It’s a fact of life that there are toxic people out there. I detailed some of the toxic people I’ve run across in my memoir, Mere Sense. But there are far more people I’ve come in contact with over my lifetime than I could ever write about in the span of a normal-sized book.
For some toxic people, once you have identified them, it is easy to just separate yourself from them. Separation is a very effective method for killing your exposure to their toxicity. But what if that is impossible?
Family is the major group that makes up this subset of toxic people – the ones you cannot or find difficult to separate from. Another smaller group is the people you work with or have a constant presence in your life through hobbies, sports, or benevolent causes (yes, there are toxic people involved in these activities too). For all of these people, you need a strategy to protect yourself.
HSPs are specifically vulnerable to these harmful people because we are so empathetic. We often make excuses for people due to tragic early circumstances or difficult childhoods. It’s not always easy to override the bad behavior when our strong empathy kicks in. But we must see the peril it puts in front of us.
So, how do we deal with inevitable interactions and maintain our sanity? Here are some tips to forming your own strategy that I have found helpful in my own life.
Caveat: If your physical safety is at risk, your only option is separation.
Rely Heavily on Your Intuition
Your intuition is strong. You have the added benefit of awareness of another’s feelings, keen observation of nuance and subtleties, and depth of processing. Mobilize these acute characteristics to guide your reactions and behavior. Pay attention to the inner voice that tells you something is wrong.
Doing this will, first, alert you to the dangers as they arise. Secondly, it will give you some insight into how you should handle each incident.
Guard Your Property
Toxic people have little to no empathy for you or your property. And they believe that they are entitled to anything of worth you have. It is a sad state of affairs when you have to hide or lock away your property so that someone in your family won’t abscond with it. But it’s important that you do that. For larger ticket items, it’s vital to keep property in your name. Don’t sign your rights away. Don’t allow someone to “guilt-trip” you into signing any legal document that strips you of your ownership.
Set Clear Boundaries
Know what your values are and stick to them. Be clear about what you will and will not put up with. Take courage and say “no” when someone tries to infringe upon your values. Do this for every aspect of your life: personal, financial, sexual, emotional, etc.
Protect Your Feelings
Toxic people will hurt your feelings, and do so with no remorse. Family can be particularly harmful in this regard because they know you better than anyone else. When a toxic family member is in a “mood” where they are prone to be hurtful (feeling shame), back off. Interact in the least intimate way as possible. Share little deeply emotional information, and stick to general topics that do not expose your emotions or vulnerabilities. Use the “grey rock” method of communication.
Above all, reassure yourself that their gaslighting and manipulation do not reflect your true nature. Instead, it exposes their faults and defects. Reach out to friends or a good therapist to help you deflect the abuse and rebuild your self-esteem.
Toxic family members are hard to avoid. There are few families that can stand strong because they have no toxic members. Contact with toxic family members can have devastating effects on your spirit. If you cannot separate from them and must endure interaction with them, have a plan to protect yourself as much as possible.
Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson
See examples of toxic people, or read more about my journey toward discovery of my sensitivity and how I learned to accept and love my sensitive side. Take advantage of this free offer to download my ebook. Make sure you do it today, tomorrow it will return to its normal price.
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