Have you listened to the new Decemberists album, “I’ll Be Your Girl,” yet? I highly recommend doing so. Particularly the song, “Everything is Awful.” Because, frankly, it is.
Yes, Colin Meloy has it right. Everything is awful.
This is not going to be a well thought out post. Frankly, I’m exhausted. My brain is fried and my emotions are intense. I just hope I’m able to get out what I’m feeling right now, because I’m so frustrated I could scream.
Here’s the thing: you know toxic personalities exist everywhere. There’s no avoiding them. And toxic personalities often trigger painful feelings and memories in loathsome ways.
Being exposed to toxic behavior doesn’t feel good. By definition, it’s absolutely exhausting. And, in many areas of the world, there are extremely toxic personalities in charge. You cannot avoid them. To go “no contact” is impossible unless you disengage from current events and hide your head in the sand.
During times of distress, conversations about feelings are just as important as making plans for concrete action.
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing these conversations occurring. Feelings are being dismissed.
This pattern is a phenomenon that is horribly disheartening.
Few people expect to be able to change a toxic person. Personally, my years of trying to change people who delight in hurting others are in the past.
In general, the people I choose to surround myself with are like-minded about toxic behavioral patterns, and express sympathy when a toxic person is unavoidable.
Lately, this is changing. Recognition of toxicity results in messages about toughening up. It’s insulting.
Toxic behavior is wrong.
There exists right and wrong in the world. We all know this to be true. It is appropriate to be non-judgmental when it comes to someone’s preferences or personality traits, but when we start looking at how a person treats others we know when actions that are very wrong are taking place.
Actions that are hurtful and damaging are wrong. Actions that cause real pain to others, that are caused by a toxic person’s petty grievances and ego are wrong.
Someone who is not toxic will be able to engage in conversation about things like this. Someone who is not toxic will never hurt someone purposefully. They will be able to see the error of their ways and they will be able to make amends.
Conversely, someone who is toxic will not be able to discuss their behavior or reach mutually agreeable solutions. They will dig in further on their stance rather than acknowledge any potential wrong on their part. They will blame you and others for their actions. They will justify and defend the harm they cause. They will tell repeated lies in order to appear blameless and will play the victim when anyone attempts to address their misdeeds.
This is wrong. This behavior from anybody is wrong.
And sometimes, it cannot be resolved. A toxic person will almost always stay toxic. They cannot be reasoned with. The only hope one might have is to eventually be able to distance themselves from the toxic person. The only useful action is one that removes the toxic person’s ability to do harm.
In these times, you cannot distance yourself from the toxic personality. There is too much at stake.
The feelings of exhaustion, impotence, frustration, and, for some, abuse-related PTSD are made exponentially worse when the people around you encourage you to not notice, to not have emotional reactions to the toxicity.
The people who should have your back might tell you that this is ‘just how some people are.’ They might tell you to grow a thicker skin. This is the way the world is. There’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe it will go away eventually, they say. Just calm down, they say.
You know the limits of what you’re able to do about the events at hand. You know the situation can’t be corrected immediately.
However, you expect the people close to you, the ones who aren’t toxic, to understand. You expect them to be as sympathetic as they are when you get sick or are going through a break-up. You expect to hear things like, “Yes, it sucks that we have to deal with this.”
You expect an acknowledgment of the very real feelings that arise from experiencing the toxic behavioral patterns of others.
This is what you usually receive from the members of your tribe. This is why these are the people you keep close to you.
Instead, out of nowhere, you realize you’re increasingly hearing things along the lines of, “Well, it is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
First of all, this is false. You can call and write to your local representatives. You can be active on social media. You can donate money or your time to worthy organizations. There is plenty you can do. There is plenty of action available, easily found with a simple Google search.
Secondly, and more importantly to this post, doing something wasn’t the topic at hand during this specific conversation.
Someone who is upset by toxic behavior does not need to grow a thicker skin.
Nor do they need to calm down, understand the world better, accept that some people are just like this, or any other insane platitude that does not address the very real feelings of frustration and rage toxic personalities cause.
Wrong is wrong. It is right and just to be upset about things happening that are wrong.