Toxic People: A Seminar I Might Be Starring In

So, I have a couple of somewhat useless degrees in psychology (mostly because I chose to become a stay at home mom moments after finishing my graduate degree and haven’t had a chance to use it) and my husband is a Speech Therapist (he always makes me write it in caps). That means we get things in the mail like this: Toxic People: Living and Working With High-Conflict Individuals (A Seminar For Health Professionals). This one really caught my attention because I live with some high conflict people and I may even be called one myself if my husband had any say in this blog (yeah, I am sticking my tongue out in his general direction – write you’re own blog, buddy). In all seriousness, the high conflict person in our family is a toddler so, you know, hopefully she’ll outgrow it.

The truth is though, I am like a toxic person magnet. People with serious problems, anger issues, and an overall crankster personality are attracted to me in some twisted karmic way and I want to put an end to it. Yeah, I know, you’re going to say we all have this problem, but I am not talking about the family member that turns toxic in short bursts, drives you crazy for a while and them mysteriously goes back to normal. I am talking about people with pervasive problems that latch onto you and eventually make you exhausted and ill. I’m talking about dangerous stalker types that fixate and make plans to somehow ruin you or make you scared and miserable. I’m talking about people who end up in jail sooner or later and you are not surprised at all. I think this is what got me into psychology in the first place. I mean what the heck, why does my smiling at you once mean I want you to follow me around the grocery store making creepy comments and giving me unwanted once overs?

Then, there are also the people that latch onto you and dump all of their problems on you (problems that they don’t really want to do anything about). They want you to listen to them complain about life, people, situations endlessly, but they have no real interest in doing much about it. The kind of people whose friendship is all about you listening to them gripe and when they are hard pressed they can barely remember your name or what your favorite food is. They don’t know anything about you because they don’t actually listen to what you say. To them you are just an object that nods, listens and occasionally murmurs encouraging words, words (to them) that sound like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon. Then, in an instant they turn on you, hate you, and try to make your life miserable for something you did, but you never find out what that something was. You’re just standing there dumbfounded wondering if they are going to come to your house later and throw a rock through your window. Yeah, I attract those types too.

It’s not easy to make friends because the entire time I am wondering if they are eventually going to turn into a raging bully with lunatic tendencies. I’ve become a picky friend chooser. I’m thinking can you fill out this questionnaire and pee in this cup before we make plans for lunch? Sometimes my magnetic pull on the unstable is so strong that I am afraid to leave the house. I am hoping this seminar will tell me where the off button is so I can go out into the world untarnished by the unrepentant weirdos in the world. I’m tired of playing defense. I want to meet nice people for a change.

The seminar promises to instruct me on how to be “…proactive with difficult people and difficult situations.” and give me tips on “Expressing needs safely to facilitate meaningful change.” My all time favorite thing the seminar claims to help with is “Creating Boundaries: who should you not interact with and why.” Yes, that is what I need. I need better boundaries. I need to learn to say, “NO!” in a loud and commanding voice. My father-in-law recently told me that “no” was the easiest and shortest word in the English language to say. Even my 21 month old daughter says it with more ease and forcefulness than I do. It’s her default answer. She always says no and asks questions later. I admire her for that. I hope I can start being more courageous and more honest with people in my life. I am learning. Baby-steps here and baby steps there. So far, people don’t really like the changes I am making. Sometimes my saying no causes tantrums and foot stomping (from adults not children) and I just have to be still and wait for it to pass.

I’m signing up for this seminar. Friends and family beware. A loud “no” might be in your future. I’m going to stop being the doormat and start being the door, at least in theory. I’m not striving for perfection, but maybe some equilibrium. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t turn out to be the crazy one because that’s certainly a possibility. Of course, I use the term “crazy” loosely, especially when it applies to me.



I attended the seminar. Want to hear about my experience? Read about it here: We Attend “The Toxic” People Seminar….

12 thoughts on “Toxic People: A Seminar I Might Be Starring In”

  1. Oh, how I understand this.. I've had more than one “friend” that likes to talk at me, while I forever try to give advice that is never heeded. Needless to say, we haven't stayed friends long.. and wacky enough they “unfriended” me…lol! (Just like what happened to you…)

    1. Yep, for some reason you become the bad guy! How funny, people are fascinating aren't they? I am amused and entertained when I can get some perspective on the relationship.

  2. It took me 30-some years to finally figure out that anybody who lists a major life tragedy or personal issue within a first meeting is so NOT my style. Low maintenance friends are the best. Should they happen to go through a tragedy once they've cleared protocol, that's fine. That I can deal with. The rest? RUN!

    1. It's funny that you would say it took you 30-some years to come to this conclusion. There is something about being in your 30's that changes the way you want to interact with people. I've been discussing this among my 30-something friends and we're all starting to have a lower tolerance for crappy people. I love the idea of your new friends having to clear protocol. That's what I'm talking about and so what I need to do in my life right now.

  3. oh… i think you and i could be friends. i am totally over psychos. i have determined that fate teaches us until we are finished learning the lessons. i wrote a post called “listen to your gut or what happens when you don't” sometime in april about the last stray in my life that i kicked to the curb. jeee-sus she was a mess. still is; i see her ranting and bitching and being all rollercoasty on facebook and her blog and i have to admit: i like to watch the crazy. i'm a sadistic bitch at times and while i would love for her to get well, she won't; there's no audience in recovery.

    i've been through about 6 of 'em — all based in familiarity from a dynamic i shared with a prominent female in my life as a child. … guess whoooo?

    i'm thrilled i found you (as i said a moment ago) and now i'm going to follow you on twitter. wee-hew!

    take care. -m

    1. It's easy to get addicted to the drama…even other people's. When you grow up with it, it starts to feel like home. At some point you change and realize how boring it all really is and stessful. I'm on a new path and I have to say I am much happier this way! When you have limited time to spend with people you want to spend it with the best people you can find!

  4. Funny, I was thinking about attending this workshop. It’s easy to get conned by these people unfortunately. I think the subtype you’re thinking about fits the category of borderline personality and usually are not amenable to change their ways. They are usually deeply ambivalent about authority figures so they seek your help but are not really interested in getting anything else but confirmation that they got a raw deal in life. You’re right to be wary of them.

    1. I found the workshop to be both entertaining and informative. I’d recommend attending it to anyone who is interested in this topic. I was given some useful tools to help me deal with people. Almost a year later and I’d say I have achieved some equilibrium. Thanks for commenting and giving me a chance to reflect on the changes I have made.

      My writing here is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I use humor to get through difficult times. I was going through one of those times with some friends and family when I wrote this. Not to mention, before attending the seminar I was feeling a bit skeptical myself.

      1. Lily understanding temperament differences(ala Dr. David Keirsey and pathology has helped me considerably. These folks have little tolerance for internal stress and you can shift instantly in their eyes from potential helper to total bunghole if you say something that evokes it for them (like getting them to talk about their past family relationships). That’s why they can be so unreasonable and explosive.
        As far as friendships, I’d look elsewhere (lol).

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