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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?

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:33:42

*thought about it

WildeRumpus Sun 10-Mar-13 16:36:57

My mum is a narc and never questions her behaviour because she sees herself as a victim. She was scapegoated as a child by her mum and so I think never ever stopped feeling sorry for herself, never took responsibility for her own actions and thinks we should all Molly coddle her and feel sorry for her. She is utterly incapable of self reflection because self criticism would threaten her very fragile ego. We bolster her ego by pandering to her need for attention.

I left tho when she cut all contact because I broke golden girl ranks and didn't have a wedding she could be centre of attention at. (We eloped smile )

Ginebra Sun 10-Mar-13 16:40:40

Flippinada, I thought I was 'fixed' because I know a toxic person when I'm around them. Well, that much is progress I know, it's not to be sniffed out.

But another toxic person definitely 'targeted' me, and I wonder why that was. I am a people pleaser but I'm not motivated to please everybody and in fact wasn't afraid to let this person know I didn't think highly of them. I think it was a combination of that and my tendency to defend my actions all the time that made me a target.

If a 'normal' person with no history of toxic relationships is told "the reason you did such and such was because {insert worst possible interpretation of a person's actions} then, would a normal toxin free person just shrug and walk away? The normal toxin free non poisoned person doesn't feel obliged to set the record straight all the time? so, what I'm trying to ask here, is this what I need to iron out, my inclination to set the record straight all the time? this need i have that people not think badly of me, and that they understand me?

dothraki Sun 10-Mar-13 16:45:03

Flippin - that is so true. We have a narc in our family, it took reading about narcs on here that made me see exactly what they were. I used to think her husband controlled her, but now I see he just enables her. It hurts me that she is so vile - and only dh and I see it. So many of the comments she has made "I have no family" - bollocks "My dh is the best dh in the world" - no you caught him cheating and decided to get pg immediately shock she is rude and nasty, but she lives in a land of make believe. Emotionally she behaves like a 12 year old. She believes she is middle class - which is hilarious if it wasn't so sad. I feel so sorry for her children. She says she is the best mum in the world, yet over the last few months 2 of her children have been quite ill and she left it for ages before she took them to the drs. Amazingly most people do not see her for what she is, we have recieved a torrent of abuse from her dm and db as she was so vile about dh - and he decided to cut all contact. He would not have cut her out - she was given the opportunity to apologise for her attrocious behaviour - she stamped her foot and said I have done nothing wrong - its all dothraki's fault hmm I still haven't quite figured how everyone believes her. Its all the crappy lies - like next year we're going to Australia for our holidays - turned out to be 3 days in Cornwall. Then it was we are moving to this lovely village - er no your not as you've remortgaged your house so often that you will never be able to move. and breathe <thanks it was good to get that out>

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:45:44

I get what you're saying Ginebra.

Some people are definitely more susceptible to 'toxic' types than other and I think/suspect it's because they've learned somwhere or somehow that the 'toxic' behaviour is normal/acceptable/usual.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 16:51:03

dothraki I've learned a lot from MN too. It's a great space for discussing these things.

I first encountered the concept of 'Toxic' people when I noticed Susan Forward's book in the self help section of a book shop. What made me pick it up I don't know but boy what an eye opener.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 16:51:54

Why do you think they do the 'present' thing.

dothraki Sun 10-Mar-13 17:00:40

OH yeah - I forgot to mention the presents thing. We used to get a list of demands always very expensive (especially for her) and what do we get crapbollocks shite rubbish. Last year she gave dh a box of crispey creams - whilst she demands perfume at £100 shock

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 17:02:18

I've often wondered about it noddy and I don't know.

I think it's about what the present if they have a big, extravagant present it must be because they are a marvellous person. Does that make sense?

Being nasty about presents is a control thing, I think. If presents are never good enough its a way to keep someone perpetually in the role of trying to please, constantly trying to find the right thing?

