• Diana McLaren

My 'Toxic Person': A Case Study

The ‘toxic person’ in my life actually has a beautiful reason for doing what they do. When I brought awareness to their actions they said ‘yeah, well I don’t want you to get a big head’. And as we discussed it they revealed that they consider it their job to make sure I don’t “get too full of myself”.

The extension of this is that they actually see their role in my life as my protector, by throwing a punch at my face before that other person over there can do it, so I’m prepared.

Their behavior shows me that they believe the world to be a critical, unsupportive and judgmental place. Call it a side effect of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and it’s prevalence in Australia, but this is surprisingly common.

During my personal work I got to ask myself a very important question: ‘Would I rather have a negative voice in my head chastising me constantly, or risk the chance that someone, one day, might think I’m a bit of a wanker!’

My answer: I’m okay with some future person thinking I’m a wanker.

When I extended the same question to my ‘toxic person’ they said:

‘It’s not that simple, how could you go through life just being yourself, with everyone thinking you’re a wanker and not end up feeling like shit anyway.’

This statement and our overall conversation revealed some interesting things to me. From my perspective it seems they believe;

  1. How they talk to themselves is not as important as what other people think about them.

  2. They expect people to think negatively about them.

  3. They think ‘being yourself’ and ‘being a wanker’ are the same thing

This shows me that we are in two different states. And that their’ reason for being a ‘toxic person’ is because they have a low opinion of themselves, the world and the people in it.

I am currently retraining my brain with the presuppositions that ‘I am a beautiful amazing and talented human being’, ‘people want to see me succeed’ and ‘the world is an amazing place’. Which is why I find them toxic, as they are operating from a previous system of thinking I am moving away from.

One of the first new presuppositions I ever played with was that ‘every action has a positive intention behind’. And when I went looking for it, I found it in everything. Including my ‘toxic person’.

That’s why the game ‘Let’s presuppose…’ is so powerful as a technique. And knowing that my toxic person has presupposed everything is a bit shit, explains to me why they behave the way they do. And to me they are not something to be feared, shunned and removed. They are simply a person that needs some help shifting to a new state. They need to see a model for a happy content person who does not assume the world is out to get them.

So to answer my own questions from ' 5 Ways to Embrace Toxic People':

1. Take a moment to reflect and decide if this is a relationship you want to put effort into, so it can grow and change, or if it is better to just let it go.

Yes this person is someone I still want in my life. They have been very important to me for many years and I still enjoy their company.

2. Acknowledge your judgments of them and take a moment to reflect on how that can be true of you as well.

My accusations are that they are negative, emotionally closed and unwilling to keep their attention internal and not on other peoples opinions of them… Yeah I do all of those things.

3. Consider what role you have assigned this person in your life and release whatever power you have previously given them in your life.

They held an authority position in my life. I can, and will release this and instead they will be just a person in my life I spend time with.

4. Acknowledge that they are not currently their most resourced and inspired selves. Model for them your best most resourced self so they can see they have other options.

They are not operating at their best most inspired self. I will choose to be my best most inspired self around them and acknowledge that this will take practice.

5. Ask them how you can support and help them to feel comfortable and safe around you. Let them know how they can support and help you to feel comfortable and safe around them.

They asked me to always speak softly and calmly and be generous with my affection and praise. I asked them to be mindful of their comments and how they could be construed as criticism and to make an effort to use positive language and praise.

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