Toxic people suck, right? We all have them in our lives, whether they are family members you just don’t like, or friends who trigger you, or coworkers who get on your nerves –they are those people who always know exactly how to light a fire and explode the room. No matter how prepared you are walking into that experience, it always ends up in flames.
- You can mentally prepare yourself for the snarky, rude remarks.
- You can take a deep breath and put up walls to protect yourself going in.
- You can even numb it with your favorite substance.
But the interaction always – always – ends up leaving you feeling that quiver in the pit of your stomach – the emotions flying around like fireflies of tiny explosions all around you.
So when someone says something like this:
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is in the restraint.”
You want to bitch slap that person into next week.
Because they’ve never dealt with YOUR person, YOUR situation, or felt as awful as you feel.
I get it. For years, I would tell the mindset gurus in my life to suck it because they hadn’t been through anything like I had. They hadn’t suffered like I had. They didn’t feel as deeply as I do, and they sure as hell hadn’t been hurt as badly as I had.
My pain was unique to me. And no amount of generic Instagram quote advice was going to change that.
Until it did.
That quote above is something that I struggled with. How do we NOT have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to us?
Hello!! Emotion is the automatic response to any situation.
- You find out your dad dies, you feel sad. It’s automatic.
- You lose your job, the emotion flies in without question – it’s automatic.
- Someone leaves a rude, personal comment on social against you? It causes an immediate emotional response.
Our emotions happen without our knowledge on autopilot.
How then can we NOT have an emotional reaction to the things that toxic people say to us?
That was my hardest lesson.
YOUR EMOTIONS ARE AUTOMATIC, BUT NOT PERMANENT
In my exploration of this issue, I learned that yes, your emotions are automatic. Can’t get around that.
However, here’s the part that no one talks about:
The continuation of those immediate emotions is a choice we make.
When something happens, we have no choice but to feel the emotions that come out of us – whatever they are.
But we do have the choice to continue feeling them when we realize how terrible they feel.
And that’s the kicker and the hardest part: noticing when your feelings feel fucking terrible to you and being willing to deliberately stop that.
We all have toxic people in our lives. People who don’t understand you and people who are committed to misunderstanding you. They cannot see past their own issues enough to realize they are hurting you. They make rude remarks. They don’t support you. They talk down to you. They try so hard to make themselves feel better by abusing you verbally.
In the moments when the toxic people of our lives bring out the worst in you, it’s not about stopping the feelings you feel.
It’s about noticing them and then choosing differently.
Imagine you find yourself triggered yet again by your mother in law. No matter what situation you find yourself in, she always manages to make a snide, ignorant remark that is in some way demeaning to you. She’s a narcissist and loves pushing buttons to make herself feel more powerful.
You’re pissed. You’re triggered. The emotions are flying all over the place, and suddenly you find yourself feeling miserable. Your stomach hurts, you feel the anxiety butterflies in your belly, and you want to run out of the room.
That feeling is instant, and unstoppable. You cannot stop it.
What you can do: notice it. Pay attention to it. Label it.
“I’m feeling anxious right now because she judged me, and that feeling sucks.”
When you notice it, and you label it, you can deliberately choose not to stay there.
Can you make yourself feel joy immediately after anxiety? No. But you can move to something that feels better: understanding.
One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in my years of mindset work is this:
When negative, toxic people come at you, it’s never about you.
Your mother in laws remark? It’s about her insecurities. It’s about her issues. It’s about her beliefs and the way she sees the world.
It’s not about you.
So instead of staying in that anxiety feeling after she was so rude to you, remind yourself:
“That wasn’t actually about me. It was rude, but she obviously has something going on. I hope she’s ok.”
When you actively say this to yourself it accomplishes 2 things:
ONE: It changes your perspective on the situation from being the victim to being the observer of whatever she’s got going on.
It’s no longer about you, but about her journey through her own shit. You can literally now look at her comments with a more objective perspective and realize that she isn’t attacking YOU, she’s outing herself and sharing with the room that things are not ok.
TWO: It moves your vibration from anxiety to one of concern. Concern is better feeling than anxiety.
Here’s the thing: this is hard. It’s so hard.
When you’re in the middle of heavy emotion, it’s HARD to move yourself out of it. It’s HARD to stop that kind of momentum.
When you have toxic people around you, and they push all the right buttons and cause you to feel something terrible, it’s very difficult to choose differently.
But you can. Even the simple action of acknowledging how you feel and paying attention can often be enough to diffuse the big emotions and move you into something less terrible feeling.
The next time you’re in a situation that is triggering you (and you’re not in physical danger), ask yourself this one question:
Is any of this really about me?
Almost 100% of the time, you’ll find that it’s not, and that knowledge will give you the perspective to begin to choose a new feeling, but also the ability to take your power back and witness the situation instead of immerse yourself inside of it.
If you need help with this, check out the Slow Living 101 program – we’re talking all about how to handle toxic people, and slow down your life in a way that prioritizes peace.