If you are dealing with a toxic person in your life, you have probably noticed how every situation seems to somehow become about them.
No matter how persistent you are in trying to get the focus of events and conversations to center on the things that matter, the toxic person somehow manages to always be at the center of everything.
This is largely because toxic people are fueled by their desire to control everyone around them.
In earlier episodes, we've talked about why the toxic person needs to exrecise this control in order to maintain the fragile reality that they have created for themselves.
In this episode, we'll discuss what YOU can do about. I'll cover three things you can do to take back control from toxic people. Let's dive right in.
1. Stop Giving Them Your Mental Energy
The most effective way toxic people manage to control us is through what we do when they aren’t around.
When a toxic person is in the room, they can use their various tactics to maintain control of the conversation and the like, but toxic people do a lot of work trying to make sure they stay centered even when they are not present.
As someone dealing with this toxic person, you’ve probably noticed that you spend a LOT of time thinking about them, about the bad things they have done, figuring out what to make of how they treated you, wrestling with whether you are the problem.
That stuff is a product of the abuse that toxic people dish out. That is not happening by accident, but that is part of the goal of toxic people.
You can regain some of your control first by just trying to reduce the amount of mental space toxic people are taking up within your own mind.
Rather than analyze deeply why the toxic person did this or if it was your fault or any of that, you can acknowledge that this person is toxic, and their behaviors are just the normal behaviors of toxic folks.
This is not easy to accomplish. It will take time; however, every time you can shift your thoughts and energy away from the toxic person, you are regaining that much control.
2. Start focusing on what you CAN control
Its easy to get overwhelmed by the toxic person’s constant demand for attention. In my own journey with a toxic father, I was constantly frustrated that we couldn’t get through a single conversation without it somehow becoming about how great he was. Focusing on this frustration, although understandable, will not help you regain control from the toxic person.
Instead, its better to focus on the things that you can control. For example, with my father I started to make strategic choices to limit how much time I was spending with him. I would start conversations with him knowing that in thirty minutes I had to leave in order to make my next appointment. I couldn’t control his behaviors in the conversation, but I could control how I structured my time.
A few things that you probably can control that often get overlooked include:
The way you take care of yourself
How you spend your free time
How often you check your messages
By focusing on the things that are in your control, you are more likely to discover ways that you can mitigate or diminish the harm that the toxic person is causing. You cannot self care your way out of an abusive situation, but you can make an abusive situation a bit less terrible.
3. Embrace Strategies that help you make choices about how you respond to toxic people
Constantly being abused will make even the most kind hearted person behave in unkind ways. Toxic people know this, and will often try to push the people around them to act out. Then the toxic person uses this to make the survivors of this abuse appear to be the abuser.
You can circumvent this entire strategy by using tools that encourage you to make choices about how you react to the toxic person’s behaviors.
My favorite tool is called Compassionate Stone. Here whenever a toxic person starts to act inappropriate you switch your focus on generating compassion for yourself and for everyone who has to engage with this person. You try to enter such an immersive state that you do not engage with the toxic person. Instead, you let their negative energy fuel your desire for creating compassion. This keeps you from engaging with the toxic person, and eventually the toxic person will stop trying to provoke you.
Another similar tool is called Grey Rock. Here when a toxic person is misbehaving you try to become as still and boring as a grey rock. Eventually the toxic person becomes bored and walks away. I prefer Compassionate Stone because it requires less controlling your natural emotions and involves more redirecting those emotions in positive ways, but both strategies are very powerful.
So, the three things you can do to start taking back control from toxic people are:
Keep in mind that all three of these require a lot of work to implement. You will need to be patient as you discover different ways you can implement these three ideas.
As you make progress on this journey, you want to make sure that you keep in mind that taking back control is a long term goal, not an immediate win. Because this requires playing the long game, its important to celebrate small wins along the way.
That means that if you can redirect some of your mental energy away from the toxic person, even if its just for 15 minutes, you should pat yourself on the back. These little victories really do add up over time.
If you are looking for support on your journey, I can help. I work 1:1 with folks who are navigating toxic people. You can find all of those details here