La Coop P.A.- General and Forensic Psychiatry - Boutique-Private Psychiatric and Forensic Practice in Tampa-Clearwater-Florida


June, 2012 - TOXIC PEOPLE and what to do when they bother you


This newsletter idea was given to me by a patient who has dealt with the same toxic person for many years. Since she has seen me, however, this is no longer the case and her quality of life is dramatically better. Not only that, but removal of that stressor has allowed us to see other areas where she can improve her life and that is exactly what she is doing!

I hope that you all are using this summer to discover in yourself things that you could improve on. We all could improve on something, but it really takes a strong person to take the bull by the horns and do something about it!

Until next month!

Dr. L

What is a TOXIC person?

IDENTIFY: We have all been around them - people that just make our blood boil or just zap all of our energy when we are around them. This person could be a relative or a colleague. They could even be a spouse or a child. This is a person that makes you feel bad to be who you are, or just runs you ragged trying to make them happy at your expense.

DEFEND against them: If you've ever heard the phrase, "the best defense is a good offense," this fits this situation perfectly. These people cannot be defended against because if they could - you would have already taken care of them. Nice people (as most of my patients are) typically avoid them by trying to run away or passively being "too busy" to do things with the offending person. This is OK, but it doesn't fix the problem. It just puts it off until you are cornered or until the phone rings again and you have to answer it. Or until you have to take your kids to see grandma and grandpa and one of those are the offender. It will never end if you passively handle it. Additionally, it will continue to grate on your mind - eating at you and passively poisoning you through your own thoughts and guilt.

ASSESSMENT: Toxic people tend to take control early and keep it by leveraging something against you to keep you there (money, time, services, etc.). Imagine your life without this person and then objectively look at the leverage object and see if you can live your life without them in it. Can you put something into your life to take their place that is much less toxic without putting yourself out too much? Most of the time, the answer is "yes." Unfortunately, we get lazy, don't like change, or we are fearful that they provide something else that we can't see that will be missed once they are out of our lives. Or....we could secretly like that pain that the person causes. This is something that you have to seriously look at and we can do that in treatment.

TAKE CONTROL: Now, you need to either confront the person about the way that they make you feel. Or, if you have already done that and the TOXIC behavior persists - then you have no choice, but to take more dramatic action. The confrontation may not be easy, but it may surprise you. It may have all been a big misunderstanding. Once you set the boundary down - you may find that you may even like this person that has been killing you all of this time. Let them know that the behavior (list behaviors) has been bothering you and that you would like it to stop. They may ask you what you want them to do instead and you have to have that answer ready for them. You may even have to write it down for them. Now, you need to be prepared to tell them and follow through with the consequence if they don't respect your boundary.

LAST RESORT - EXCISION OF TOXIC PERSON: If you speak with them and they essentially deny that they have caused any problem, diminish your value, and are rationalizing their behavior in some way then you have no choice but to take them out of your life. This person has no significant purpose in your life but to use you, make you feel bad, and hurt you or those you love for their own personal gain. Now when I talk with patients about this - they feel that this is extreme because they can't imagine that a person would do that. The reality is - they do. Sometimes they know what they are doing and sometimes they don't. In either case - they aren't changing their behavior and because you value yourself and your life - they need to be out of it - BOTTOM LINE.

Believe me - I know this from experience and I wouldn't have the life that I have now without having done this on at least one occasion.

Dr. L

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