Have you ever wondered what people mean by "they are a toxic person", "they are poisonous", maybe not a term used that often these days, but the concept is still expressed frequently. What makes a person Toxic, what makes a society toxic, what is toxicity? Basically toxicity is the negative nature of humanity, however, it is not a blatant negativity, in for example murder, crime etc., it is rather a more insidious slow acting, more often, psychological phenomena pervading individual lives, families, communities and even whole societies. More often that not, it is seen by the outsider, but not observed so clearly by those in the midst of the effects of the toxin.
Human toxicity is an insidious poison that effects, and can even affect individuals. The worst part about this toxin, administered by another person in your life, is that others can see it being administered, applied, given to you, yet we ignore their perception. Yes, so many will have said, and I have heard it myself, "I wish I listened to you sooner". However, the reality, we hear all too often is, "you don't really know what they are like", made as a statement in defence of the poisonous administrator, and abuser. Yes, that's it, the toxic person is always an abuser, and it always has a hugely significant psychological element. Even those who suffer physical abuse, and violence in their relationships, their is always a psychological element. This abuse has been around for centuries, and these days some will refer to it as "gas lighting", by what ever name it is called, it is a toxic presence imbedded in our lives by another person.
So what is this toxin, that so covertly gets placed into our lives and absorbed, even consumed so readily by us? It has various forms, but it all boils down to one route source, and that is, Control. Being controlled by another person(s), and this is why the psychology of this abuse is not to be ignored, even where physical abuse, or threats of, are concerned. Being married to someone with personal experience, from a previous relationship, she always says, "the physical scars will heal, and yes you may see them, but it is the psychological scars that are hidden, and hurt the longest." She has shared various accounts with me, to highlight what she has suffered, how it impacted and does impact her still. Also, in my professional role as a nurse, I have also had dealings with men and women who suffered similar abuses.
This toxicity, has many forms, from the undervaluing the victim, whether that is their appearance, and any effort made around that, their contribution around the house, workplace, or social group. There is the belittling deliberately, publicly, belittling and saying things such as "silly you". "he/she never seems to ……", "he/she just can't get it right, they do try", "I always have to help them with......", all very patronising, yet said with a smile, or in a jovial tone in an attempt to mask the insidious undertone of knocking the victims confidence. The abuser will use comparative techniques, such as, "Fred gets his work done so quickly", "Mike always looks so smart when He comes to work" etc. "Joe's wife seems to always look good when she goes to the shops", or "how she does so well working, looking after the kids, and keeping house etc.. Why do you struggle?", Or "Claire's husband found a job... why cant you?", "her partner, he has a job doing...… when are you going to do better?", "Nina's other half has certainly kept himself fit and in shape, a bit of a stud, lucky her!" When physical abuse (domestic violence) is used, the come back is quite often, "it's your fault", "why did you, make me do that", if you didn't ……, I wouldn't have to...." more often than not followed with "you know I love you". These are just a few examples that show the subtle, constant drip feeding of negativity, aimed at undermining an individual. In the work place, school, social setting, they call it bullying, but in the home they call it abuse, They are the same!
Unfortunately as, the victim becomes weakened, by the constant feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, worthlessness, and pain, despite any attempt to impress, they then begin to relinquish control. Therefore the abuser, begins to manipulate them, the toxicity takes hold, and they submit to having their finances managed entirely by the partner, they submit to sexual acts, they don't enjoy, they wear what they are told, the victim will only see those who they have been told they can or cant see/spend time with, all "in love" of course, "because its best for you". That is, they say they love you, the victim, and because of their desire to "protect", "help", "look after" you, and they "just want what's best", when really the love they have is for the control of you, not you. Yes some, will argue in a strange way, they do believe they love you, but is this concept of love, a reflection of the kind of love they experienced themselves. You become distanced from all those you loved, cared about, and valued, family, friends, peers, social groups, such as a darts team etc., but "we don't need them, we have each other", "they were not looking out for you, let me take care of you properly". I had a friend whose husband checked the mileage clock on her car weekly, and questioned any difference, he paid for her mobile phone contract and had a paper bill, so he could see who she called, text etc. I have another friend, whose wife, always insists on having the change back when he bought something from the shop, she gave him the money in the first place, as he was not allowed to carry card or cash, even though he is the primary earner. In fact his wife only allows him to have an older style (non-smart) mobile phone, although, she has a smart phone, an iPad, and choses the appropriate programmes on TV for him/them to watch etc, and woe betide him if he dared to glance at a pretty girl as she walked past... ouch!, yes I 've seen her slap him, hard.
Similarly, in the school, work place and social settings, one finds the victim ends up being the "dogs body", the one who gets the worst seat, the one who is always sent on errands, sent to the bar to by the drinks, drives their friends home, so they "don't have to waist money on a taxi", after all "you don't mind do you!" they are the one who always does the coffee round etc. These are just a few examples of the individual toxicity we all, may have experienced, at a lesser or greater degree at some point in our lives. The problem then, is, is this toxicity contagious? Yes.
So what more needs to be said? It is the understanding that It Is Contagious, that is important, we need, as individuals, families, friends/peers need to recognise this. This individual who likes to dominate, is quick to dismiss others (in particular that one person), is almost too jovial with an individual, they are egocentrically minded, they will be the new partner of your friend who becomes isolated, that individual whose partner moves them further away from their original home, distancing them from greater society. Yes, they play a part well, they appear nice, normal friendly even. However, underneath this façade, quite often is a damaged person, who has learnt behaviours from previous life experiences. Take my female friend I mentioned before, well her husband (now ex, I am pleased to say) had previously, been in an abusive relationship/marriage where he had been controlled etc.. That infectious toxicity was caught, not acknowledged affected him, and began to effect another.
This is so true in society, it only takes one person who seems strong, confident, intelligent, well meaning, and a 'leader' type to affect, and infect, a whole work place, social/peer group, family or community. Interestingly, when the infection occurs, there is always one target of the infected, normally that one person in the office, the class, the peer group, so called friends, that new member (husband/wife/partner etc.) of a family, and within society/communities a minority, the "wrong family", "that group", "those religious....", "those....." People get drawn in by these charismatic individuals, those apparently loving, caring, and supportive partner(s), they (the victim) and doesn't see, chooses not to see, or are blinded by emotion etc, in the first instance, at least, and becomes fearful, they are now a dependant, "I cant leave!"
So what can we do to stop the spread of this virus? What can we do to prevent cross infection? How do we "nip it in the bud"? Now that is the hard part. There is no easy answer, there is no one solution, there is no one policy that can solve this insidious problem. However, we can all do our part, learn, share, and acknowledge the signs, listen to our friends, families etc., Listen to that inner voice, that says, "something isn't right." We need to support each other, to see the toxicity in those that would want to control, whether that is in school, work, amongst our friends, family or partner. Bare in mind, that the victim of abuse, may have very strong emotions involved, these emotions can be blinding, binding and difficult to override simply with logic. For those drawn in by the dominant in work, again there may be fear involved, as the dominant bully maybe a higher grade, or position, for those within our peer/friendship group the dominant may be the ring leader, so a loss of friends may be a fear. However, through all of this, Please remember also, that the abuser, the one controlling, may themselves have been a victim, and that the control, the belittling, the invalidating, may be a way of them compensating, regaining control in their lives, and finding their own validation and status. Its time to be considerate, time to be open, time to support and to seek help.