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Some thoughts about "toxic" people

(475 Posts)
flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 14:51:03

I've read and contributed to a couple of threads where people are having to deal with what I would describe as toxic friends and family and the distress that it cause. I've had issues in the past with people this myself and it's really got me thinking.

Once thing that struck me from these threads, plus my own experience of toxic types is that there seems to be common "themes" - the one that immediately comes to mind is that the toxic person needs an enabler - usually a husband or wife who panders to their awful behaviour and colludes with them.

I know there's already a wonderful support thread (stately homes) but I thought it might be helpful to have a general discussion about how to identify these people and cope with them, plus a kind of support thing so folk know they aren't alone in having to deal with it alone?

StephaniePowers Sun 10-Mar-13 15:51:03

Yes the most 'toxic' person I know has a wife who is his champion, no matter what he does. If it doesn't tally with her view of how he should be seen, then either it doesn't exist or the person bringing it up is a liar.

The number of episodes where people have made it clear that he is treating them badly, over the years...she must have a script somewhere in her which tells her they are all Bad People.

The toxic one treats her with presents and public praise but in private he is distant and actually not often physically present. But not actually abusive. Though you can make an argument that the whole of their relationship is an abusive act, just based on the amount of fallout from his behaviour towards others which she has to deal with.

(Interestingly her father is distant and withholds love - her father hates him with a passion, naturally.)

But yes you see it time and again: the utter lunacy of the toxic person and the enablement of those around him/her. Another one I know surrounded herself with very geeky and inexperienced young men, who sort of formed a passive fan club. They were far too terrified to ever call her on her behaviour towards the women around her. (I was one of those women. I married one of the men grin) (When he was a bit more experienced!)

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 15:51:29

Yes flippinada my mother is like a teenager. I realised this when my own teenage son started to outgrow her in terms of development empathy etc

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 15:52:39

My stepfather puts up with endless shit but does nothing. BUt they live pretty separate lives and I think she chose him specially as he is a very quiet closed book

domesticgodless Sun 10-Mar-13 15:56:25

There really does seem to be something about bullying types that attracts people to them- you see it in schools etc as well.

It's funny how you can spot them as well many of them now rather bitter people left on their own. I got chatting with an old man who seemed nice in a cafe the other day and within moments he was moaning in really nasty terms about his 'stupid' grandchildren and how useless his children were as parents.

I immediately thought 'hmm, and none of it is anything to do with you of course'...and backed off a mile

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 15:58:38

I sold a flat about 10 years ago to an elderly lady who told us she had no children etc and we felt sorry for her and even helped her with moving etc A few years later we found out from the people below that she had 2 sons!

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 15:59:52

My friends mum is just like that. Have seen my poor friend in absolute meltdown, desperately anxious and stressed over what to buy for a 'good enough' present that will not result in aforementioned tantrum/screaming fit, also making sure her home is "perfect" (by which I mean show home standard, not just clean and tidy) for when parents comes to visit or she will be "in trouble" sad

Have thought of another one...constantly invades others personal space/privacy.

The one in my family used to read her teenage son's private diary and pass comment on it sad

It sounds just like my Nan. Miserable, critical, "dance to my tune" manipulative, me me me, insulting, croaky voice on the phone, hypochondriac, "no one ever rings me" (er, your phone makes outgoing calls!) guilt tripping, favourite picking, moneycentric, selfish old cow. Sounds horrible but I'm glad she's gone. My mum won't be desperately trying to prove herself to be told "I'm proud of you" or even "I love you". (I don't think she ever heard those words) sad
They're parasites, there's no changing them and I believe they're perfectly aware of what they're doing but do it for so long it's like a habit. They're so scared of being alone they find ways of manipulating the people around them so they feel obliged to stick around. At least, IME.

TheCrackFox Sun 10-Mar-13 16:02:39

Completely agree that they are intelligent but they could have gone much further in life if they hadn't wasted all their mental energies being vile.

My mum has had a tantrum (and thus made the entire day about her) on all my significant life events - 18th, 21st, buying a house, getting engaged, buying a wedding dress, getting married, havibg my first baby.
Something in me snapped, though, when I became a mum. I didn't have the time or energy for it and also knew that I would never pull the same stunts with my children.

