How To Use The Word ‘Toxic’ For Personal Therapy

It’s not just a word; it’s a way of thinking

Some possible emotional wounds or needs that may act as ‘receptors’ for real or imagined toxicity. Photo by Photo by Susan Wilkinson

Toxic has got to be the most used, the most diabolically powerful word of our times. It began with ‘toxic masculinity’, a term coined by a group of self-aware men who were so disgusted with traditional male traits such as violence and competitiveness that they resorted to male-only retreats that incorporated certain rituals to purge out their toxicity and gain some deeply, centered, calm.

But that was the 1980s and this is 2021. We are highly self-aware and empowered to fight for what we deserve. Moreover, the demands of modern life leave us too emotionally depleted to deal with the toxicity from difficult people.

The explosion of personal awareness, trauma therapy, and how everyone deserves to be happy have propelled our responses to perceived emotional, verbal, and psychological toxicities to a whole new level. To safeguard their happiness, many people are on guard against toxic people, places, or worldviews.

The most fantastic part about our perception of relational toxicity is that you get to choose who and what is toxic. Your idea of personal happiness sets the rules of definition because it is strictly about you.

For example, if your boss frequently calls you out for slacking, you can call them toxic; no worries.
If your co-workers tend to downplay your skills, call them toxic; no worries.
If your government enacts policies that you disagree with, call it toxic; no worries.
And if a caring friend tries to dislodge you from despair before you are ready, dismiss them for toxic positivity.

In short, if people misunderstand you or ignore you altogether, if they confuse your wit with silliness, if you can’t take any critique or criticism, take a free pass at the toxic label.

‘Toxic’ is the current adjective of choice. It will instantly silence annoying people and relegate anyone and anything you disapprove of into irrelevance.

The inability to fully express one’s emotions is believed to contribute to relational toxicity. Photo by Amin Moshrefi

To absolve yourself of all responsibility in the tango of toxicity, I suggest you ignore your own fragility. Don’t acknowledge that the root of your discomfort might be that you hoped to feel valued, respected, or accepted, which the toxic person failed to recognize.

To this effect, be sure to silence that inner voice nudging you to see that your disappointment or anger might be because when the person or situation did not serve your needs, it felt like a negative statement about your worth. Ignore the fact that it is not exactly happiness you were fighting for in this instance, but that you expected the toxic person to see how good you are, or believe in you as much as you believe in yourself.

One of the biggest threats to finding, labeling, silencing, and punishing toxic people is relational courage. So squash that as well if you have any. Considering ways you might save a situation that did not serve you and was not your fault is not really what you deserve.

While hunting down toxicity in your world, remember to incorporate some victim mentality and hypersensitivity. These are excellent in helping you spot and rage at toxic people and elements around you. No one noticed your sacrificial service? Or let you onto your turning lane during peak hour traffic? Or did someone put you on the spot when they knew you could not defend yourself? Yep, they all be toxic, baby. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Also, it may help to leave out self-critique lest it lead you to self and other-awareness, forcing you to consider the other party’s viewpoint. After all, it’s almost always the other person at fault. Why allow their ignorance, self-centeredness, and vindictiveness to steal your happiness? In any case, you are not likely to exhibit any of these markers of toxicity towards anyone at any time.

Don’t even tell them toxics how they made you feel or invite them to reconciliation. Toxic people and places don’t deserve that. Besides, initiating a vulnerable conversation might create relational tension, which you would rather avoid. Why risk vulnerability when the use of the ‘toxic’ label would guarantee instant results?

So, go ahead, call people and places toxic and walk away from them. Then tell yourself how happy you are while tons of residual negative feelings from these toxicities weigh on your heart every day. Try to ignore your dis-ease about this baggage of negative feelings. They are not your responsibility because they were not triggered by your actions.

At the conclusion of this process, step out into the fresh air. Let the wind caress your face as you breath in happiness. Feel how empowered you are; how decisive. You did it. You shoved them toxics out the door of your personhood!

Constantly scanning for toxicity can take over our lives and choke out the spontaneity of a giving spirit. Photo by Ivan Bandura

To recap, here is a summary on how to use the word ‘toxic’ to safeguard your happiness in modern times:
 a) Identify an attitude, a person, conduct, or environment that you believe violates your worldview, happiness, or peace of mind
 b) Label it as toxic
 c) Exit the relationship or environment without self-reflection, analysis, or attempt at a resolution. 
 d) Convince yourself of the happiness this decision has brought you while lugging the residual negativity from the said toxicity every day
e)Should your conscience tug at you to reconcile the relationship, dismiss it by recounting all the ways that the said person displays toxicity and how undeserving they are of your acknowledgement, love, or forgiveness.
 f) Repeat

It’s called blame and self-avoidance therapy. I am an expert. Reach out to me if you need more tips.