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 17:05:06

Also with the present thing a lot of 'toxic' types are all about show and how things look on the surface.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 17:05:50

My mother used to spend £££££ on xmas presents for us but never saw us or phoned us all year! Then she would say 'Why would I want this?" about things given to her.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 17:06:50

My mother the queen of show She once rejected a house based on the fact that she thought her boss at work wouldn't be impressed by the exteriorgrin although he has never visited her

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 10-Mar-13 17:08:18

Narcissists are very disappointing as gift-givers. This is not a trivial consideration in personal relationships. I've seen narcissistic people sweetly solicit someone's preferences, yes I am talking about you MIL ("Go ahead -- tell me what you really want"), make a show of paying attention to the answer ("Don't you think I'm nice?"), and then deliver something other than what was asked for -- and feel abused and unappreciated when someone else gets gratitude for fulfilling the very request that the narcissist evoked in the first place. That scenario has happened at least twice to me now with regards to Christmas presents so now I do not ask her for anything.

Narcissists will also go out of their way to stir up other people's expectations and then go out of their way to disappoint those expectations.

First, narcissists lack empathy, so they don't know what you want or like and, evidently, they don't care either; second, they think their opinions are better and more important than anyone else's, so they'll give you what they think you ought to want, regardless of what you may have said when asked what you wanted for your birthday; third, they're stingy and will give as gifts stuff that's just lying around their house, such as possessions that they no longer have any use for, or -- in really choice instances -- return to you something that was yours in the first place. In fact, as a practical matter, the surest way NOT to get what you want from a narcissist is to ask for it; your chances are better if you just keep quiet, because every now and then the narcissist will hit on the right thing by random accident

dothraki Sun 10-Mar-13 17:09:49

Flippin - that makes sense. SHE kicked off a major tantrum - as she didn't like one of her presents - told everyone she could that I bought her this shit because I'm truly dreadful. Dh picked that particular gift and even her dm said its something she loves. I think they love the drama. Gotta be centre of attention. The very first time I picked up on her saying something I thought was really odd - was when she said "Christmas is for women" I just couldn't get my head around it. Now it all makes sense.

StephaniePowers Sun 10-Mar-13 17:11:17

The emphasis on how things look to others is another sign, isn't it?
My mother has narc tendencies and the way my house looks is obviously a real problem to her.
It's all control.

dothraki Sun 10-Mar-13 17:13:25

Atilla - that is so true, one Christmas she bought us nothing. We came laden with presents for all, so she rooted round and found a bottle of wine grin

LineRunner Sun 10-Mar-13 17:16:48

Thanks for starting this thread, flippinada, and I'll be reading it all, having a lot I think in common with noddy.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 17:22:48

There's a lot of tantrumming going on with these people isn't there! It would be funny if it wasn't so awful. Whenever I think of a tantrum I picture my DS as a toddler, he had some humdingers. It's awful seeing an adult do the same thing.

noddy I did laugh at the reason for not buying a house. It sounds ridiculous doesn't it because who on earth in their right mind would buy a house based on what someone else thinks of it?

"The emphasis on how things look to others is another sign, isn't it?" Yes Stephanie that's what I was trying to say, you just put it better.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 17:25:13

Thank you LineRunner, hope you find the thread useful smile

TheArmadillo Sun 10-Mar-13 17:28:56

I watched my parents turn my sister into my mum. She didn't start out that way. But now she is as toxic as them.

Some things I noticed that my mother and sister had in common

1) they were both slightly isolated from their peers from the beginning - both have hearing issues, my sister also had behavioural problems, allergies meaning she couldn't eat the same food as everyone else. They got used to being different early on, although my sister has always been very sociable.

2) they were taught everything was harder for them and as a result any achievement they made was much more impressive than anyone else. They were better because they were 'victims'

3) my sister was taught she was special because of her problems, that no one would understand how amazing and special she was. She was rewarded for her tantrums (she shouldn't be subject to the same standards as everyone else). Also prevented from doing a lot and overcontrolled kept her at toddler stage of behaviour.

