If you ended up stumbling upon this post then there is a high possibility that you are facing toxicity in your life in some form, be it internal or external. I don’t know what exactly you are going through or how stressed you are right now or how much you suck at controlling the situation, but let me tell you this, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! …phew?! sounds a bit relieving, right? I and many like me have faced similar situations in the past and are still facing them. For a long period of time, I searched for the question “How do I deal with toxic people?” on google but failed to get a “satisfactory” answer to it.
This blog is just an attempt to help as many humans or lizards (if you will) as I can, who are struggling with the same problem and are too embarrassed to share it with someone else or are caught up in an environment full of people incapable of understanding their point of view. I have been there too and felt it myself. So, don’t worry! You aren’t the only person facing this and there is nothing wrong with you. After hours, days, and months of mindless searching and hogging on chips, I thankfully gained some valuable insights which I intend to share here. I hope this gives you the solutions that you are seeking for and also saves you the weight gain (stop judging you squirrels! chips are luring :P).
Today in the times of COVID-19, when the world has slowed down, the amount of changes occurring in what we call “a normal life” has skyrocketed. More people are facing toxicity inside their homes and also inside their minds than ever before. The tension in the environment, the negativity all around and the inability to run away from it is taking a toll on their mental health and also their relationships. Also, running away from it isn’t a solution.
In general also, thousands of people fall a prey to it because of various factors. Toxicity can be internal as well as external. The one coming from external sources is easier to deal with as opposed to the one having internal roots (coming from within or one’s family). Getting rid of the toxic person if that happens to be a colleague working in the same team or an important family member (like an abusive alcoholic father) is not an option. So, you have to learn to deal with it because fight or flight are no longer options worth pursuing here.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude…
-Robert Downey Jr.
Imagine it like an extremely tough level of some video game. It will have those speedy bats and those nasty cactus plants but all you can control is your little dragon (assuming some must have switched off the WiFi intentionally to play that on google, just like me :P). Either you can choose to jump over those plants and bats or you can just give up and die. No matter what you do, you just can’t control anything in that game apart from the dragon. Life in many situations is similar to a game. You just can’t change all the stuff as per your convenience, so in a situation like this you have to change your reactions to it.
The process of balancing your mind and training it to deal with toxicity consists of the following steps:
Step 1: Acceptance
The process of finding a solution to a specific problem begins with accepting the fact that the problem exists in the first place. Now, acceptance too has its own aspects:
- Feelings – The first thing is, to tell the truth about how you’re feeling. Just admit it to yourself. Accept that you feel the way you feel. Let us be honest here, most people can’t really accept that they feel that negative emotion which they are feeling. They either run away from it or judge and whack themselves up for feeling the way they do. Instead of saying “Why am I feeling anxious and restless?” or “Why do I feel sad all the time?” try saying “Okay so, I feel anxious right now” or “Okay, I do feel sad most of the time“. The first two examples indicate judgment and the next two indicate acceptance.
- Reality – The second thing is accepting that IT IS WHAT IT IS and YOU CAN’T CONTROL EVERYTHING. Accepting that you have a personality type A and your toxic relative/friend/potato has a personality type B. Hence, A and B are not compatible. You can’t change the fact that your father is an abusive alcoholic and you can’t run away from it either! ( in some cases you can manage to run away but not always.) You can’t change the fact that you and the mean girl Natasha are put in the same team to work. So, you have to co-ordinate with her no matter how badly you want to punch her! So, don’t sit and overthink about what wasn’t and isn’t under your control. Register it in your head that this is problematic for you and you need to find a solution to it.
Step 2: Take full charge
Instead of being in the victim mode, thinking stuff like “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why am I so unlucky to have such toxic people in my life“, CHOOSE to be in responsibility mode. It isn’t your fault if you have toxic people in your family, workplace, or elsewhere but it is your and ONLY YOUR responsibility to figure out a way to deal with those mental traumas to make a life out of it and stay happy. Fault and responsibility do not go together. When something is somebody’s fault, we want them to suffer, we want them to get punished, we want them to pay, we want it to be their responsibility to fix it. But that’s not how it works, especially, when it’s your heart. Your heart, your life, your happiness is your responsibility and YOUR responsibility ALONE.
When we stay in victim mode, we focus more on the problem and not the solution. For example: “I don’t have the resources, i can’t do it!( T_T )” whereas responsibility mode brings the power back to our hands. We can then use this power to change for the better. For example: “Where can I find the resources and how can I do it?( >_> )”. Hence, take responsibility for your happiness, your life, and everything in it.
Step 3: What’s the next right step?
The visualization of the enormity of the entire task in hand or the end result often serves as the biggest obstacle for most people on the path to complete the task. When our brain thinks about the entire wall, it gets into the never-ending vicious cycle of overthinking giving you vague reasons “why you won’t be able to do it” and “what would and could go wrong“. But when you only look at it as one brick at a time and focus on delivering it in the best manner that you possibly can, that is when a beautiful wall ends up getting built one day. So, the key is in not getting overwhelmed by the fact that you have to change SO FREAKING MUCH but to break down all the change that needs to be done into “readily achievable tangible goals” and going through it step by step.
