Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tired of Toxic People? Time to Get Curious


We see these quotes, concepts and ideas thrown about on social media related to ditching the toxic people, get them out of your life and just flat out do not engage or hang around with them.  You hear about them in the work-place, in family gatherings and even during social interactions with friends.  Believe me, in my life-time I have had my share of people I might perceive as toxic that would lead my ego to completely agree with the idea of ditching toxic people

Here’s the thing and there is a thing, in this world it takes all kinds of people to make the world work, from saints to sinners, sane to crazy and creative to mundane.  This world can seem a crazy place and anyone you hang out with or situations you engage in that create toxic energy for you is not a healthy thing to do until at least, you begin to understand what is really happening.

I can only explain this concept by asking a question.  When people do the crazy things that they do that evoke that toxic feeling reaction from within you, aren’t you at least a little curious about what within you would give those folks permission to slide in right underneath your skin and irritate or hurt you?

In a world where pop-psychology is so mainstream, we all get the basic idea of “People who attack and insult you are telling you about them and not you.”  For the most part, I really think this is true.  But there is something else going on here too.  When you react to toxic people you are giving them permission to get your goat.  If you weren’t giving them permission, it wouldn’t bother you as much as it does.  So, where is your goat tied up and how on Earth was it created?

Let’s face it, we’ve all lived on planet Earth and experienced both the joyful and unsavory aspects of it.  We’ve all taken on some form of malware in the operating system of our psyches whether we are aware of it or not.  In every interaction, it takes two to create the reaction.  There is stimulus recognized and then there is reaction.  But what if we realized we didn’t have to react to begin with?

Lets go back to curious again for a minute.  Consider carefully for just a moment the following question:  What within you would give someone permission to seemingly control your emotions?  I’m not going to dig into anyone’s psychology because that is just none of my business.  What I’d like to do is empower you with some thoughts that might shift your perspective just long enough for you to understand the true intent and purpose of an exchange. 

When someone can so easily “push your buttons,” did you ever wonder about where the buttons came from?  How come you have a button to push?  People go on all day long about this or that and nothing sticks to you that you know with certainty is untrue.  You’ll hear something insanely thrown at you and you won’t react.  But the moment someone pushes your button or you’ve let them under your skin (towards that very tender place where the button was created at some point in your history), you’ve shifted your focus externally in defense when the internal concepts, goats and buttons are really trying to get your attention – not for the guy or gal who seems to be putting you in that position but for you.  You are reacting and that reaction is deserving of some curiosity.

I don’t mean to suggest that we walk this life like zombies, never feeling, never reacting and never acting, well, normal.  I mean to suggest that with some understanding, you may be less perturbed by what you feel is unsavory behavior in others.  You may find that button within you, understand it and heal any wounding beneath it thus eliminating the possibility forever more that someone with ill intent can find it to push it.  And there are always other strategies too – get off the battlefield for starters before you engage in something you may later regret by immersing in the toxicity or the blind reacting stage of having your buttons pushed. 

When we’re emotionally triggered, we can’t think straight and we certainly cannot be curious about anything.  The better cause of valor may be to close your mouth and shut down defensive thoughts and contemplate that urge rising from your core with emotion.  Speak again only when you can respond rather than react.  Find understanding and get curious before you engage in any button pushing attempts you perceive from another.

All of these interactions and human to human verbal skirmishes are designed to get you to look within you and understand the amazing wonder that you are.  That is a bit hard to see when your light is buried under years of debris created by unchallenged beliefs about yourself, your world and the people who have been or are in your life. 

Dealing with toxic people is a challenge but it can also be an opportunity.  But opportunities can be taken advantage of only by those aware enough that they exist and also those who are curious enough to explore for proactive prevention of recurring reactions.  It’s really all up to you and how you most wish to spend your time and energy here in life.   This world is amazing and so is every single aspect of humanity, especially you.  Consider what makes you tick, focus on your own behavior and let the toxic people be as they are.  You can’t change them.  Only they have the power to do that.

I can tell you that as weird as it sounds, I’m really grateful for the toxic people that have crossed my path.  When I got so sick of reacting I began to realize I could learn from my reactions.  I’m a root cause, fix-it kind of person.  I don’t like the feeling of reacting and definitely not because of the psychology of toxic people.  Spoilers: I’ve learned to see that toxic people bring up the toxicity within me.  When I see that, I have a beautiful opportunity to detoxify my own beliefs and thinking.  Sometimes it takes at lot of reflection and courage to look within.  It takes great strength and integrity of character to honor yourself by allowing people to be who they are without your input…even toxic people.

Some food for thought. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy some of my books.  Please check them out if you’d like at  If you’re interested in a little help with spiritually exploring your buttons, I am in the business of consulting and would be honored to assist you.  Just visit me at to learn more about me and what I do.

© 2015 J.L. Harter (photo and words)

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