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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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An Apology

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Dear Ann,


         I got a lot out of your article on line, relating to how to deal with a toxic person. I thought the article was insightful and offers excellent techniques for detachment and maintaining a loving nature. As a therapist, I work with mind/body techniques.


         I wish you lots of luck.


S. K.


Hi Ann,


         A few years ago, I developed heart palpitations after the visit of an old friend, his wife and young son. At that time my sister in-law had pointed out that these were “toxic” people. I found the label very amusing and thought it was something my sister-in-law came up with. So when my wife told me about your column in The Jewish Press, I took it along to read on the train on my way to work. I am very interested in learning about “toxic people” and how to cope with them. I have avoided my friend, his wife and child for over a year now. They are constantly trying to get together with us. But I want to avoid a trip to the ER, so I make excuses to put them off. They are good people with good hearts but so severely toxic that I am afraid to be with them.

C. V.



         I’d like to thank my readers for all their reactions to my articles, both those in agreement with what I write, who have been helped by my articles, as well as those not in agreement. Some of my articles bring a stronger response than others. My series on Toxic People seemed to have elicited this type of strong and varied response.


         It seems to have struck a particularly negative chord with some machitanim (I have been asked not to print their letters) because I chose to use stories about machitanim as an illustration. It seems that these articles have offended some of my readers. It was not my intention to cause any pain but only to discuss possible situations that may arise and to offer potential solutions to them.


         The term “Toxic People” refers to specific diagnosis based on specific behavior. It is not a term that I made up for use in my articles. As I said in the second article, “It is important to remember that some characteristics of toxic people may be seen in all of us. This does not mean we are toxic people, nor should we be seen or treated as such.” Any misunderstanding of this or the situations I have described in my articles is unfortunate.



A word about relationships


         We all get involved in arguments. This is especially true in families. Everyone involved will perceive what happened in a different light. All involved will see different causes to the arguments and different cures. This is because we bring our different experiences and upbringing with us into any relationship, and it acts as a filter in what and how we see.


         Any first argument couples have in a new marriage may look more like an argument between “his father” and “her mother” in their method and style of arguing, than the actual one between the bride and groom. How we argue is as much modeled in our homes – by our parents – as anything else we learn. How we react to situations and how we see the motivations of others – whether children, family, strangers ormachitanim – is often the reflection of traits that have taken a lifetime to build up. They reflect years of experiences, both negative and positive and are as much a result of anger, pain, hurt and animosity in our lives as the reflection of the joyous experiences.


         Parents need to learn to accept the independent life style of their married children (whether they agree with it or not) if they want to work on having a positive relationship with their children. Machitanim need to realize that every family has different values and perceptions. These people need to be accepted and respected for their values even when one doesn’t agree with them.


         Values and personality traits that have taken a lifetime to build up in people do not change easily, even when change is desired by the individual. It is up to every individual to find a constructive, respectful style of communication to settle disagreements with anyone, especially family and extended family.

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