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Posts Tagged ‘Toxic People’

An Apology

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

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.


Sincerely,


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.

Toxic People: What They Teach Us (Part Five)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

(Situation, relationships and names altered as requested)


 


         When dealing with toxic personalities it is very important to remember some basic strategic rules that apply not only to them but can also apply to difficult people who are not toxic per se. It is our tendency as human beings not to question what people tell us, but to accept it as the truth. Interestingly enough, this is not always the case. Toxic people (being “always” right and “always” knowledgeable) assume they know what everyone else is feeling. So, in their minds, they may not be lying when they tell you how others feel about you or about something you have done. The reality, however, may be quite different.

 

         A letter I received from a young man talked about how his wife’s parents so hated the fact that he and their daughter and grandchildren lived near his parents and not near them, that they asked their daughter not to send pictures of their grandchildren claiming that seeing the pictures caused them too much pain. Though feeling very hurt, the couple complied and honored their request.

 

         However his parents, being proud grandparents, continued to e-mail pictures of the grandchildren around to everyone in their address book (minus the in-laws). This included their daughter-in-law’s grandparents, whom they felt would enjoy seeing pictures of their great grandchildren.

 

         The next thing they knew, the couple received an abusive and hurtful e-mail letter from the girl’s parents. The letter demanded, in the most demeaning terms, that the great-grandparents had also requested that no further pictures be sent to them as it also caused them pain to see the pictures.

 

         Fearing they had hurt the great-grandparents, they forwarded the demanding e-mail with another letter expressing their distress at causing them pain by sending the pictures. They explained that their intent had been to give them pleasure. They asked them to clarify whether they indeed wanted the picture sending to stop as the e-mail indicated.

 

         The great-grandparents, in fact did want pictures. They had no idea that their children had requested that no pictures be sent to them, nor did they realize what problems showing the pictures to them would cause. They apologized for what had been said in their name.

 

         When dealing with toxic people, it is important to always double check the messages you are being told about how others feel or what others have said. More often than not, they may have little basis in fact and only exist as reality in the mind of the toxic person.

 

         Verifying what is being said in someone’s name, not only serves to clarify what is real, but may tend to limit what and how much the toxic person will claim was said about you by others, since they are now put on notice, that their words will be verified.

 

         Have you ever been accused by a toxic person of doing something that has never entered your mind – even as a remote thought? When such an accusation comes, it is important to reevaluate who it is that is accusing you and what their value system is. Chances are, though the act you are accused of may be foreign to you, it may be something that the accuser is entirely comfortable doing, and/or may have done him/herself.

 

         After living in the States for a few years, Mendel and Malky had an opportunity to live in Israel for a year. They jumped at the chance and a year later decided to make Israel their permanent home. Malky asked her mother to sell all the belongings they had left behind and deposit whatever money they got from the sale into their account. The next thing Malky’s mother knew, she was being accused by her machitanim of pocketing some of the money.

 

         The thought of taking her children’s money was so repulsive to Malky’s mother that she simply could not come to grips with the accusation. It was then that Malky discovered that Mendel’s parents had indeed kept some of the couple’s wedding gifts, using them to offset some of the expenses that they had contributed to the wedding. The children had no idea they had done this.

 

         So the next time you are accused of something that is so beyond your way of thinking by a toxic person, take another look at your accuser. It may be something they have either done, are comfortable with or have thought about. It is an interesting way to get deeper insights into others.

 

         In these last five articles I have discussed characteristics of toxic people. Some of us may demonstrate some of these toxic characteristics at times. But normal methods of resolving a conflict apply to most of us. Toxic people are a group to which normal negotiation and conflict resolution do not apply. The issue will not go away, and the behavior is consistent. The two types of people should not be confused.

 

         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/toxic-people-what-they-teach-us-part-five/2007/08/29/

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