You'd think someone with serious toxic personality traits would be easy to spot, however it might take some time before the deeply negative traits of a person start to display when getting to know them (professionally, romantically or as a friend). When you get to know them at first, they might come across as charming, intelligent, confident, enthusiastic, lively and a fun person to be around. Some people however choose to present 'a false self' in the beginning and they can act kind, loving and giving, making you think they're the perfect partner, friend, colleague or team mate. When you're an empath or HSP, it seems to be extra tough to recognise this as you cannot imagine the ill intentions of some people and are quick to project your own kindness onto others. The behaviour is simply not in your vocabulary. On a subconscious level it is also possible you refuse to see the truth.
At some point the negative traits start to seep through as the toxic person cannot keep their mask up when you start to get closer. You start to see that underneath the upbeat, successful, confident or arrogant behaviour, a deep insecurity, pain, anger and sense of shame is buried. The hidden side of the person starts to show: someone that cannot take any feedback, tries to exploit you without any sense of boundaries, has complete lack of empathy, is manipulative for personal gain, sees everything as a total personal attack followed by retaliation, rage and/or contempt.
For romantic relationships it's important to watch out in the beginning for extreme admiration and attention, when everything is done to win you over. No gesture is too small, like buying you expensive gifts or act with 'love bombing'. Love bombing is done to influence you by constant smaller and bigger acts of admiration and affection. First a toxic person can charm and seduce (false self), then they lock you in, and after proceed to use and abuse you (real self). Once the goal is achieved of having dominion over their target, a toxic personality can keep asserting more and more control over you in a manipulative, secretive way to break you down. Furthermore, I noticed that you are not seen as an actual human being, rather as an asset or extension of the other person, or you're purely objectified. It's like you live to fit a fantasy of their ideal version of life and to feed their ego and status. They can express care for you however this is more to 'protect the asset', instead of genuinely, selflessly caring about someone's wellbeing. There always needs to be something to get out of it, and selfless acts seemed to be impossible.
I also observed how a person can exploit others without any form of guilt or shame, and will simply not see what damage is being done – and when they do they won't care. They simply don't have the capacity (so you perhaps cannot even blame them).
After some time you may feel like walking on eggshells, waiting for the next bomb to go off, or get completely confused by the gaslighting behaviour as you lose grip on how you perceive your own experiences. Slowly you get deeper into a web of fears and anxiety, and may struggle to get out as the toxic relationship deepens.
Things you may recognise
General toxic behaviours and traits I observed:
As mentioned, many traits started to surface only later when the false self cannot be maintained, and when you're coming closer (for instance at work only direct reports notice the toxicity). The below is what I observed in the set of people who I had to deal with in private and professional life:
⊹ Very fragile ego
⊹ See everything as either an asset, a liability or a threat
⊹ Focused on status and power (which can come in many forms depending on what the person values, so not necessary corporate status or luxury brands)
⊹ Loves to create chaos and drama (covert or overt)
⊹ Feels easily threatened, hurt or attacked
⊹ Consistently blames their environment for their mistakes, will never self-inquire
⊹ Manipulative: has hidden agendas to get you to do what they want
⊹ Monopolizes conversations (you only hear them talk and no one else)
⊹ When threatened or rejected, reacting with contempt as a defence mechanism; the only way to neutralise a threat and prop up their own poor ego is to put other people down.
⊹ Acting patronising and dismissive or even react with mean insults, bullying and threats
⊹ Refusing to compromise
⊹ Will especially kick you when you're down
⊹ And target you when you're kind and sensitive
⊹ Exaggerates achievements and talents
⊹ Envious of others and believe others envy them
⊹ Acting superior to others
⊹ Thriving on good and bad attention
⊹ Doesn't has the ability to identify with the feelings of others – to put themselves in other people’s shoes. No capacity for empathy
⊹ Need for constant, excessive admiration and validation
⊹ Need to feel special about themselves
⊹ Becomes impatient or angry when they don't receive special treatment (restaurants etc.)
