Not everyone who treats us badly or has hurt us at one time or the other can be described as toxic. For someone, or a relationship, to be described as toxic, it must be that the intention of our offender is to deliberately hurt us, time and again.
If a friend, colleague, or even family member cannot relate with us without being oppressive, malicious, selfish, exploitative, or be comfortable when they see us thriving, then, they are toxic.
We all make mistakes, misbehave, or cause people the odd pain; after all, we are only human. It’s why we shouldn’t judge people by their actions but by their intentions. When people love us or, at least, respect us, the pains they cause us will be very few and far between.
However, when someone is toxic, their intention is always to hurt us, and that results in repeated abuse. They take advantage of our emotional weakness, soft spot for them, or biological ties to exploit us emotionally, mentally, and physically.
In this scenario, it becomes clear that we, not them, hold the key to our happiness, progress, and freedom.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
The reasons we are vulnerable to repeated abuse and pain from these toxic people, and how to deal with it, is what I have written in this article.
Reasons you are vulnerable to toxic people
Abusive people are in relationships with us for one person only… themselves. Therefore, while we go about relating with them innocently, they are always scheming, looking out for our emotional weaknesses and preying on them.
Once they learn to predict, correctly, how we will react emotionally to different situations, they will know what to do or say to control, or regain control of, our minds.
For instance, when a toxic person realizes that you’re finally ready to break free from their spell, they can resort to “playing the victim” – crying profusely about your leaving them if they know that seeing them cry is your weakest point.
They could also go as far as harming themselves – for example, mild poisoning – if they know you will never leave them in their “vulnerable state”.
Lack of self-love or self-respect
If you find yourself continually enduring a toxic relationship because of how much you love someone and not because they treat you good and deserve you, then, the diagnosis is not simply a case of emotional weakness but a lack of love and respect for yourself – period.
Respect yourself enough to
walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy Robert Tew
Lack of self-esteem
The difference between a lack of self-respect and a lack of self-esteem is that people with a healthy dose of self-esteem, who value themselves, will not even allow anyone denigrate them in the first instance, never mind let things degenerate to the level of repeated abuse.
With good self-esteem, you approach any potential relationship guided by your values and principles and not just with your heart. You have a good idea of who or what is good enough for you and you are not afraid to demand it or, otherwise, walk away.
Toxic people are cowards; they are usually not attracted to people who have a high sense of self.
Fear is one very powerful emotion. Once it enters any equation, it causes us to act irrationally – or not to act at all.
As I said earlier, bullies, oppressors, or toxic people in general, are cowards. As long as they sense that you are scared of leaving them or scared of the consequences of standing up to them, they will continue to bully you.
The fear of loneliness or being single is responsible for a huge number of cases of people, especially ladies, who endure repeated abuse in relationships.
My personal philosophy about this is: It’s the parasite that should be scared of losing its relationship with its host and not the other way round.
If a toxic sibling acts as if they are not scared of injuring their relationship with you, why should you? You have nothing to lose from walking away from any bad person or situation.
If you stand up to a bully, or start defining or severing your relationship with them, they will either change for good or lose you; and that’s a win-win for you.
Excitability is one of the other good reasons that makes a person vulnerable to toxic people. Merriam-Webster describes excitability as “capable of being readily roused into action or a state of excitement or irritability.”
When we are too excitable, we become vulnerable to abusers; because in our excited state, we are more likely to go against our resolves, make promises we don’t want to keep, or say things that will come back to haunt us.
For example, if you have a toxic younger sibling, who expects you to meet his every want (not even need), even if it means you are never able to put away some savings, it’s always a good idea to keep your emotions in check, or keep your mouth shut, when you receive a piece of good news e.g salary increase.
You live in Denial
Living in denial is not wanting to acknowledge that you are being continually short-changed in a relationship.
The first step towards turning a bad situation around is first accepting that it is bad. In the case of a relationship, that is, accepting you’re better off without someone. Once you are able to do that, the prospects of starting afresh without them starts becoming desirable.
If, however, you are living in denial, you instead start to make excuses for why they treat you shabbily.
You could even go as far as blaming yourself for your abuser’s actions – that they are not the one’s who are over-demanding; rather, you’re are the one who is simply not living up to expectations.
Times of India puts it succinctly:
Denial helps you push away, block or modify reality in a way that is acceptable
In this realm, you’re not even listening to other people who can judge the situation well, even from a distance, and are telling you the truth.
Until you start accepting the truth, no one, not even yourself, can help you.
You don’t know how to say no
Until we learn to say no, without needing to justify it or having to pacify people, we will continue to be used and abused.
We say no because it is necessary and not because it is easy.
Masochism has set in
The abstract of a journal in PubMed.gov describes a situation where we can become emotionally attached to our abusers, to the extent that we start confusing pain for love…
Adults, as well as children, may develop strong emotional ties with people who intermittently harass, beat, and threaten them. The persistence of these attachment bonds leads to confusion of pain and love. Assaults lead to hyperarousal states for which the memory can be state-dependent or dissociated, and this memory only returns fully during renewed terror
Lack of a support system
If everything else fails you, this shouldn’t.