This morning, I awoke with my nose plastered against my mint green, Hermes typewriter. The Swiss machine carries the scent of cigars which, oddly enough, helped lull me to sleep. I dozed off writing and woke with the sole desire to drive to the beach-windows down- and continue typing my thoughts halfway sunken under the sand.
I felt grateful for the peace in my life.
The solemn, soft-pedaling, sultry peace.
I only found this peace when I became selective with who I gave the right to know my soul. Grandspawns, not everyone should know your spirit. It’s an intimate place. There are people who will enter your holy place and tarnish it to fulfill their own purpose.
This particular letter is about toxic and manipulative people. How to spot them, what to do if you’re stuck in an unhealthy pattern, or how to deal with the after-hurt. It’s a lengthy piece but I have a lot to say.
The toxic pattern goes as follows:
1. They can only be spotted when it’s silent. Which is why they’re so difficult to spot; toxic people thrive off of chaos. Therefore, they hunt for and surround themselves with people who are drowning under life’s swallowing waves. When the water is raging, that’s their cue to jump in. In hindsight, it shocked me how I could have a casual relationship with a person: sporadic conversations, invites to events here and there, etc. But, as soon as I mention a heavy grievance in my life, I’m being contacted more frequently, encouraged to “vent” about the issue, and bombarded with “advice.” It’s difficult to identify someone’s motives in a time of confusion. Your primal instinct is to panic, to retreat, or to fight and seek help; and when your spirit is in a frenzy, anything and anyone looks like help.
2. Their “advice” sessions will predominantly consist of them pinpointing what’s wrong with everyone else around you. By bashing the people around you and reminding you how they hurt you, a toxic person makes you feel victimized. This idea of victimization leads to isolation and will only increase your desire to cling to them more, since they seem like the only person who has your greatest interest at heart. And even if over the course of time you don’t particularly want to remain in a relationship with this person, you will feel as if you have to since they will seem like the only person you think you have left. (And in some cases, like a toxic romantic relationship, they ARE the only person you have left, since your partner deleted people’s contacts from your phone or caused you to distance yourself from family members, or inspired arguments with your friends.) Yet, somehow with SO much to say regarding others, a toxic and manipulative person will never dare mention anything negative about themselves.
3. Nothing is EVER their fault. And when you do catch them in a lie, or present evidence that they, in fact, did commit a wrongdoing, it’s always someone else’s fault. All of their misbehavior and failure in life is because their parents divorced, because they were adopted, because their sibling outshines them, because they didn’t have many friends growing up, the list goes on. Don’t misunderstand me, as humans, we have all felt pain and neglect at one point. More often than not, we don’t deal with those issues and carry it with us where they manifest in our actions somewhere down the course of our lives. And that’s understandable. But when the “blame game” becomes a consistent pattern of behavior, understand you are dealing with a manipulator. Not only will you never receive a legitimate apology (since a legitimate apology accepts responsibility for wrongdoing) but you will seldom even get the truth! Which brings me to my next point…
4. Lies, lies, lies, and lies. One tactic that toxic people and manipulators use that I was never warned about (because seriously who does this?!, but you’d be surprised at the people residing on this planet) is fabricating personal woes for sympathy or to get closer to you.
Meaning, if your father left your mother for a younger woman when you were 4, SO DID THEIRS.
If you got your lunch money stolen all throughout middle school and was called fat in high school, SO DID THEY.
If you are struggling to get yourself through college because your sister liquidated the family bank account and ran off to Italy with her lounge singer boyfriend named Vic who wears a pinky ring on each hand, OH MY GOD, THEY HAVE THE SAME EXPERIENCE AS YOU. PINKY RING AND ALL.
Some people even fabricate stories about physical and sexual abuse.
Toxic people will do this in order to suck sympathy out of you, make themselves more relatable and seem harmless, as well as to get closer to you and cause you to feel more bonded to them through the “shared experience.”
But why would someone lie about something so serious and personal?
Because they know it’s serious and personal.
A guy in a bar could lie about his age, marital status, and line of work. But I am able to verify that information on Google using his full name, pay a website $2.99 to access public marriage records, or find out over time spent together and deeper exposure to his circle. But when it comes to deeper, darker secrets, especially regarding topics a culture may label taboo, there is no socially appropriate way of verifying whether or not something occurred. Some things you just don’t mention. And some things, due to lack of witnesses, you can’t.
