Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Toxic Friend? Probably Not

What kind of people should you surround yourself with? I often see memes, or even articles written to help people live better lives describing the kind of company that we might keep to achieve this. The attributes are usually something along the lines of curious, positive, grateful, exciting, and many more. The issue that I take with these quick to feel better type of advice remedies is that the qualities listed are not really describing people as much as emotional states. All of us might be all those, and then the opposite of all those things listed in one week, yet we are the same person. Somewhere along the line it has becoming unbecoming to feel, much less display, any negative emotions. As if us humans are not designed to feel the whole gamut of the emotional rainbow without worrying that we are not only failing at out own lives, but that we might be labeled as toxic by our friends. Now, don't get me wrong, there most certainly is such a thing as a toxic person, and it's likely we all know
at least one. However, that word has become such a buzzword in western psychology that it's now being applied by laypeople outside of therapists offices to anyone that makes us feel slightly uncomfortable, thus taking away the seriousness of a situation of actually dealing with a person who is toxic.

What started out as a positive thinking movement has turned into what almost seems like an opportunity for people to deny support to their friends, and family when they need it most, excusing themselves with assertions of boundaries, when what they really mean is that they just don't want to be disturbed by feeling uncomfortable.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the idea, or even the application of positive thinking. I have used some principles of it combined with some other techniques, and have had some really good results in my life. I, however, do not feel shame when I am not feeling positive. I accept that my life (as does others) is a long, rich experience of ups, and downs as it should be. Tragedy, sadness, and unfortunate events can, and do happen, just as joyous events, and moods do.They all shape us into who we are if we don't put too much value on some feelings, and experience, and feelings, while trying to unhealthily push away others. 

We are not our emotional states. We, as humans, are much more than temporary feelings. I hate hearing someone who is in distress apologize for feeling upset, or worse even, not say anything at all, because they don't think they're allowed to. I feel we would be a much more emotionally healthy, and stable nation if we were taught at a young age to accept all of our feelings, and all of our thoughts as valid, and temporary.


  1. I so agree!!! While I believe in boundaries in relationships I think its often more of an infringement of who you are as a person as a whole when people cross boundaries and not based on a state of emotion. The Book Necessary Endings really helped me with that line...I completely agree though that we should not label people toxic simply when they are having a bad day!

    1. There are some people we do really, really need to stay away from, and I know we both get that, because we both have had people in our lives that required it.But, then there are people that I have seen do this to their friends when their friends are grieving, or some other tragedy, and they claim it's for their own mental health. I think that's such a selfish way to be. It really erodes what it means to be a good friend.

    2. Really big difference here, and I am glad you made it explicit! Boundaries can be tricky, especially for some of us neurodivrese folks, so this is key.
      Thanks and love,

  2. There is a HUGE difference between a toxic person and a person having a bad day, or even going through a rough patch. I personally try to give people the benefit of the doubt (sometimes for too long, even) before I'll consider them as someone who is not healthy for my life. People are too quick to use that label these days without quite understanding the impact it actually has.


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