Dealing with Toxic People


This is the outline of an article by

Co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0
& President at TalentSmart





READ explanations for each point

12 Ways SUCCESSFUL People Handle TOXIC People

1. They set limits (especially with complainers)

2. They don’t die in the fight

3. They rise above

4. They stay aware of their emotions

5. The establish boundaries

6. They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

7. They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

8. They don’t forget

9. They Squash Negative Self-Talk

10. They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

11. They Get Some Sleep

12. They Use Their Support System

Related articles:
13 Habits of Exceptionally Likable People
How Successful People Stay Calm      
9 Things Successful People Won’t Do



Ennea: Development LEVELS Outlined (Part 1)

psych levels 

what level I’m at!

PREVIOUS: Anger & Co-Dep (#3)

SITE: Enneagram in Addiction Counseling


LEVELS – Each of the nine Enneagram Types contains its own 9 levels/stages of possible psychological development, (don’t confuse Types & Levels), starting at the bottom: from the most destructive (level 9) to the healthiest (level 1) – see chart above. This categorization was developed by Don Riso in 1977, added to by Russ Hudson & used by Ken Wilber in the study of personal & cultural evolution.

● The Levels are a way of picturing the “skeletal” structure of each Type,
& account for differences between people of the same Number, as well as the shifts we see in ourselves & others over time. Moving upward on the scale means we become less bound by the limiting defense mechanisms of our type, to become truer to our Real Self, to be more present in the moment. Moving downward sinks us deeper into damage, increasing our distance from objective reality.

• Unless we know each Type well there can be confusion in identifying someone. People of the same Number may seem quite different from each other when coming from differing levels of mental / emotional health. And different Types can seem deceptively similar, depending on which stage they’re in. To identifying anyone correctly, the thing to focus on is the Passion, and listening to the way each type used language helps too.

● These stages are NOT fixed. The Level we act from can change even in the course of a day, based on feeling peaceful or stressed – usually to the one above or below our ‘normal’ level. Because levels are (potentially) fluid, it’s perfectly normal to do this depending on the situation.
— Anyone working on self-improvement will be able to move up one or two on a more permanent basis, with great effort, but most commonly we migrate from lower to higher & back down again throughout our life, while the majority stay in the mid range 4 to 6

— Very few people achieve level 1, altho some do touch it from time to time, & while they’re likely to slide back down, they usually stay in the 2 to 4 range.
— And no one drops from the uppermost levels to the bottom 3, especially not all at once, unless there is severe physical trauma to the brain, or long-term exposure to severe abuse.
EXP: This is what can happen to a happy well-adjusted child who is forced to endure repeated beatings, verbal assaults &/or sexual abuse, over a long time

OVERVIEW by RANGE: At each level, we use different strategies to reinforce our sense of self / ego-identity. NOTE: ‘ego’ = the created self-image. These divisions apply to everyone, no matter which Type one is.
LEVELs 1-2-3 : Healthy
Anyone who in the process of Self-actualizing (not 100% or all the time): high functioning & operating successfully, who can use admire-able / balanced / consistent, reliable ways of thinking & acting. There’s a sense of flow, being fully engaged with the task at hand, moving with little or no friction against the internal & external world.

a. INSIDE: Not strongly identified with their self-image. Are free to express & reinforce their identity, by acting in a manner consistent with the ‘persona’, as well as being able to let go of it when appropriate
b. OUTSIDE: At this level of High Performance, they see other people as valuable in their own right, with unique needs & tastes, separate from themselves, & can balance their needs with those of others.
● High-functioning people have a personality – it doesn’t have them

LEVELs 4, 5 & 6 : Average
Ego-driven people are neurotic but still functional, & can contribute to society, but are limited in some specific way. They have a mix of productive & energy-sapping patterns.

● In this ‘normal’ range, people are generally self-centered, focused more on image – wanting to be seen in a certain way. They use social roles, manipulation & controlling others to reinforce their sense of self. They interact others mainly in terms of their own needs, with less concern for the needs of others. This can generate resistance & resentment toward them, but they don’t understand why.
● Average-range people believe they are their personality (“It’s just the way I am”)

LEVELs 7, 8 & 9 : Unhealthy
Unhealthy / Pathological people are already – or in the process of being – so out of control that they develop personality disorders such as being obsessive-compulsive, & may eventually lapse into psychosis. There is an increasing sense of ‘spinning their wheels’, heightened internal & external conflict, resistance, difficulties with the public….