4) I was told to be understanding and tolerant of her behaviour, nothing was seen as her fault - she couldn't control it, it or she had just been copying something I used to do (I was older).

I don't know if I have explained it very well, but I am sure my sister didn't start of toxic or narcissistic, I think even up to teenage years it could have gone either way. I think she was shown (by copying my mum) and had the same behaviour in herself rewarded and reinforced. She was taught she was different, not subject to the same rules, not responsible for her actions/behaviours and was special in a way most people wouldn't recognise. I also think partially was a defence mechanism - either become the victim of the abuser or turn into them yourself.

We had no ally in each other as children or adults - I think if we had it may have helped. It's sad because she had the good side as well that was overcome by the bad. She could have been different, she is the victim of abuse as much as I am but she is to far gone to get back.

TheCrackFox Sun 10-Mar-13 17:33:21

I dud read somewhere that they tend to have the emotional age of a 6yr old.

My mum's gift giving is laughable. It is almost like she has never met me. I can't decided if it is because she doesn't know me or she gets some cheap thrill in pissing me off. I now expect a crap present and also act thrilled upon receiving it. I have taken her power away.

noddyholder Sun 10-Mar-13 17:38:32

The key is taking the power away.

flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 17:43:14

TheArmadillo that's really interesting about your sister. She sounds like a 'golden child' type. Dysfunctional families often put people into set roles which they are not 'allowed' to step out of.

The gift giving thing has reminded me of Christmases spent with my Dad and Stepmum. My Step siblings would have piles of lovely, thoughtfully chosen gifts, while me and my sister used to get cheap tat, like the kind of thing you would buy as an afterthought in a pound shop, and woe betide us if we weren't appropriately grateful!

Hi I'm back, reading with interest at which behaviours I can identify with when looking at my mum. I have a thread looking for advice on dealing with my anger and how to generally deal with her. I didn't realise how many people are similar to her. She has no friends, she is the eternal victim they have all just left her and she has no idea why, I used to feel sorry for her but can see why now. She seems to be a little obsessed with my teen, to the point I have had to remind her that he is is actually my son and she should speak so me if she wants to take him out/on holiday and not tell him first (backing me into a corner of having to say yes) she also 'forgets' that teen is night blind and has tried to put him in danger twice now. She also makes every situation about her especially health wise. I mentioned that we had to take teen to the hospital and she followed this with 'I have am appointment that day, they another on the Wednesday, I am seeing xx Dr about this and that' didn't ask why teen needed to go, and even though she has diabetes I have not told her I also have gestational diabetes, no point, it will only be about her.

It is interesting reading about the whole gifts issue, she has never made demands of expensive gifts and when you give her something there is always a really false over the top reaction to it you can tell she is disappointed somehow, no matter how much thought we put into it.

Sorry that turned into quite a rant, feeling much better now though smile the reason I started the other thread was because she is (at the moment) the only option I have for emergency child care for my boys when I go into labour and I have been trying to stop being angry enough to want to trust her, it has been very much worse this year and I can't seem to get past it at the moment.

HecateWhoopass Sun 10-Mar-13 18:20:26

The problem is that these people are rewarded for their behaviour.

They get what they want.

They learn and then have constantly reinforced that this is how they behave if they want to get their own way, if they want to be in control.

What we need to do is to stop rewarding them for their behaviour.

Stop being afraid of them.

so they'll strop and sulk and shout. So what?

The most important thing you can know is that it is ok if someone is cross with you! you don't have to bend over all the time! You don't have to do whatever they want in order to appease them.

You just have to be able to be ok with their tantrum and to carry on with your life while they have it.

They have only the power that you hand to them and no more.

We can't change them until or unless we change ourselves. When they stop being rewarded for their behaviour - they will change it.

And if they don't... they have a very lonely life!

Still not your problem!

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