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).
Toxicity is strange.
It is not abuse- not exactly. Certainly it can manifest as an abusive relationship. Toxicity may be a symptom of abuse. It doesn’t directly hurt, but it exists. Seeping into anyone, particularly those gentle enough to soak up that ugliness into their life. Like a sponge. Nobody, for what it’s worth, is “strong enough” to not be affected. Toxicity has no value judgement. It simply is.
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’s toxins in the water.
A toxic person will damage anyone that stays in contact with them.
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. But toxicity is different.
A toxic person, in contrast to a malicious individual, will hurt you in the same moment as they are loving you. 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.
Sometimes, I think, the person does not care if they hurt you. It is difficult to know, and I wouldn’t suggest wasting time figuring it out. A poison is a poison is a poison.
The funny, but not at all funny, thing?
I am fortunate that my toxic person(s) never really managed to hurt me, beyond superficial ways. Thankfully, no lasting damage.
Sometimes, you see, toxins leech onto those the toxic person loves. Toxins do not have very good aim, and they inevitably hurt outside of their intended range.
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 one stops drinking tainted water, one stops getting sick. Easy enough solution, if you can recognize which water is tainted. It isn’t always so easy, of course.
I don’t know if this is funny or sad, but toxic people hurt themselves the most.
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.