This may not be my best writing, but I wanted to push the words outside of myself, where they’d sit and fester. This is what it means when I say someone is toxic, and why I would appreciate the word being used cautiously:
Toxic is a strong word, deadly, hateful.
It elicits- understandably- violent responses. If someone called me toxic, simply because they didn’t get along with me, I would be offended. I would hope none would ever use that word lightly against anyone, myself included.
We don’t talk about feminine toxicity to the same degree we address masculine toxicity, but both exist to an unfortunate degree (if you don’t know what toxic femininity is, see Princess Carolyn from Bojack Horseman; this episode sums it up quite well).
I am fortunate that only two toxic persons exist directly in my life.
This is due less to my not having met anyone toxic, and more because I refuse to interact with unpleasant people. Only one holds any importance to me. She, I cannot get rid of, but others can and eventually will.
I never speak to them unless formality requires it; and they have addressed me by name maybe five times in five years. Thankfully.
Toxicity is strange.
It is not abuse. Toxicity may be a symptom of abuse. It doesn’t exactly directly hurt, but it exists. Seeping into anyone gentle enough to accept that ugliness into their life. Not that anybody is strong enough to avoid the noxious effects of a toxic personality.
Toxicity is a poison dropped in the environment. It pollutes and damages– often without being aware of the damage it causes. It’s Seaman White, from Good Omens. It simply is.
A toxic person will damage anyone that stays in contact with them.
They may do so with loving intentions. I don’t think someone who is truly violent can ever hurt someone, without realizing what they are doing. How can a rapist be unaware of the rape? I can’t believe you don’t know what you are doing in that moment.
A toxic person, in contrast, will hurt you in the very moment they believe they are showing you love. Toxicity, in my experience, is closely related to gaslighting. This person often shows genuine confusion when confronted with their toxic behavior. I don’t believe they are always lying; sometimes they literally cannot see it.
Yet the person often does not care if they hurt you. It is a funny thing, this toxicity. It is greater than the person themselves.
The funny, but not at all funny, thing?
The toxic person in question never managed to hurt me. I am sure they’d be disappointed to learn that. They desperately wished to punish me. I am the source of everything wrong in their life, in their mind. Perhaps, as a consolation prize, they might be pleased to learn that they’d frustrated me and caused me to waste countless hours cursing them. But that isn’t how toxicity works. They merely put out the toxic chemicals.
I managed to avoid being touched by them. Only it touched those they loved most, instead. The ones without the dexterity to avoid their emotional leeching.
It isn’t that their emotional abuse wasn’t damaging. Emotional abuse is often more damaging. Except poison isn’t so sophisticated. Sometimes the wrong person drinks the poison. In my case, it was the people around me that got hurt. And that damage is unlikely to ever go away. Wounds from a cut heal. A poison will permanently damage.
I guess I still suffered a few effects. Did they hurt my feelings? A little. Did they hurt my reputation with some people? No doubt. But as soon as I removed them from my life, they could no longer “hurt” me. If I stop drinking tainted water, I stop getting sick. Easy enough solution, if you can recognize which water is tainted.
I don’t know if this is funny or sad, but toxic people hurt themselves, too.
A person who shares poison must inevitably be poisoned themselves. The toxic person in my life hurts themselves, more than anyone else. Because at least their victims have a chance to heal, away from them. How can the toxic person ever get away from themselves?
The one good thing is a toxic person has potential to change. To remove the poison from themselves. Unlike other abusers, I might trust a toxic person who changed. Once I saw them no longer hurting themselves, I think they could be trusted to no longer hurt me.. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the poison. I don’t know for sure. But– I think it’s possible.
Toxicity, after all, isn’t personal.
A poison has no personal grudge against the ocean, but it will still destroy the ocean life. A poisonous person may make up a grudge against me, but they don’t really hate me, and if I’m convenient they’ll pretend to like me. I’ve experienced this, too.
Toxicity flows indiscriminately. It is unfortunate, as it usually most directly affects those who get in its path. These people are generally innocent, at least insofar as it concerns the toxic person.
Perhaps I’d know more toxic people if I used the word more liberally, but I have no care to do that.
A toxic person is more than an annoyance. They are a disease.
So, please. Be cautious with the word. But more importantly be cautious with yourself. Take care to protect yourself from people that are slowly but surely draining you.
A poison that will do nothing but cause you damage and give you nothing positive.