Recognize and avoid toxic people

In love, but also in friendship, at work or in family, toxic people, manipulators and other narcissistic perverts exist … and run in. How to recognize them to better move away and preserve them? Tips for detecting toxic behaviors and not falling into them.

We all came across a toxic person one day. But who exactly is she? In his work Breaking free of toxic relationships (éd. Jouvence), Helen Monnet, relaxologist and integrative psychopractor, reminds at the outset that the term "toxic" applies to "a substance harmful to the organism". Now, this term, by penetrating everyday language and our relationships, is not necessarily the most adequate. In reality, according to the expert, we should speak of "pathogenic person", in the only sense that this person harms us, generates pain, stress and more generally negative emotions.

So if "the relationship can be toxic, the individual is not," says Helen Monnet. So let's say that it is rather the encounter that creates the toxicity. It is because there are two or more of us, and we each land with our characters, expectations, needs, strengths and weaknesses, that we are able to find ourselves at the heart of an unhealthy relationship. It’s a bit like something is wrong and makes us uncomfortable. Still, if the relationship is more toxic than the person itself, certain personalities are more likely to manipulate us and rot our lives.

How do I know if I'm having a toxic relationship?

When we feel that a relationship is not fulfilling us, that something is bothering us, then it may be that this relationship is toxic. Several clues can come to validate our first feeling: we lose energy when we see the person in question, we feel exploited or too kind to this person, we feel tired, unhappy, devalued … Sometimes we even feel angry or of fear. All these negative feelings, which then wake up on contact with the "pathogenic" person, enlighten us. It doesn't necessarily mean that the person in front of us is toxic, but that the relationship is.

The body also expresses itself. Faced with a toxic relationship for us, we can feel restless (our leg becomes "crazy" by beating time under the table), our stomach moves, we yawn, we stretch (back pain, for example) …

The unmistakable signs: attention, toxic personality!

But if our feelings and our body provide us with information, there are also "clues" and signs allowing us to recognize a potentially toxic personality, whether it is rather of the jealous, capricious, stuffy type …

  • A toxic personality will tend to devalue his interlocutor – he demeans him, explains to him what to do or not to do, takes his problems and his errors with determination – for the sole purpose, often unconscious, of reconnecting with herself and boost her self-esteem.
  • Someone poisonous is also likely to complain a lot, to mop up and pull us down, so that we dive with her.
  • Overall, the toxic personality is not one to support us, but rather to get in the way, which does not prevent it, moreover, from helping us as soon as we lift a finger… It makes believe in her presence and her kindness, even as she spends her time to destabilize us. It’s a bit like she’s reaching out to us when she’s drowning and then putting her head back in the water.
  • We will note, finally, that the toxic person is able to be silent and impose silence on us: he does not provide any response to our messages for example. While it has devalued us, it disappears. At that moment, we feel a certain guilt (why is she forgetting me, what mistakes have I made?), Because the toxic person knows how to make himself essential to our balance … even if it disturbs him. This way of installing silence is often observed among manipulators and narcissistic perverts.

The dramatic triangle: persecutor, rescuer, victim

To fully understand the workings of a toxic relationship, Stephen B. Karpman, American psychologist, conceptualized the "dramatic triangle", in which the persecutor, the rescuer and the victim find themselves, three behaviors that can open onto a so-called toxic relationship. , and three behaviors that we all borrow in turn, although we generally tend to "elect" a single behavior.

  • The rescuer is a person who thinks that they should come to the aid of someone around them (even if they have not been asked).
  • The persecutor, he generally feels superior to others and exercises a certain power in criticizing others.
  • The victim is a person who, unlike the persecutor, lives with a feeling of inferiority and thinks that he should receive help, advice, or that he deserves to be demeaned. It’s obviously unconscious but you can dig in and realize that you’re more like that. Are we trying, at our expense, to attract saviors and persecutors?

To bring this triangle to life, let's see: a rescuer will, for example, explain to a victim what he should do or not do. The victim, at that time, agrees to be counseled and guided. She can opine (she accentuates her position as victim) or defend herself (and become, who knows, persecutor). In the latter case, the rescuer, upset, will also feel victim of not being recognized and may become a persecutor. And the persecutor feels victimized because he believes he is taking the upper hand to defend himself and repair an injustice.

