Why We Wonder If We Are Toxic: Theory

Welcome to Week 2 of Season 1. Our topic this month is "Am I the toxic one?" and today is our first of three posts on why we might be wondering if we are the toxic ones. In this post, we are going to cover the theoretical answer to this question. In our next post we will look at a concrete example to help make the theory stuff make a bit more sense. Finally, our last post will cover some action items you can do in order to start unpacking this question for yourself. 

To begin, we need to get in touch a bit with some of the major goals of toxic people. Toxic folks are generally very insecure. Exactly what they are insecure about varies, but in general they are not authentically confident folks. As a result, a major goal of these folks is to soothe their own insecurities. 

How do they accomplish this? Well they typically have a bunch of tools in their toolbox. Some of the most important methods include exercising control over others, asserting themselves as more important than all other people, and creating narratives where they are perfect and all wrongdoing is created by others. 

One important feature of toxic folks is their inability to tolerate criticsm. In order to avoid criticism, they will generally do whatever they can to dismiss and deflect any attempts at criticism that come their way. 

Here it's important to acknowledge that it's normal for humans to struggle with accepting criticism. The way toxic people try to avoid criticism takes this fairly normal problem to a whole different level. Toxic folks will employ a whole array of tactics, generally quite manipulative ones, to get away from the criticsm. 

Whenever someone sugests that the toxic person is toxic or even more weakly just that this person engages in some toxic behaviors, the toxic person immediately perceives this action as a threat. Since toxic folks cannot tolerate criticism, they will immediately engage in deflection tactics. One obvious strategy for the toxic person to utilize is to push that very critique on the person presenting it. So when you begin to suggest the person is toxic, they are likely to turn that around and say YOU are the toxic one. 

This has several benefits from the toxic person's perspective: 

  1. It keeps the toxic person from having to seriously reflect on any of the criticisms
  2. It keeps you distracted. Rather than focus on the problematic behavior of the toxic person, you are wondering about the nature of your own behavior. 
  3. It keeps you confused. This tactic discourages you from trusting your instincts and makes it harder for you to identify what problems are being caused by the toxic person. This also makes it easer for the toxic person to control you. 

So why do you find yourself wondering if you are the toxic one? 

Toxic people are eager to soothe their own insecurities. The best way to do this is by exerting control over and running away from criticisms. When someone brings up this question of toxicity, toxic people claim that the person launching the criticism is actually toxic. With this tactic, the toxic person avoids facing any criticism, distracts, and confuses the person launching the technique. 

If you are interested in hearing more about this, be sure to check out this episode in our podcast. If you'd like to get a head start on the rest of this week's content, head over to our Youtube to get the full walkthrough of our topic! 


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