● In this Acute/Chronic Stress range these people’s focus is so narrowed down to themselves that they can break with reality. Their self-image is completely different from how others see them, since they experience others mainly as objects rather than human beings, putting a great strain on all relationships
● For lower-functioning people, the personality has them & they just act out of it automatically.

NEXT: Levels outlined (Part 2)

Anger & C0-DEPENDENCE (Part 3)

angry girl 

I’ll be able to know how I feel

PREVIOUS: Anger & Co-D (Part 2)

SITE:3 Phrases That Will Instantly Calm Angry or Emotional People

BOOK: “When Anger Scares You: How to….

1. Re. Our Anger (Part 1 & 2)
REMINDER: Co-dependence (Co-D) is a defense mechanism, a supposed ‘protection’ against touching our deep well of fear-of-abandonment (FoA). It comes from the belief that the power is not within us, but rather in other people & things. It is a way to cover feeling lost & worthless, not knowing that we a True Self, having had to create a False Self we intuitively know is indeed false. But without FoO & Inner Child work, we have no way of knowing who we truly are, so we co-dependently look to others to tell us. It’s an attempt at getting the healthy mirroring we never got from our parents, yet we compulsively go to narcissists & other wounded people to ‘see’ us, who can never reflect us back to ourselves. They can only project their False Self on to us!

• Co-dependence comes in many flavors. While people-pleasing is one of it’s hallmarks, it’s not always in the form of over-niceness. It can also be camouflaged by surliness or isolation. Co-Ds who tend to crankiness or bursts of rage are just as approval-driven as the more obvious kind.

• However, most Co-Ds have no idea we have a right to be assertive – much less how to do it – & are convinced that any sign of self-assurance is confrontation, which we fanatically avoid. This is not so, because confrontation usually includes an underlying hostility – the need to push someone around, to get our own way, to suppress the other persons point of view…..
This shows up as Conflict-Avoidance, which comes from a combination of:
— fear of our own anger leading to a possible loss of control & therefore loss of acceptance or love, (that we will destroy someone else), AND
— the assumption that everyone becomes unreasonable when they’re angry, & we won’t know how to deal with it (that it will destroy us!)

• Also, most Co-Ds cannot bear having anyone be angry at or be disappointed in us. This makes it easy for others – if so inclined – to take advantage of us. The more approval we need, the less likely we’re able to notice the extent of our self-sacrifice in favor of taking care of other people needs, want & demands. Being used, abused & then thrown away is very painful, creating or maintaining depression & S-H, in a vicious, downward spiral.

WHY we’re afraid:
• it reminds us of one or more ragers we grew up with.
Unless we’ve done a lot of rage-discharge-work, our body is still warehousing all the old terror those people continually caused us. So now, whether someone’s angry directly at us OR we’re just nearby someone who is very angry, our fear can feel like every nerve is on fire!
• we assume we’ll get hit or worse – perhaps the way we were as kids
• we don’t know what to say – don’t have clever comebacks, or logical responses (See: “Effective Responses” from website)
• it triggers our own hidden anger we’re trying to keep down
(Review: ‘Anger & ACoAs’ post)

IRONY: Co-Ds are microscopically focused on what others are saying /doing, to figure out what they want from us, so we can provide it, as a way of insuring a continued connection (because of FoA). This is our narcissism, & desire for symbiotic acceptance – not actually trying to understand who someone is.
• At the same time we are oblivious to many cues from other people, a kind of emotional Aspergers – including many positive responses we DO receive, which could heal us. Because of old trauma, we block out indirect AND direct information others give us, having taught ourselves to avoid seeing danger – everywhere – like a turtle with its head pulled in. And our S-H doesn’t allow us to see the. We miss hints that someone is:
— honoring, complementing or validating us
— sexually or socially interested in us
— belittling, insulting or making fun of us
— anxious to leave, but too polite to say so
— angry, annoyed, bored, hurting, scared, otherwise upset…..

ANGER: Eyes down, narrowed, tense, or staring, furrow between eyes, angry manbrow pulled down, lips drawn tight or raised in squarish shape – muscle movements showing when we feel aggressive, frustrated or threatened. Researchers think we make this ‘face’ because it could protect it in a physical conflict (furrowed eyebrows protect eyes….)

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 11.04.17 AMCONTEMPT: It’s when we literally look down our nose at someone with
derision or suspicion – lowered brow or eyes looking to the side. The main feature is that only one side of the face is pulled tight.
(If we were pulling both sides we’d be swallowing or salivating)

DISGUST: Here the muscles above theDisgust
upper lip pull up, raising it,
wrinkling the nose, & narrowing the eyes – as if smelling something foul.
Often the mouth opens & the tongue comes out, in case you need to throw up.

