NOT get into another toxic relationship, how to step away from the people who drain my energy and how to speak up when someone is taking advantage of me. I am a healer and I enjoy giving. I am uncomfortable with compliments, conflict etc.

    Yes perhaps I am an empath and right now it has not been serving me very well. ‘
    Thank you for this blog, I truly appreciate the effort put in!



  6. I’ve noticed severe co-dependents often consider themselves to be empaths, martyrs or saints. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    As this is being written a severe co-dependent has been attempting to inject herself into nearly every aspect of my personal life. Acting as if this is a mission she MUST accomplish.

    All the while consistently attempting to convince me she is “nothing of the kind” in response to very direct questions.

    She is tireless. She literally has the energy of 3 people combined when it comes to keeping her emotional issues alive and making the rounds. She is obvious and covertly manipulative under the guise of sincere “help” or “care”.

    She is a hopeless intellectual and often a shallow socialite of epic proportions. Has been recklessly sexual in her adult life (temporarily bragging about such) and sexually charged to a degree that can be shocking.

    Overbearing in the name of “assistance”. Shallow ,on many occasions, when speaking about her own children, family and friends.

    Hooked like a heroin addict on advanced education and academic knowledge. Often acting as if real life experience has no bearing whatsoever OR holds no candle to a college education and university classroom experiences.

    Angry deep down inside but unwilling to talk about it unless pressed for answers. Breaks down into tears often over the most functional of adult discussions. In other words: Don’t dare make a valid point in her presence concerning her questionable behavior.

    Passive aggressive and in denial with an occasional epiphany moment that seems sincere.

    She takes on my personal problems emotionally ,despite assertively requesting her not to, then at times turns around acting like she resents me for those problems.

    As if my problems are hurting her more than myself LOL. The fact she was asked not to take them on in the first place? Seems to completely skip her mind.

    It’s obscene! and as much as one hates to say it: Comical to an extreme degree.

    You cannot talk sense into this woman easily. She uses every trick in the book to gain sympathy or some form of control.

    By the way guess what: She is also my business partner LOL.

    I’m no saint but Jesus Christ these people take the cake.

    • Many times the role of Empath encompasses many different types of people with numerous issues. One of those tends to be co-dependency. You see, even people who are emotionally hypersensitive to others emotions come with their own baggage. They suffer from mental illness, sexual deviance, perception issues (me me me…even when they feel what you feel it is about them). It can resemble the behaviors of addiction….their deep need to be needed, be helpful, be given accolades, to be appreciated…all of these things feed their superficial ego, which tends to cover up feelings of low self esteem and self doubt/loathing. But that isn’t everyone, by any means, nor is it every person who claims the name Empath. It’s just part of the package deal which is humanity.

  7. Misuchi well said and thank you! for the response.

  8. Just wanted to say “thanks so much” to each and every one of you with your inspirational and helpful postings. Yes, I saw myself in most of them and am striving through meditation to “cut chords” with the toxic people who have been ruling my life for sometime. It is definitely not an easy journey but I feel that I have now reached a “safer” place than I have been in awhile to be able to deal with these people on a more spiritual level. It makes it extremely difficult when the toxic people are members of my husband’s family. I just keep trying to stop questioning myself and asking “could I have done more or better in these situations”. It’s said “time is the great healer” — I am optimistic.

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