A bit complicated, right? To summarize, we must simply understand that these three roles forge toxic relationships, and that depending on the relationship, the situation, we are more or less a rescuer, persecutor or victim. In addition, distrust: the victim's position is sometimes a means of manipulating those around him, as with the perverse narcissistic subject, who does not hesitate to complain to soften his "prey", or say his victim. A literal victim, who, this time, because of his flaws and his need to be saved, attracts the toxic personalities of rescuer and persecutor.

Do you manage to identify, in your entourage, the people in the role of the rescuer, and those who are rather in the role of the "persecutor"? Where do you stand? This triangle allows us to sharpen our thinking and better understand where we are. It’s almost clearer.

The special case of the narcissistic pervert

Narcissistic perverts, also known as "PN", are getting more and more attention. Trend ? No: we meet them everywhere, in our close or professional circle. They are sometimes our friends, our loves, a relative … even if we should not mix everything. It must be borne in mind that a disrespectful, annoying or selfish person does not necessarily enter the "manipulator" or perverse narcissistic box. The narcissistic pervert is, as the name suggests, suffering from a perversion disorder and a narcissistic disorder. In other words, to boost his ego and repair his flaws, he manipulates those around him, his friends or his partner, by blowing hot and cold. The victim is then in control, dependent on this toxic personality. She may well be aware of it but fail to run away, especially in the context of a couple or at work.

The narcissistic pervert, like many toxic personalities, is also the type to put himself forward. He pulls the blanket over to him, places the light on him. It is generally complicated to discuss with him: he tends to make reason heard, that is to say that he is always based on tangible facts, far from all emotions, so that the victim cannot contradict. However, she lives the situation very badly. But she ends up believing that the narcissistic pervert is right, especially since he displays a soft and kind behavior to better "win".

Tips for running away from a toxic personality and getting out of an unhealthy relationship

How to end a toxic relationship? Several points:

  • When you think you are having an unhealthy relationship with someone poisonous, start by telling yourself that the most important thing is you. You have to help yourself. Your attention should be on you. Do not point the finger at the risk of remaining entangled in fear, stress or sadness, and tell yourself that there is always a solution or a way to save yourself.
  • You can choose to break up by talking to the toxic personality. You explain to her that you no longer wish to see her. The risk is obviously that the person opposite over-reacts and makes you feel guilty. It all depends on his profile. You can therefore, if not, "play dead", as they say. Also question the feeling of guilt it could cause. However, sometimes fleeing without a trace is saving.
  • Boost your self-esteem. This advice as old as the world may seem easier said than done. In any case, the toxic personalities nibble on self-esteem: by their side, we feel null, incapable, which continues to position us as a victim in demand, so that the persecutor still has the sockets necessary to manipulate us . You can, to regain self-confidence, consult a specialist, a coach, or read books on this subject, which, over time, will help you!
  • Remember that you are not responsible for the lives of others and the happiness of others. Don't make it a personal problem. This principle makes it possible to disengage from the relationship, to no longer feel obliged to provide positive responses to toxic people, always going in their direction.
  • Be surrounded. Do not hesitate to find an "ally", a healthy person around you (parents, friends …) who will help you to become aware of the malevolence of the relationship you are having, and of the manipulation of which you are the target. Its status as a "witness", but also as a crutch, will open your eyes when they are tempted to close because the toxic person will trick you into thinking.

Is this person a narcissistic pervert? Take the test!

On the site, you can test yourself. You will better understand the person you suspect is a perverse narcissistic manipulator.

A little reading to go further:

Free yourself from toxic people, Helen Monnet, ed. Youth
Getting out of the grip and rebuilding yourself – A practical manual to free yourself from manipulation, Julie Arcoulin, ed. The book mail
I stop toxic relationships: 21 days to create healthy and harmonious bonds, by Marion Blique, ed. Eyrolles
Free yourself from the emotional grip: Manipulators, narcissistic perverts, psychopaths … Protect yourself from toxic relationships!, by Sylvie Tenenbaum, ed. Leduc.s

See also: how to react to ghosting?

Video by Clemence chevallet