Magazine article Psychology Today

Toxicity as a Stealth Teacher

Magazine article Psychology Today

Toxicity as a Stealth Teacher

Article excerpt

A TOXIC PERSON can feel like an impossible problem to solve or to flee. Such people seemingly hijack your emotional software, compelling your mind to run a bully/narcissist/ psychopath antivirus program when they're around-or even in their absence. They become so salient that victims can feel an imperative to do more with the experience than simply escape it.

No matter how badly a person behaves, there is still an opportunity to extract useful, even vital, information from the encounter, when the message is decoupled from the messenger.

If you engage with a toxic person despite warning signs or outright abuse, you might want to ask yourself why you're making that choice. If an individual deliberately incites in you such archaic emotions as jealousy and shame, perhaps examine not just the relationship, but also (gently) your own self-image. If they seek to control you, school yourself in their mind games (see "Poison People"), both to deflect them now and to protect yourself in the future. Understanding concepts like "gaslighting" and "love bombing" allows you to operate not with a hunch that something is deeply off, but with the knowledge that someone is using identifiable tactics to mess with you. …

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