USEFUL – It can help to know the difference in motivation, between:
BAD anger : used to control another person thru intimidation, OR anger at oneself as a way to control other emotions we don’t want to feel, vs.
GOOD anger: used to protect ourselves from some external danger, OR to teach us that we’re not thinking / acting in our best interest (have somehow abandoned ourselves).

(QUIZ re. 20 Emotions)  // “Micro-expression Trainer” APP
7 Universally Recognized Facial Expressions of Emotion

Inner Bonding – re fear of anger
How to stop absorbing other people’s emotions

NEXT: MORE on the Enneagram

Re. TRAUMA – a Reminder

Trauma book

Judith Lewis Herman is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Training Director of the Victims of Violence Program at The Cambridge Hospital.


See: Praise, Table of Contents, & Excerpts

In “Trauma and Recovery” Judith Herman describes in detail the healing process for people struggling with a combination of problems related to overt abuse, being unwanted, & other devastating experiences in their past. The book gives a three-stage model of recovery from these events, including childhood sexual abuse.

Trauma results include:
Substance addictions
Behavioral addictions (porn, anonymous sex, gambling,…)
Self-harming behaviors (cutting, burning, hair pulling…)
Dissociation (spacing out, blanking out, losing time…)

The following statement refers to how self-hate is formed – by introjecting
the Bad Parent – & why it’s so hard to give up

quote re abused child S-H












REVIEW posts: ACoAs & Self-Hate  //  Negative Introject 
Abuse of children //
  ACoA Toxic Family Rules
Ego states –  Summary  // Ego states – PARENT  #4

Anger & C0-DEPENDENCE (Part 2)

co-dep angerTHERE’S NO WAY
for me to win!

PREVIOUS: Anger & Co-D (Part 1)

SITE:Co-dependence Behavior

1. Re. OUR Anger (cont):
Dr Irene, on her “Verbal Abuse” site, notes that: Co-Ds misplace our anger – we don’t get angry when we should & get angry when we shouldn’t.
a. Missing anger
b. INAPPROPRIATE anger/rage
Self-Hate: As co-dependents (Co-Ds) we are brutally critical of our own imperfections, even when they are absolutely normal for being human — whether making a mistake, not knowing something or making an error in judgment.
We also rage at ourselves any time we don’t get a need met or feel hurt – taking on the responsibility for other people’s limitations & unhealthy behavior. At the same time – we sabotage opportunities for getting those very needs met – to stay loyal to our early training. (“People should treat me better, but….”)

Repressed: In Claudia Black’s book “Deceived”, she places Co-D anger on a continuum: Anger avoidance <—–> Sideways anger <——> Rage.
The far left version is sometimes described as feeling dazed & defeated, often part of low-grade chronic depression. For many people (most often women), avoidance is a learned response to stress, over time, acquired in childhood, along with long-term painful/abusive adult relationships.

• Boiled frog syndrome: If placed into a pot of boiling water, a frog will immediately jump to safety rather than burn to death. However, if the frog is placed in a pot filled with room-temperature water, & then very slowly brought to a boil, it will happily do the backstroke until it’s cooked from the inside out.
Co-D anger can be like that as well. In a volatile situation we may fight back or just leave. But if we let our emotions accumulate in the POT, we end up stewing in our own juices until it feels like we’re choking. Then the anger (& all the pain underneath) bursts outward in harmful ways, or inward with silence, uncontrollable crying, anxiety, constant fidgeting…..

• On the other hand, sudden flashes of unexpected anger at others can be a sure sign of co-dependency at its tipping point – in reaction to:
— someone not reading our mind – about what we need or want (so we don’t have to ask)
— being constantly disappointed, but still depending on someone to come thru for us – against all evidence
— not being able to get thru to someone, no matter how often we try
— always considering what someone else needs & they never reciprocate
— trying very hard to please someone who will never be pleased, but we keep trying
— trying to force someone to be or do something they either don’t want to do, or simply are not able
— hearing a correction or suggestion as criticism. triggering S-H
— wanting someone to take care of us, but won’t

• As adults, people-pleasing for too long without getting our own needs met is draining & enraging.  BTW – anger at any of the above list (add you own) may not show for a long time, but may be burning us up inside – until it boils over.  But even when Co-D anger is released, it’s only an escape valve. Without FoO Recovery, it doesn’t solve the underlying issues, so we end up filling the POT again.