Reading notes:
As this is a satirical piece of writing, taking it literally would amount to missing it altogether.

Cover Photo by Emma Matthews

3 thoughts on “How To Use The Word ‘Toxic’ For Personal Therapy

  1. jomariebearth says:

    Hello Nini!
    As usual, you never disappoint!
    But first I must give a massive congratulations to Australia for the Women’s Swimming 4×100 free relay GOLD metals. Bravo for kicking global butts in the Olympic pool and breaking a world record time!
    Now, let’s get toxic! I do love this word. Tag, I’m guilty. I exercise compartmentalizing and prioritizing. Toxic allows me a very clear and concise compartment and priority. It’s the red, biohazard box in my heart, mind and spirit. That’s where I put all people, experiences, thoughts, mentions, ideas that do not serve me, hinder me, and rain on my parade.
    But, I don’t just leave them there. I reopen that compartment and “pick my poison”. Toxic allows us to pick our poison. Some poison is absolutely not worth the time, experience or processing, and it can be prejudged as useless. Purely based on an individuals right to do so. But some poison pills are worth the swallow or injection. If we allow the toxic in, it breaks down, rendering us weak. We get acquainted with our weaknesses that are being called out. We observe the process, take note, learn, perhaps mope, heal and emerge stronger, enlightened, more aware and tolerant. Like a vaccine.
    Toxic, as a label, is totally beneficial in my humble opinion. It is a time and energy saver. It does give us a way to choose, to ignore and negate, or to embrace and grow. Toxic provides a “time out” to process at a later time, or purge at any time.
    During this pandemic I have labeled and exercised this option quite a bit. I must say, it has definitely served me well. Some things just are what they are. Some people and experiences really are toxic, and don’t make you bigger and better, nor do they serve the greater good. Some really should be avoided because you cannot afford the price of engaging. And some are like live vaccines, providing priceless after effects and benefits.
    It’s always up to us which ones we purge or pillage. It’s a tool to be mastered. So amen to TOXIC! My label of choice.


  2. Nini Mappo says:

    ‘Let’s get toxic… I love it!’

    But my friend, you have violated one of the rules of how this works. Unlike the ‘standard’ user of the toxicity label, you don’t exit without self-reflection and wait for a miracle. You return to hang out with the toxicity a bit, scrutinize it, critique it, absorb it if you need to…You even seem to have the excellent skill of knowing how to measure the right dose of your poison! That’s the difference.
    So in short, you are a sesoned human being with enough self awareness and other awareness that stops you from using the toxicity label as a ‘bush’ behind which to hide, run from yourself, reality, responsible conflict etc. Or rush to it as a guiltifying weapon, or to silence others, or to excuse ourselves from enganging. The young crowd does that a plenty. I’ve even been deemed toxic for admitting to not having particular knowledge about the goegraphical distribution of the cultural ethnicity of a person I had just met.

    It’s like a part of a poem I wrote last year:
    “To not offend me
    Know everything I know, and everything I might
    Know how I’ve responded, how I might respond
    Know what pierces me, what pieces me together

    To not offend me
    Be beautiful; be strong
    Be knowledgeable; be perfect
    Be compassionate, understanding
    Be healed, oh be healed
    Wholly, healed
    You must not bring wounds of your own”

    Many of the young crowd seem to throw the label about as if it answers everything, without realising that it is asking for too much while giving too little, even to themselves. But the worse part is how the label can get people so inflamed with ‘what they deserve’ that they pass themselves by while trying to extract whatever it is they believe they deserve from others.
    Maybe you can teach the novices your skillful art so that they can get the most out of the label he hee 😉

    Love ya, love the talk 🙂


    • jomariebearth says:

      Oh sweet sister, my dear friend, I dare to think about the future of the world in the hands of the much younger generation. Every young generation throughout time has had it’s short comings, misgivings, misfortune, and major lack in so many ways. It comes with the territory by default. This new batch has “cancel culture” propagating in its veins. And it morphs into many twisted dynamics. Too much technology to connect to. Too many social outlets and no opportunity to learn and build social skills. The human connection is at serious risk. That’s why we say that “youth is wasted on the young”. I will further add, “God forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Someday they will inherit the earth!

      Love you girl…Massive hugs!


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