It’s not just a word; it’s a way of thinking
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.
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!
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.
It’s called blame and self-avoidance therapy. I am an expert. Reach out to me if you need more tips.
As this is a satirical piece of writing, taking it literally would amount to missing it altogether.
Cover Photo by Emma Matthews