Wrapping it up:
The truth is, most toxic and manipulative people don’t genuinely want help. They don’t desire deliverance and they most certainly don’t seek peace. They want a cheerleader.
That’s really it.
And when their cheerleader puts down the pom poms, they go seek a new one; which is why it’s important to be wary of someone who claims their isolation and broken ties with multiple people is due to everyone being “against” them. Truth is, they are isolating themselves because they’d rather run away to someone else they can manipulate to cheer them on instead of work on their own character growth. Everyone has experienced this with a family member, friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend but there are ways to cope with the confusion in a graceful manner:
If you think you’re dealing with a toxic/ manipulative person in the early stages– Congratulations for being aware! As I said in the beginning, it’s difficult to spot a toxic person because they camouflage in chaos. So you’re already one step ahead. Aside from the points I made earlier in this letter, it’s important to add:
–Be slow to condemn or speak on anybody the manipulator tells you about. More often than not, the friends or family this person is “crying” to you about are victims too.
–If a story sounds too outrageous, it probably is. This person wants you to hate the people they hate, so the story they tell you will be BRILLIANT. But, regardless of how well the tale is formulated and how much emotion they tell it to you with, you have to stop and think: is this realistic? Think of the guy who says “all my exes were crazy!” If his 9 exes all sound like they should be on America’s Most Wanted, maybe it’s time to evaluate the common denominator.
–These people believe their own shit. If you begin to notice inconsistencies in their stories and bring your concerns to light, don’t expect a truthful or levelheaded response. A lot of times they will lie, turn the attention around to your shortcomings, or simply react with crying or storming off.
–You don’t owe them anything. They were only your “shoulder to cry on” because they wanted to get close to you and find your weak areas. Don’t think that you have to help them through their mess because they “helped” you through yours. You’ll only end up defending lies and feeling guilty and stupid about it afterwards. If you are beginning to feel confused and worn down, get off the rollercoaster.
–Cut off contact (kindly). Slowly stop responding to their texts or calls. If they invite you out, let them know you’re busy but that you hope they have a great time. Don’t make a huge scene or leave with a “farewell” text or phone call. Move in silence.
If you have already been hurt by a manipulative/ toxic person, here are some thoughts to take with you:
-It’s true… Nobody knows what you went through. And keep it that way. Don’t go around badmouthing this person or “warning” people. Let them figure it out for themselves. If you’re his ex and he cheated on you, beat you, and stole your Abuela’s flat screen TV, don’t call up his new girlfriend and tell her the stories. You are only fitting the mold of “psycho-jealous-ex-girlfriend.”
–Expect to be lied about. Harshly. Just as they told you outrageous stories about people from their past, they will bash your character all around the city. And that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes and walk in light. The people who matter will see and know your true spirit.
–Your secrets might be shared. Not only may a toxic person share your secrets out of carelessness, revenge, or to make themselves look innocent to their next victims, but they will tell those secrets completely incorrectly. Don’t be surprised if you have complete strangers telling you half-truths about a private matter of yours. Honestly, brush it off. Nothing you can do about it now. Regardless of how you feel, don’t retaliate by spreading their secrets and lies. Keep it pushing.
–Apologize if needed. If at any point, you hurt or thought wrongly of someone else while believing and defending this person, accept that you were wrong and muster up the courage to say you are sorry. Regardless of the response you receive, how stupid you feel, or the fact you can’t go back and alter your thoughts and actions, it’s the polite and honorable thing to do. Maintain your integrity throughout.
-Keep in mind, we have all gone through this in one form or another. Don’t feel stupid. Now you know better. Move on with life.
Moving on from a past hurt can be challenging. Not only must you deal with what someone did to you, but learning to forgive and trust yourself and your judgement is a wearisome task. It takes time. Just know that it’s a part of normal life; and because this is a regular growing pain, I know that I can’t keep you from making the wrong kind of friend or dating the wrong man or woman. I can only plant a black flag on the ground so that you can be aware of what to watch out for; ultimately, there are some lessons that were meant to be learned through experience and some the Lord never intended for us to endure. Know that no person should be given the keys to your inner sanctuary if they don’t provide you with peace, security, and prayer firsthand.