At some point, we’ve all been involved with a toxic individual – that person who can’t help but be uneasy when we are happy, whose actions tend to leave us sad and drained, or one who develops an ego crisis once there’s a  semblance of progress or independence in our lives.

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves, grows you or makes you happy.” – Unknown

The tricky thing about dealing with such people is that you can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. While it is more straight-forward to relieve a toxic employee of his job, it’s more complicated when trying to define our relationship with a long-term friend, partner, sibling or even parents – Yes parents! Just how do you tell a mother or mother-in-law, whose prolonged stay in your marital home is beginning to strain your marriage, ‘mama it’s time to leave’?

Selfish love or over-protectiveness from our parents at certain stages of our lives may tend towards toxicity without them realizing it. It is our duty to help them maintain a healthy and mutually respectful relationship. This requires firm, but respectful and clear communication of our thoughts.

Relationships
 

Others, cowards and malcontents, are only in our lives to take advantage of us. No matter what we do to please them, they are not satisfied. They cannot accept a relationship that is not purely on their own terms. They want to dictate to us, dominate and exploit us.

They offer very little, but somehow manipulate our minds into believing they are indispensable. For some inexplicable reason, we dread being without them.

At the heart of toxicity is selfishness, and selfishness is an inherent human trait. Hence, how people treat us depends on us – our boundaries, self-esteem, principles or courage. Any one who doesn’t have it in them to make us happy is dangerous to us and not worth keeping.

Having come across a few toxic people in my time and also seen people suffer helplessly under the spell of a toxic person, I have been able to find the following factors as common in most cases of toxicity.

FAILING TO COMMUNICATE OUR VALUES EARLY ON
Relationships don’t turn abusive overnight, the foundations are usually laid from the start. Often, we are so fond of people early on or we are so desperate for company that we are scared to express our expectations or limits . We think we might push them away – this is usually the genesis of being taken for granted or abused.

When we meet someone and everything flows so fast so easy, it doesn’t make them like us more, it only helps them form their impression of us. Do they think we are excitable, desperate or simpletons? Or they think we are principled and wont be taken for granted?

If coming across as principled would scare someone away, it means they only liked us superficially in the first instance, or that they themselves are not principled. If someone is physically attracted to us, finding out that we wont be taken for granted should only make them value us more.

NOT LEARNING TO SAY ‘NO’
The word ‘NO’ is very powerful. The ability to say ‘no’ is as important as every other thing we  need to excel. When we teach a child to say ‘no’, we have set him on a path of leadership early on.

Talent, beauty, pedigree, riches and a kind heart are good things, but they can also destroy us if we don’t learn to say ‘no’. All these things are desirable, hence, they would naturally attract people – all sorts. The ability to say ‘no’ is what determines if we would attract people who would help us harness them for our benefit or attract those who want to exploit and destroy us.

FEAR OF BEING SINGLE
This is one of the biggest and unhealthiest pressures young people face from their peers – mature ladies face it from parents as well. Life is all about happiness; and the simplest route to happiness is Simplicity.
If I am single and unhappy, it is easier to deal with my issues and take the hard decisions without seeking anyone’s consent.

An ideal situation is to be in a good and happy relationship, next to that is to be in happy relationship with the self – no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.

UNHEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM/SELF-LOVE
We should try loving someone as much as we love ourselves but never by loving ourselves less. We should never demean ourselves to make anyone happy. The only person that is worth having in our lives, never mind pleasing, is someone who values our own happiness as well.

“Self-love is not narcissistic. It is loving yourself enough to be able to radiate same to others without feeling used, drained or over-burdened. We simply cannot give what we don’t have.” – Seyi Ogunsola

Read more on Self-Love


EMOTIONAL PREDICTABILITY

When people can predict how you would react when provoked, they will learn how to handle it.
If you are that boss who rants every time people misbehave, after a while, your workers get used to even the harshest of your words. We need to vary our approach. People need to understand that each instance of misbehavior would be judged and reacted to on its own merit.