Achieve one goal then ask yourself, “okay, that happened…what’s next?” and repeat this cycle until you achieve your ultimate aim. The benefits that this has are similar to the dopamine rush you get after achieving that little tangible goal not only keeps you motivated to move forward but also strengthens your will power because you achieved a thing that you wanted to. Your will power is your mental bicep. It strengthens by completing the task that you started and once you complete it, your brain goes, “HEY MAN, YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO THIS!“, just like my brain did a somersault when I completed this article (:P). So, conquer your mind step by step.
Step 4: Stop being the spider AND the fly
What most people do is build a web (like a spider) and then end up getting caught (just like a fly) in it. So, they fall a prey to the problems that they created in the first place. One’s bad habits, negative thought process, reluctance, stubbornness, certain behavioral patterns can all serve as different spider webs. And this world is full of people-cum-flies who are dictated by their problems. DON’T contribute to that population! Start getting out of your own way! Problems are nothing but “patterns in your subconscious” and since they have become strong by being repeated over and over again over such long periods of time (as the case may be), they will continue to fill up your mind and repeat because “they are strong patterns that your brain has been following“.
Once you understand this and not act upon those, they will fade away with time. The more you feed them, the stronger they become. And let me tell you, it will take conscious effort and time to break old patterns and form new ones in the brain. But at the same time, it isn’t THAT tough either because our brains are highly adaptable and flexible. Instead of saying “I just am impatient. I can’t change it“, say “Well, I do act impatiently but this is just a pattern that my brain has been following for so many years. I CAN change this“. And you start repeating this, your brain will form new patterns and will adapt and act accordingly.
Step 5: Stop reacting!
The one most significant thing that i learnt till now that has helped in dealing with toxic people (the most important step) comes from the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It goes like “Learn to use your emotions to think, not think with your emotions“. This is so simple yet so profound. If you can understand and implement this, then you can win it. What it means is, you will always have emotions like, fear, anger,etc. and in any situation you have only two options, either react to it in an emotional state OR accept that emotion, pause, think using that emotion and then respond to it with a cool mind.
Now, many may ask “what does using your emotions to think means?” It means that the moment you accept an emotion instead of outwardly reacting to it, it loses it’s high or it’s power over you. Then you can actually think the if(s), but(s), how(s), why(s) and what(s) of a situation and understand why a person is reacting the way he/she is, or why is this argument happening in the first place or what impact your sharp reaction would have had on the entire scenario and the relationship.
So here you used your empathy to analyse and respond to the situation, hence using that emotion in your favour. If you react to the situation being in that emotional high, you can’t see the situation for what IT ACTUALLY IS because your emotion is controlling your thinking and later when you rewind the situation in your mind, you realize that you shouldn’t have reacted the way you did (a lot of times). So, the next time you feel like reacting when having that ugly argument with your toxic relative, remind yourself to pause and think instead of just letting the emotion control you and speak for you.
Step 6: Stop being Positive
A lot of people confuse between being positive and being optimistic. Things like controlling your own mind, your thoughts and emotions are one of the most difficult things to master. They require energy inputs, lots of thinking and essentially, TIME. It isn’t going to be a 2 or 3 day long journey. It can take months or even years (as the case may be). And there will be times when you will NOT FEEL LIKE IT, feel emotionally exhausted, demotivated, negative or even hopeless (in some cases) and it is TOTALLY NORMAL TO FEEL that way. They are the part of the journey.
The important thing that most people assume is being POSITIVE ALL THE TIME and it is all a drivel. Being positive all the time means ignoring the reality and the current situation, refusing to accept that there is black along with white and darkness along with light which is NOT TRUE. The most important thing instead is to be OPTIMISTIC. Don’t confuse between the two. Optimistic doesn’t mean being positive all the time, but it means “looking at the light at the end of the tunnel“, which is exactly what you need to see whenever you feel low or negative. It will let you keep going even when you feel like giving up.
Step 7: Repeat!
It isn’t THAT easy, but TOTALLY achievable! I have been dealing with it from a long time and am still working on myself daily. It is a daily process essentially. Bit by bit, EVERYTIME. You won’t be perfect each day, neither should you expect yourself to be! It isn’t about succeeding every time but about trying every freakin time! The key is practice and repetition. So, just keep repeating these steps, dummy! and you will see the results in some time or should i say, keep repeating UNTIL you see the results. 🙂
And if you made it this far, I am so glad that your pace maker didn’t drop yet (:P) and also you should be proud of yourself that you took a positive step towards change :’). You aren’t alone in this and I am REALLY happy to help! All that I mentioned above is what I learnt from different sources over a period of time and it has helped me in gaining perspective and dealing with toxicity. I can’t say if I am right or wrong but all I know is that it worked for me. I believe, this will help a lot of you (if not all) reading this, if implemented well.
Thank you for reading! 😀