⊹ Becomes impatient or angry when you don't do what they want you to do
⊹ Excessive need for control; wants to call all the shots and make all decisions
⊹ Can read people extremely well (to sniff out vulnerabilities, to use to manipulate)
⊹ Cannot necessarily read real emotions (so you can trick them with fake smiles)
⊹ Loves to be around people where they can feel good about themselves ('in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king')
⊹ Cannot easily let things go, remains very angry for a long time (usually over nothing)
⊹ Cannot see they’re abusive to you (if they do they don't care)
⊹ Cannot put their own needs aside
⊹ Cannot deal with any form of criticism, small things are taken as a huge personal attack
⊹ Lives in a fantasy world, thinking they’re special and well accomplished when in truth they’re not
⊹ Struggles to compromise
⊹ Dominant (overt or covert)
⊹ Gaslights and denies your experience
⊹ Turns things around: what they do they put on you, warping your experience and sense of self
⊹ Lying and manipulative, but you'll barely notice as it's so hidden
⊹ Uses your vulnerabilities to abuse you in order to gain control; breaks you down mentally and emotionally
⊹ Shames and blames you
⊹ Violates your boundaries, even does so with an absolute sense of entitlement
⊹ Rebels and retaliates if you set boundaries
⊹ Demand special treatment (to confirm their fantasy of being special)
⊹ Extremely egoistic, only focused on meeting their own needs
⊹ Has a massive, fragile ego
⊹ Can feel shame and guilt – however not in a self-inquiring way, more to correct themselves and protect their reputation
⊹ When you're in their bad corner: publicly and privately humiliates and ridicules you
⊹ Struggles to regulate emotions and behaviour
⊹ Is often deep down depressed and unhappy, as they're secretly dealing with massive feelings of inadequacy, guilt, humiliation and shame coming from a deeprooted feeling of not being good enough
⊹ Initially hides all of the above; however this will soon start to seep through the cracks
⊹ Promises to change with no intention of keeping that promise
⊹ Lives by 'everything you say can and will be used against you' (especially in the moments you're most vulnerable)
⊹ Hidden psychological and emotional abuse
⊹ Usually the above is only noticed by people who are close, such as direct reports, direct family and romantic partners. To others the person might come across as lovely and charming
How I started to feel:
⊹ Like walking on eggshells
⊹ Finding myself over-apologising
⊹ Scared to ask for something for yourself (like making a pitch stop to buy something you need, asking for holidays, calling in sick when actually sick)
⊹ Confused about my own sense of self (due to the gaslighting)
⊹ Scared to express my opinion (due to the random blow ups)
⊹ Scared to assert my boundaries
⊹ Like your needs don't matter (as they are disregarded and ignored so much)
⊹ Scared to leave the friend / partner / boss because of their dramatic, extreme or even violent response
⊹ You don't feel yourself anymore
⊹ Thinking you're the source of the problems or you're the one doing something wrong
⊹ Starting to have damaged self-esteem
⊹ Dealing with feelings of worthlessness
⊹ Dealing with feeling stressed, depleted in life force energy and anxious
⊹ Scared to meet up with ex partners or certain friends (due to jealousy of partner / friend)
⊹ As an empath you cannot feel your own energy and emotions anymore, you're taken over and ruled by the other
Coming out of a toxic relationship (romantic or professional)
You might struggle with the following left-over problems:
⊹ Severe trust issues
⊹ Physical and emotional exhaustion
⊹ Poor self-esteem
⊹ Damaged personal boundaries
⊹ A poor sense of self
⊹ Hyper-vigilance and PTSD (depending on the severity of the interactions)
⊹ Scared to express own needs
⊹ Feeling confused
⊹ Feeling unsafe
⊹ Physical problems due to the stress such as leaky gut, inflammation, fatigue, rashes, loss of appetite etc.
⊹ Depression and anxiety
⊹ Limited resources (at worst financially ruined)
⊹ Struggling to express needs
Why does one as an HSP or empath attract such a toxic person?
