This title suggests that too many people have difficulty recognizing when they come into contact with poison!
Is that true of you? We’re talking about interaction patterns, of course, and not a substance that can be identified or has a distinct taste.
My next book is Ending Manipulation; I’m almost finished with the writing. It’s part of my “Emotions in Motion” Series. You can find out about Book #1, Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System, by visiting my website.
I decided to write about manipulation because I believe we humans are designed to outgrow it as adults. Look around, how many of us actually DO outgrow manipulation? (It’s also called Energy-Sapping or Co-Dependence.) Have you outgrown manipulation?
If not, then you’re still participating in toxic relationships! Depending on how far you’ve gotten in taming your own manipulative behavior, you’ll experience more, or less, intense toxicity. The less you manipulate, the less you’ll encounter manipulation.
A good start to ending your own manipulation is to recognize when someone is a “lifestyle manipulator,” meaning a person who manipulates as the basic interaction pattern of their life. Manipulators follow characteristic patterns in life, which I cover in my upcoming book, Ending Manipulation. There, I share 19 behaviors manipulators engage in. When you encounter these characteristics in the same person, you know you’ve found toxicity! Here, I’ll share a few of those.
Here Are 8 Common Characteristics of A Toxic Person:
We humans are born manipulative. We have to be. Our bodies and brains are not sufficiently developed to survive on our own, so we must have someone to “broker” between us and the outside world. The Lifestyle Manipulator is stuck in this pattern, believing he must have someone who will fill his needs. If there’s nobody around, then there’s no one to be broker! So, if people aren’t around, this individual won’t tolerate aloneness and will be texting, watching videos, be on the phone or pushing others to do with him what he wants to do.
Since manipulation starts as a matter of survival, and the Lifestyle Manipulator is stuck in that pattern, then she must focus on herself. This individual will constantly be looking after number one. You may be amazed that telling her what you need or how things look from your point of view is brushed off or ignored.
Toxic manipulative people often conduct their business unimpeded because others see them as very powerful. Whether they have influence, something others want for themselves, money, or the ability to deliberately make the lives of others miserable, people in their lives see them as powerful and thus don’t set boundaries or refuse to interact. The truth is, manipulative people only have the amount of power we give to them. Keep power for yourself, and they are mush.
A single-eyed person remembers all events in their own favor. I once was negotiating with a man who became frustrated and insisted we bring in an attorney he suggested. I agreed, even though I did not like or trust the attorney. The man paid for the attorney he insisted on having. A year later, in a further negotiation, this man said, “last year, when I paid for the attorney you requested…,” and demanded money from me. I sent him a copy of a letter I had saved. It was in his own handwriting. He clearly requested the attorney. He backed down. Always keep things in writing. If they’re not already in writing, after each interaction, write down what you experienced, and send it in a letter advising the toxic individual “unless I hear from you by ____, I’ll assume you’re in agreement with this statement.” Keep a copy of the letter.
Toxic individuals appear to have interest in others, yet usually are interested only because they are able to collect information they can use as part of future power moves they attempt to make with you. Watch for this. You may feel flattered or loved, yet when you wait a short while, you’ll notice you feel neither!
If you’ve ever had the experience of struggling to keep your eyes open when you’re with someone, yet notice about 20 minutes after you leave their company you are feeling great, then you know the kind of exhaustion Lifestyle Manipulators create for others. The explanation is that they are, literally, draining your personal energy. When you leave, the draining stops, and you feel better!
Because a successful life depends upon others doing the “just right” things for him, the Toxic Person controls. Using criticism, physical threat, slinging guilt, colluding with others against you, reminding you of past transgressions, and more, the Lifestyle Manipulator does whatever it takes to control you.
When I take responsibility for my actions, that’s an act of me standing alone, separate from you. This is terrifying behavior for the Toxic individual and does not occur. Watch for her to accuse others when things go wrong. If you protest or stand up for yourself, listen as she tells you that you are “bad,” “wrong,” and “crazy.” It’s amazing that all toxic folks seem to know this particular sequence and choice of words. Do they all go to the same school?
The bottom line is this: Life on earth is designed to be an adventure, joyous, growth-producing and fun! Anyone who habitually blocks your access to such a life is TOXIC to you!
We’ll all have relationship issues and challenges because that’s the place where we do most of our growing, in relationships. It’s when almost all we do is feel frustrated, angry, guilty, fearful, hesitant, intimidated, and bad that we know our relationship is toxic. There is no law or rule that says anyone needs to stay and endure those feelings.
In Ending Manipulation, I offer a way to permanently extract yourself from toxic manipulative relating. I’m writing (and publishing) as fast as I can! In the meantime, send me your questions to [email protected].
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Ilene Dillon, MSW, has dedicated her life to helping people resolve personal challenges once and for all, then design life to be what they want it to be. A Transformation Specialist, she has worked 50 years as a psychotherapist and 15 years as a coach. She is a global speaker, Amazon International Best-selling author (The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, Volumes 1 and 2), podcast guest, and plans to give her first TEDx speech (on Anger) later this year. Ilene is also the author of Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System and End Manipulation: Stop Being Jerked Around by Toxic, Energy-draining People. With her little dog, Pi, Ilene lives and travels full-time throughout North America in her RV, writing, teaching, and speaking along the way.