I should have trusted my instincts.
Because the painful discovery that like poison ivy, some people are easier to avoid than to get rid of cost me dearly.
Such people fall into a category I call, toxic connections!
You know the type: people who leave you thinking you’re not as smart as the are; or the ones that suck all the oxygen out of the room leaving you feeling weak and vulnerable (just as they intended); or those who knowingly create problems for you, then appear as your white knight as the only solution available while ensnaring you in an even worse problem. And these are only the obvious examples! The truly insidious ones are much, much worse.
These are the ones who build you up by telling you only what you want to hear, then pulling out the mental, emotional or financial rug from under you at the worst possible moment, leaving you gasping for breath with no friend in sight and no place to hide. Often such personalities are very clever in subtly setting the hook, so that you cannot even point out the time when the symptoms began.
Unwittingly, many years ago, my involvement many years ago with such an individual caused me more trouble than I could ever have imagined, underscoring the fact that truth is indeed stranger than fiction on this subject. Happily I have terminatedly extricated myself from the immediate clutches of the toxicity – but still carry with me the psychic scars of the trauma.
This syndrome is something I have termed PTCS or “post toxic-connection syndrome“- if only to remind me of what I lived through and now recognize for what it is. This essay is written to open others’ eyes for what to avoid and to expose such personalities for what they truly are: toxic connections.
Be certain of one thing: when your life is failing, has become stressful, full of worry, self-doubt, trouble, or impending disaster – you have unwittingly been infected with the venom of a toxic connection. And like the bite of a rattlesnake, failure to take effective action immediately can be fatal to your dreams, your goals and your life.
“To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” – from the famed soliloquy by the Bard of Avon – requiring a cleansing of your psyche of the stain of a toxic connection – is something I would wish on no other person. And the process of extricating yourself is more difficult than learning to avoid them in the first place.
The fact that there are bad people in the world doesn’t change just because it is a hard fact to face. In hindsight the symptoms are obvious. Your natural forgiving nature tends to justify the oddities and aberrations in others (“but they seemed so friendly and helpful”) while at the same time thinking that there must be something wrong with you!
People with toxic tendencies are constantly seeking out your weak points to expose any slight flaw in your character where you might be compromised. When found, the seduction is begun with one basic technique: they tell you what you want to hear.
Perhaps because of the aliveness, the élan vital of artists and other creative, productive people, they become magnets for the toxic individual. For example, the budding actor will often hear, “I’ve got the ear of the producer, I’ll get you in there,” or to the musician, “I know the producer of that festival, I’ll make sure you get top billing” or your ‘best friend’ who, under the guise of helping you, manages to sabotage your new creative project. Also in the world of business you’ll often hear, “I’ve got it on good authority that a stock split is going to happen soon, invest now and you’ll be set for life;” saying exactly what you wanted to hear and making you think you’re finally on the ‘inside track.’
Another particularly distasteful manipulation used by this personality type is the “religious affection trust,” or “affinity trust.” It is a scam commonly used by the financial predator. The trust of the group is gained and betrayed by someone first gaining your trust by representing him or herself as “a true believer, or someone just like you” – telling you just what you want to hear. Strip away their social veneer and you won’t like what you see; under that pleasant manner and glib conversation you’ll find a vicious and diabolical plan to manipulate, control and fleece you, all the while masquerading as a force for good. You end up hearing what you want to hear, seeing what you want to see and ignoring the obvious facts and your natural instincts, all to your detriment.
The fact that you trust them effectively blinds you from really looking into the true nature of what they are really doing. Why? It’s obvious. No one wants to admit they are wrong. You trusted him or her and that was a mistake. This is one reason why people consistently overlook the clear indicators that something is rotten. The three hardest words at say, evidently, are: “I was wrong.”
Various other schemes and con games could easily fill a large text and are the stock in trade for the toxic personality – but they always operate basically the same way: They tell you want you want to hear. They do this in an attempt to get past your “BS detector” so they can set you up to be used, dominated by nullification and making nothing of your abilities and experience. They will stop at nothing to keep you from seeing what they are really doing (and it’s not a pretty sight). To them, you’re a disposable asset, used and discarded for their own personal gain.
Remember: If you’re only hearing what you want to hear, you don’t know the whole story and you’re in danger of being set up.
Losing anything is painful. Losing your dreams, your goals, your soul, is another thing entirely. Facing the fact that some people just want to see you weak and failing is a bitter pill to swallow. But, through some convoluted logic, some people just don’t want you to win. They are totally self-interested, self-absorbed, dangerous and weak, and they can’t stand the spotlight of truth being shown in their direction.
The longer such individuals go undetected, the more deadly they become. Ignore the symptoms at your peril, as things will only get worse with them around; they are a menace to your life, your standard of living, your mental and physical health. . . anything is better than staying connected with people like this.
Important note: if you noticed some toxic characteristics of your own in this writing, you most surely are not one. Self-examination and correction is not a luxury these types can entertain or grasp, as in their minds, they are always right anyway, so they never feel the need to change.
Now that we’ve figured out what is going on, lets examine the antidote to toxic connections.
An antidote is something that counteracts or nullifies the effect of a poison or toxin and takes away the bad effect experienced earlier. For example, if you know you’ve been infected with some known poison and take immediate action to get the antidote, you’ll survive the experience and perhaps even learn from it.
If you don’t recognize that you’ve been bitten by a toxic personality, and instead just try to ignore or cover up the symptoms, your mental, physical and financial life is in peril. Pretending that you didn’t get bitten or calling it something else, will not help, in fact, it will allow it to worsen. Being unwilling to avail yourself of a cure when you have the opportunity to do so is suicide.
The antidote process breaks down to four fundamental steps:
1. WHAT is really going on?
An ancient Chinese proverb says it best: “Wisdom begins by calling things by their right name.” Just being willing to recognize and call it for what it is will often diminish and even nullify the poison emanating from such toxic connections.
2. WHO is causing the trouble?
Discovering exactly who or what is causing all the turmoil and trouble in your life will often diminish the stress instantly; but you still need to take action and do something. The only mistake you can make is to do nothing.
3. HANDLE by whatever means possible.
Don’t wait. Use what you’ve got, where you are, right now! Avoid the toxic connection if feasible; move; get a transfer; even change jobs: get some effective counseling or a divorce if nothing else works; sometimes all you’re left with is threatened or actual legal action; join a new group; make new friends; build up the positive connections and thereby diminish the negative. Again, the wrong thing to do is nothing. Do what you’ve got to do when you’ve got to do it!
4. CHANGE. Get into motion; become active and create or produce more than you were doing before. Change your life, your habits, your friends, your job, your location; gather up your old projects and get rid of them or get them done, exercise, talk to people, get outside, get up earlier in the morning, join a group, read a book, write a journal, ride a bike, go on a trip, get on that horse and ride! Do anything . . . but do something! This keeps morale high and your attention on the future instead of having it stuck in the past. You’ll come out stronger than you were when you started.
But if nothing you can do will handle the situation you must sever the connection regardless of the consequences. It is lethal not to do so.
Your future and your life depend upon taking action now. It is vital that once you have observed the situation correctly and come to a reasoned decision, you must act. Either take effective action to handle them, or get rid of them. Now!
Here is a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which supports this concept:
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now!”
And remember, the wrong thing to do is nothing!
Okay. Got it?
Now, what are you waiting for? Start!
daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2006, all rights reserved