Ok, let’s first assume that you have already figured out how to remove the toxicity from yourself and from your own attitude and behavior. You haven’t? Then, stop reading here, and let’s work on that first. Come back to this article a bit later in the journey. Hey, I’m still there for you! We will just work on first things first, and then talk about the environmental toxicity.
Now, for those ready to tackle the environmental toxicity, let’s continue.
Let’s talk about what toxicity is NOT. While abuse is toxic, my reference to toxicity here is not abuse. If you are being abused, GET OUT! Let’s also be careful how we define abuse. I will not give you a precise definition, but abuse is not something where your husband accidentally leaves his slippers out an inch from under the bed, you slightly trip, and a nail is broken. But, then, lest I sound like I would insult anyone’s intelligence, I am sure that we already know this, eh?
So, what I am referring to here is a toxic environment that is NOT abuse and is not the toxicity that is within (and controllable within) yourself. Albeit, environmental toxicity can at least attempt us to become toxic, or want to become toxic!
In very general terms, toxicity is a negative environment, created verbally, non-verbally, behaviorally, etc, but not necessarily personally directed with intention (although it often masquerades and “feels” that way).
Here are some steps to get you going. I am going to summarize them, here, but may dig deeper, as needed in other posts:
- Remove yourself from the toxic environment. Whenever possible, if you have the ability to do so, leave. If it is really toxic, start talking to your counselors, friends, etc. about options on how you can get out, if that is an option that is open to you.
- Learn the perspective differences. I am not defending the toxicity, by any means, but something that helped me is to realize the differences in perspective and specifically cultural differences. In my case, the person was used to saying what he thought was encouraging, but was, in my opinion highlighting and criticizing every potential flaw in my life, which doesn’t exactly give you a feeling of “up” when you are done. A loved one pointed out that my Southern California PC (Politically Correct) view on life could be offensive. For those of you who know about PC, one of the goals is to not be offensive, or at least not appear offensive. I couldn’t understand how anyone could be offended by my PC view on life. Isn’t that ironic?!
Then, I began to look at some of the issues. While I can’t stand the thought of an animal being hurt, someone else may come from a family heritage where hunting was a way of life. While I view that since the discussion of hunting may offend me, the other person shouldn’t discuss it (“PC” rules), they may find my “hoity toity” ways so offensive that they will discuss it all the more to prove the point. Do you get an idea of where this is going? So, the toxicity is, at the least, magnified simply by the different viewpoints.
- Minimize your time in the toxic environment. Before it looks like I have a snap answer for everything and all I’m saying is “get out” or “suck it up,” the last tip is to make the most of the situation, as best you can, while re-evaluating step #1, if the situation is truly eating you up. Is the environment in your home and you have nowhere else to go? Find distractions like music (using headphones), tv, taking walks, etc. I am not a big fan of escapism (spending your whole life in front of the TV), but the alternative of feeling down and negative against yourself is not ideal either. With this third option, coupled with the continued evaluation of whether the first option is open to you, or could be made open to you, retain hope that you are moving forward. It may be slow, but each baby step, or partial baby step is that much closer to removing yourself from toxicity.
Let me leave you with the icing. However, you will not really taste this icing until you have finished going through the ugly portion of this period of your life. If you practice these steps, calmly, without turning the toxic environment into a continual fighting match or World War III, you will see that your character and inner strength have grown and you will be better equipped for what you face in the future…. and better able to help others, should you desire to do so.
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