Giving people the silent treatment at times would bother them much more than the usual verbal outburst. Not knowing what to expect makes people think twice before they mistreat us.


LACK OF WILL POWER

Knowing how to handle a toxic person is one thing, having the mental strength is another. It’s never easy to discipline those we are emotionally attached to. We might even need to discipline ourselves in relation to them. If someone would not care to treat us better, we have the choice of leaving them.

“Don’t ask why people keep hurting you. Ask why you keep allowing it to happen to you.” – Robert Tew

 

GULLIBILITY
A toxic person is a user and exploiter; and users have lots of tricks in their locker to ensure they continue to manipulate us. Lies, fear-mongering, blackmails and superstitions are weapons that would  be readily used against us if we are seen as gullible.

So many people have been wrecked, emotionally, socially and financially, by pastors and prophets. Mental laziness is at the heart of gullibility. If we don’t question things, think, or research, our minds don’t develop and we will be fooled by the cheapest of lies even by an illiterate ‘prophet’.
 
SENTIMENTALISM
We are quick to make excuses for someone’s misdemeanors just because we love them. It gets so bad that we could even alienate those who try to liberate us from their manipulations. We have seen  women suffer abuse for so long in relationships, even to the point of death, not because the man showed them love, but because ‘they loved him and would be sorry to see him suffer without them’.
 
EXCITABILITY
When little things excite us, it makes us lose sense of our prior resolves and we become vulnerable.
If an event makes us so happy, we may forget our resolve to not mingle too freely with certain people, or that while still relating with them, we will limit what we tell them.

For instance, you receive a precious ornament from your fiance, and you get so carried away you show it(off) to a jealous friend, needless to say, you have invited jealousy and covetousness.It is better not to tell a malcontent younger brother about our pay-increase, if all he’ll be interested in is how he can finally buy the latest Samsung Galaxy – There is nothing as frustrating and depressing as being under-appreciated by someone.
 
INDULGENCE OF A WRONG SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
This happens a lot with children. When parents give a child every material thing s/he desires, ‘just to make them happy’, they begin to see it as a right and the only way their parent’s love can be expressed. This leads to an unhealthy sense of entitlement. When the parents realize their mistake and rein the pampering, children, especially in their teens, could mistake this for neglect or being less loved; and in extreme cases, some become so toxic that they start to sell their parents’ belongings. In their minds, greed is the motivation and revenge, the justification.
 
OVER-SENSITIVITY
Being too sensitive makes us afraid of criticisms. It means that our moods are so badly affected when someone is unhappy with us or pretends to be unhappy with us, with or without justification.We should learn to stand up for ourselves, or develop a thick skin to the extent that we are not even moved by every criticism or opinion, never mind seeing the need to appease anyone who seeks to malign us.

We would make mistakes in relationships, but we can only apologize and make amends. We should distance ourselves from anyone who uses criticism as a weapon.

OVER-DEPENDENCE
It is not right to over-depend on any one in the first instance, especially if we are not adding value back to that person. We may depend totally on someone for something but not everything.

However, if by reason of our depending on someone for certain things, they start to blackmail, belittle  or hold us to ransom, we should develop our capability in that area so that we depend less on them. At times, we just need to find people who appreciate us and will be more than happy to support us, because we all need someone to lean on – no one is perfect.

AVOID-CONFRONTATION-AT-ALL-COST MENTALITY
It’s good to avoid confrontation, but not when it threatens our freedom, happiness or progress. Confronting someone doesn’t have to be hostile – it has to be firm. A lot of harm people cause us could be avoided if we courageously confront with them evidences of their prejudicial actions towards us.
Avoiding confrontation at all cost makes us come across as servile or timid.


Have you ever been in a toxic relationship or situation? How did you handle it. What habits did you have to develop to help yourself out of it?

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