Thingiebob Sun 10-Mar-13 16:03:17

I think most people who are described as 'toxic' and alienate friends and family through their self absorption and unacceptable behaviour, are often suffering from personality disorders.

For example, a few members of my family have cluster B pds and despite being intelligent, will probably never ever accept responsibility for their actions, never recognise that their behaviour is not the 'norm' or truly understand empathy.

As soon as I realised this about one particular member of my family, they lost the power to hurt me. Once you understand that this person is unwell and not functioning in the same reality as you, and there is little you can do to change their behaviour, the easier it becomes being around this person.

I know that some individuals have some clarity about their mental health problems and can recover or manage them, but some don't, and never will.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:04:10

noddy when I hear about elderly people who have no friends and family I do wonder why.

It might be because the family is horrible....and it could equally be because they're horrible and have driven everyone away.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:04:12

Mine criticises every present esp from my sister she has almost destroyed her over the years.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:05:00

I agree thingiebob

Ginebra Sun 10-Mar-13 16:08:34

This is a great website here

I was in an abusive relationship with a nark, years ago now, but I found that I was still being sucked into a weird thing where I would defend myself all the time against somebody else's bizarrely distorted interpretation of my actions. As this site identifies so perfectly, an exaggeration, a lie, an insinuation, all of it was a 'drama bait' and I was taking the bait by trying to set the record about me straight. This person enjoys being cruel. I don't enjoy being on the receiving end of mean assessments and judgments though funnily enough. The weird thing for me is that I had successfully walked away from all communication with my nark x, and yet a minor character (so to speak) was casting me in that defend defend defend role.

StephaniePowers Sun 10-Mar-13 16:09:31

It's so hard to know what's a personality disorder, and what's just shitty, selfish behaviour and a lack of self-awareness, though.

And in the end what are people meant to do with the knowledge? You can't just put up with people isolating you and lying and tantrumming.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:10:44

"Completely agree that they are intelligent but they could have gone much further in life if they hadn't wasted all their mental energies being vile.
"

Yes, this exactly. That is the thing I find hardest of all to understand. And I have heartfelt sympathy for people who have mothers like this, seeing at first hand what it's done to people I love.

"I think most people who are described as 'toxic' and alienate friends and family through their self absorption and unacceptable behaviour, are often suffering from personality disorders. "

Yes, I think so too. Not that I'm any sort of expert on personality disorders, just from reading round the subject.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:12:46

They also absolve all responsibility to others I am the eldest and have had to mother all my siblings. I have stopped this but only my sister has been able to accept it my 2 brothers want me to keep doing it!

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:14:25

Ginebra great link, thank you.

Stephanie I think you're right. A lot of dealing with these people is about setting boundaries for yourself and being aware of what you are willing to put up with.

Ginebra Sun 10-Mar-13 16:14:31

Do any of you worry that you repeat patterns of reacting towards abusive /toxic people?

I know I will never have another relationship with a toxic person, but it there's one at work or in my circle of acquaintance, I somehow end up being the one that challenges them. I think partly it's because I see through them, and don't buy their version of them, and that makes them on a mission to smear/discard me (all of this detailed on that lighthouse site I linked to)

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:15:31

Thanks for teh link

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:16:02

Ginebra I find it a lot easier now that I have challenged my mother to do the same with others

Ginebra Sun 10-Mar-13 16:16:02

what I mean is, just by seeing through these people you put yourself at risk. if you have your own view of them (rather than their view of them) then they are going to drama bait you/smear/discredit you

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:16:16

The family one is a great 'present criticiser' too. Nothing is ever good enough.

Funnily enough, the courtesy does not extend the other way and it's fine for them to give crappy, thoughtless gifts.

I actually have one of these threads at the moment, but no time to post properly on here right now, so I'm shamelessly marking my place and as soon as I have time I will be back to read properly and join in.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:21:26

That is a really good blog Ginebra, I'll pass it on to my friend (if she hasn't already seen it)

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:33:29

"Do any of you worry that you repeat patterns of reacting towards abusive /toxic people?"

Yes, I do worry about that.

My XP was a controlling bully and I have wondered if has a PD.

Reading the posts on that blog about dysfunctional families has really struck a chord with me. I suspect my SM of being a "toxic" type and my DDad an enabler (not just based on the blog, I have thought about many times over the years).

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