• In adversarial relationships, if we react with anger against an abuser, no matter how well deserved, things can escalate, often getting much worse, leaving us feeling even more frightened, guilty & helpless. If we keep trying to change a problem by expressing anger over & over (to restore our sense of control) but the bad situation isn’t fixable, eventually we may become depressed & apathetic. And no matter what healthy, kind people tell us to contrary – we end up concluding that “it’s always been my fault & always will be / nothing good ever comes of trying / I’ll never get it right / I always mess us…. so why bother, if I’m just going to get disappointed or battered anyway?”

Unfortunately, the stronger these negative false assumptions are (T), the harder it is to get out & find a safer environment (A). It leads many of us to avoid anger all together, but also to stay trapped & hopeless.



NEXT: Anger & Co-D – part 3

Anger & C0-DEPENDENCE (Part 1)

codep anger 

everyone disappoints me!


SITEs: “Caring or Co-dependent?
Characteristics of Codependent People

: If you haven’t already, please read the above articles to acquaint yourself with the basics of co-dependence (Co-D), so you can put the issue of anger in perspective (Continuum CHART)
Internal characteristics : Co-Ds have DIFFICULTY with:Continuum of self
— self-esteem & self-care
— having boundaries
— knowing reality
— being moderate

Co-Ds (ACoAs & Addicts) are fundamentally ruled by buried shame, & have had to cut ourselves off from our inner world. We rarely know how we actually feel – under all the spinning & drama. The truth is that we don’t want to know, because it’s painful & we never learned how to develop an inner soother for such occasions. It’s ‘easier’ to stay on the surface & pretend things are just fine, rather than deal with what’s really going on inside – which is emotional starvation.

We’re very busy taking care of others but barely provide for ourselves. While it seems that we’re only focusing on others, Co-Ds actually spend a great deal of time obsessing – on ourselves!: what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what we did wrong, what others are doing TO us, what we/they should be doing….. Having to maintain the Co-D facade is exhausting, but it started so early in life, so we think it’s the real us. Sadly, the performance gives us no satisfaction or relief because it feeds on & is maintained by S-H, anxiety & perfectionism. (Shame & Co-D)

1. Re. OUR Anger – We generally think of Co-Ds as being weak, dependent victims. This is how a large portion of us act, even tho we’re really not that weak, having survived many horrors, but not very well. The rest will express it as intense counter-dependence, even to the point of being deprivational (need-less & want-less), along with arrogance & grandiosity, our damage spilling out over everyone/thing.
Many Co-Ds are not aware of our anger, so are often surprised when others react with annoyance to the ways we express it (a tone of voice, teasing, unprovoked irritation…..) because we ‘didn’t mean it like that’ – consciously.  Dr Irene, on her “Verbal Abuse” site, notes that:  Co-Ds misplace our anger – we get angry when we shouldn’t, & don’t get angry when we should. (MORE…..)

Numb: Co-Ds are so used to abuse, insensitivity & disrespect, that in many cases we don’t consciously feel the hurt that’s inflicted on us by unhealthy people. But the Inner Child does register every single punch, stab, slap…. delivered by them – so we’re not only swallowing the venom of those encounters, but we are adding to the already tremendous reservoir of pain we’ve been carrying since childhood. Like mercury & lead poisoning, we’re letting ourselves continue to be toxified!
NOTE: Fear of our own anger is called Angrophobia (not very original!)

Disconnected: And then there are the times we FEEL something – the punch in the gut or the stab in the heart, BUT don’t know where it came from. Our body’s legitimate reaction to abuse is disconnected from our cognitive center (cortex) because of years of denial. So —
cat collar– we blame ourselves for the pain, thinking that we’re making it up, over-reacting / too sensitive, it’s hormonal….
— and if we do make a vague association between our discomfort & a particular person, we justify & excuse it by thinking “they didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just the way they are, she/he DOES love me….”
It’s as if we’re wearing one of those animal medical collars: we can see over the top, but can’t see the knife in other person’s hand as they shove it in!
However, if we were to stop & ask the Inner Child how it feels – & he/she is willing to respond – we find out exactly what’s going on!