This is the million dollar question. Empaths and HSPs are by nature loving, caring, sensitive, compassionate, devoted, giving, forgiving, soft, kind and happy to please to keep the peace – and with this unfortunately the perfect victim for a seriously toxic person. They may unconsciously seek out an empath/HSP, and an empath/HSP doesn't recognises what is in front of them (also caused due to the false mask of kindness the person is wearing in the beginning). Empaths and HPS see the good in people so much that they are unable to recognise the bad and acknowledge how a person can truly be wired. They project their own goodness onto others and with that fail to see what's in front of them. They might think they can fix an actual deep-seated, behavioural disorder with their love and care, and keep forgiving and hoping for someone to change and work on themselves like they themselves are doing. Sometimes however it concerns a severe clinical condition that needs professional treatment. A toxic person may promise very sincerely they'll change, however they can use this to reel a partner back in and keep exploiting them further.
In my experience and research I usually see empaths and HPS as very loyal and we have the belief everyone can change and grow. We seem to be willing to accept damaging behaviours way longer, up to the point where others would have long put their foot down and leave. We also seem to struggle with setting boundaries. This is generally difficult for sensitive people, even when their boundaries are not already damaged – which is unfortunately often the case.
In addition to this, empaths can start to only feel the other's emotions and lose connection with home base. You get taken for a ride on the other person's wishes and desires, and before you know it only live to serve someone else's life.
When you're soft and gentle you unfortunately can be more easily taken over by a dominant person. You stop feeling yourself and more easily lose contact with yourself, just by the way you’re wired. This means you need to keep a strong connection with yourself, asking you to be stronger than the average. And at some point you'll learn to stand in your power and not accept any form of toxic behaviours anymore.
A spiritual / karmic perspective
Light and dark are opposites and everything seeks balance. The story is an old, long cycle of the victim / abuser paradigm expressed in many constellations. You both have met already many lifetimes and thus the toxic abuser will feel familiar. You vibrate on a bond formed on trauma however, not on true love – although we tend to label these feelings of familiarity and intimacy as such. You see these initial feelings as a good sign, however it is just left over energies from the past. In truth you have a long cycle of past lives together; karmic bonds can last lifetimes to clear and complete. It's past life Stockholm syndrome if you will; you have a conditional attachment to that person.
What happens when being abused and victimised (in this life or previous ones) is that you start to resonate on pain and control instead of love and care, and thus will unfortunately subconsciously attract partners that match this resonance.
The type of toxic people I dealt with are selfish, parasitic beings that lives off your life energy. They will use you as a tool for their own happiness and fill up their own inner void. They will have had lifetimes of extreme, abusive and damaging behaviour and difficult built-up karma, and in this life may carry a lot of dark energies and black magic around them. If you're sensitive you might also see visions or dreams of wasps (symbol for toxic personalities).
The main chakras in your system that are under attack are: solar plexus / personal power centre, heart chakra / connection of heart as partners and throat chakra / personal expression. As an empath you might register pain, a heavy weight and blockages in these areas of your body as the toxic person is warping your energetic body trying to control and dominate.
The good news: completing an ancient cycle
And now comes the good news! This lifetime offers a rare opportunity to complete the cycle of abuse and step out of the dance! Right now we are living during the turning of ages, and these moments allow to clean up our karma and free yourself, so that in the next cycle of time we may be liberated and live our lives peacefully. Your soul is done with playing out the victim role and will start to move into personal power (creator paradigm). With that you take a step into higher consciousness, a higher vibration and toxic personalities will not find you anymore (the resonance is cleared, the karmic business is finished).
So what is the lesson?