• Emotional numbness comes at the very bottom of the Feeling Continuum (but before death :( ), body emotionsbecause the pain is SOOO great that we’ve had to cut everything off, so it represents the most painful level of feeling. Co-Ds who are still in denial will often say they had a happy or OK childhood. The way we can tell it was NOT is by listening how they talk about themselves – blaming themselves for not getting what they wanted & needed growing up. Emotional Body’ chart

WHEN denial starts wearing off, we’re shocked – first by the pain, & then realizing that all this time our thinking has been way off! That’s liberating but also very scary, seeing how we’ve built much of our world on sand. We have to revamp our whole world view, & this can leave us with a lot of anger, realizing how great the abuse really was. For a long time we may hate our parents, the rage coming in waves. We still want them to be what they can’t & never could be. Eventually we can accept that we no longer need them to take care of us – we are our own parent NOW, so we can learn to deal with them realistically – whatever that means for each of us.
BOOK: “Coping w/ Codependency” ~ Kay Marie Porterfield

NEXT: Anger & Co-D (Part 2)

ACoAs & Anger

walled  up angerI WALLED UP MY ANGER –
now I’m afraid to open it up

PREVIOUS: Anger Triggers (Part 3)

SITEs: “8 reasons why we’re afraid of anger” (scroll down)

QUOTE: “If you’re not pissing someone off, you probably aren’t doing anything important” ~ Oliver Emberton (serious cartoons)

ACoAs: For those of us who grew up with physical or sexual abuse, &/ or others kinds of verbal & emotional cruelty – snide remarks, making fun of, insulting, dismissing…. most of us will do anything to not be like them. Even as kids we figured that if we could just be a good enough “good-girl or boy” we could tame the troll, to get the love & safety every kid craves. But no matter how hard we tried, we never succeeded in assuaging the beast, nor feeling truly safe.

— AND we can’t escape taking on their anger, as well as what we built up in response to being neglected & abused. So our emotion POT is stuffed to the gills, making us so terrified of our anger – lest it spill out & attack or kill someone! So we do our best to bury it & then sprinkle with the pretty flowers of fake niceness. Even so… it leaks out!

CHART: a shorthand way to look at the range of possibilities – from the most frightening (chaotic) to the safest kind of parenting. For most of us it wasn’t just one parent, causing all the problems, but some combination of many the adults we were stuck with.
No matter what personality we’re born with, all children need stability growing up, to have a reliable base from with to experiment, learn & risk as they explore themselves & all the newness of the world. SO –
living in chaos is terrifying. Terror always creates anger & if the scary, painful, unfair, crazy-making circumstances go on for years, the anger will eventually turn into rage. Living in chaos is always harmful to children, regardless of our family’s intention. (Chaos to Purpose scale)  Chaos-To-Purpose-Scale

— all anger is bad / dangerous & only leads to violent behavior
— being angry at anyone means we’re bad
— our anger can kill others, even if we don’t express it – just by feeling it, & therefore we can never be angry at our parents, no matter how hurt by or frustrated with them we feel
— we have to protect others from our rage, no matter the cost to us
— if ‘they’ knew how angry we were they’d never love us, & then we’d die, floating alone in the cold outer reaches of black space!

AND some of us have had the experience that expressing our anger at them got us beaten, hit, attacked (“How dare you —! Don’t talk to your—- like that!”), cold-shouldered….. so we shut as much of it off as we could (& stuffed more hurt into the POT.

Re. OTHERS – Our anger PROTECTS us IF WE:
— are angry all or most of the time (keeps people away)
— are angry first to preempt assumed anger
— retaliate with personal attacks
— play the victim to make others feel guilty
— tell others how awful this person is (who was angry at us)
— say someone can get angry & then punish them when they do
— cut them out of our life completely
— are SO good they’ll never find anything to angry about (we think)
— insist /demand that others never get angry at us, because we’re too delicate / can’t handle anger / it’s un-spiritual (not pleasing to God) / we don’t deserve it…

IN CONVERSATION, when someone gets angry at us, ACoAs may:
• Respond stoically, logically, ‘deal with it’, placate (“I understand / Oh that’s OK….)
• Immediately feel guilty, take all the blame, apologize profusely & repeatedly, try to make nice – to make up for being ‘bad’ or hurting the other person
• Completely ignore both the anger & the issues, & change the subject

• Feel such terror that we blank out & can’t think at all, so don’t answer, but think of something to say when it’s too late & hate ourselves for being a stupid or a wimp
• Feel terror but try to justify our position
— I know I’m too sensitive
— I’d never do what you’re accusing me of
— No one else feels this way about me
• Be defensive – by over-explaining (the most common ACoA response to criticism, anger, insults….)
— That’s not what I meant, it’s just that —–
— The reason I said that was because —–angry dog chasing man
— I couldn’t because —–
— Well, you see —–
— No, really, I tried —–
• Be defensive – throwing it back on the other:
— Why didn’t you tell me before?
— You’re just jealous, selfish….
— Well – YOU did ——- to me
— So you’ve been sitting on this for how long?
— You’re just confusing the issue
— you’re not making any sense

NEXT: Anger & Co-dependence