The biggest lesson is to move from victim, into survivor, into victor/creator. This is a tough lesson to learn, and earns you a lot of (self)respect and strength. You're a resilient person so you've got this. You need to learn to set boundaries on what behaviour you accept, to choose for yourself and your own well-being, to feel self-love, to stand up for your needs, to learn to feel deserving of being treated with kindness and respect, to learn you are worth to protect your Light and your sensitive being. Know yourself. Let go of the outside need for approval. Self-validate. Take steps to free yourself and take back control over your own life. Learn to trust yourself no mater what. Learn to put yourself first (counter-intuitive for an empath and a great lesson). Learn to distinguish the difference between love and pain. Learn what healthy relationships look and feel like. Take time to get to know someone. Look out for red flags. Above all: learn to leave the toxic emotions and suffering with the other person. Forget about helping or fixing people, with that you take away lessons and take on karma / their responsibility! Instead, trust the other person has the sovereignty to solve their own problems. This is true compassion and love. Realise we are all responsible for our own baggage / personal growth, and other people responsible for theirs. Keep standing in your power. Do not give your compassion, kindness and politeness to the wrong person, they will only exploit it. Accept this happens, as not everyone is a pleasant person here on earth. This is 3D/the material world. Learn to differentiate between someone who's abused but is at the core a gentle person versus someone who has a serious personality disorder. Develop discernment ('love without wisdom is foolish'). Recognise and accept that not everybody needs to be in our lives. Choose to avoid people who we realise are not healthy for us, and be OK with letting them go, remove yourself from the situation or get them removed if you can. It is completely worth it, or rather, it is non-negotiable.
Tips when you're still dealing with someone toxic
Out of self-protection you can employ these tactics:
⊹ Do not show any weakness
⊹ Do not get entangled in any games
⊹ Show a thick skin (i.e. you cannot be manipulated with emotional tantrums)
⊹ Do not emotionally react to bullying (just shrug), this way they understand they don't hold any power over you
⊹ Don't take their behaviours all too seriously
⊹ Keep your head high
⊹ Always agree publicly, carefully critique privately (when they feel more safe)
⊹ Remain calm
⊹ Make sure to be politically correct so nothing can be used against you or trigger
⊹ Come across humble and supportive
⊹ Remain polite and friendly although you feel angry and upset as otherwise you only create bigger problems
⊹ Save your energy and give up trying to get them to 'be reasonable'
⊹ Communicate your needs directly without emotions and be straight
⊹ There's no point in arguing with someone totally unreasonable and stuck inter views, just agree and then quietly do what you know is right for you
⊹ When trying to convince them make it sound in their advantage not yours
⊹ Do not share anything private and personal
⊹ Keep personal communication superficial
⊹ Carry a fake smile out of self-protection to signal everything is ok
⊹ Be picky with what you believe they say about you
⊹ Document everything important
⊹ Make sure to show your value and success ( in a professional / business setting)
⊹ However do this without being threatening (have a third person stick up for you is effective)
⊹ Find allies (be careful with seeking them out and keep it under the radar)
⊹ Take care of your own needs, don't expect help
⊹ Do not bite when they invite for a fight, instead take a bathroom break, come back and change the subject or set a new tone
⊹ Be kind and helpful within your own boundaries
⊹ Practice self-care
⊹ Make sure to connect with your body throughout the day, to know how you feel. This way you can stay connected to your needs and boundaries
⊹ Keep strict boundaries, not by talking but by doing
⊹ Create as much distance as possible (avoid meetings when you can, take home office, limit visiting hours etc.)
⊹ For your own sake avoid staying in judgement, frustration and anger, as these are toxic energies that destroy your body and keep you complaining – and eventually make you ill and burned-out
⊹ Stop projecting your own goodness onto others and be willing to see the (harsh) truth
⊹ Accept some people are simply like this
⊹ Leave the toxic behaviour with the other person and step out of the dynamic
⊹ Be very kind to yourself and seek out comforting relationships, therapy, healing, coaching and other forms of support
⊹ Do things that make you happy to balance out the negativity and draining interactions, eventually you'll be strong enough to leave or deal
I hope this article will help you break the cycle so you'll start to set boundaries, built self respect and resonate with healthy, uplifting, supportive and loving people in your life.
Ready for healthy love? Read here how to recognise it. If you feel you're in need of support, coaching or healing on this topic, you can book a session here. A helpful book to read is 'Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse' by Shannon Thomas.
Please note: Information contained in the above article is based on personal experience and is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use the above information. Nothing contained in this article is intended to be used for a medical diagnosis or treatment.
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