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How to Protect Your Health Against Toxic Behavior

Several years ago, I was fortunate to meet a lady named Deborah at a fasting clinic in northern California. I had several conversations with Deborah over the course of a year, and what I remember most is that her kindness was amazingly genuine - I sensed that she had done a lot of inner work to identify the life principles that she strove to live by.

One day, I asked Deborah why she chose to eat her meals alone rather than with other fasting guests. After a beat of silence, she told me that she was getting some negative vibes from another guest, and that she felt that it was best for her resting experience to stay away from that energy. I remember her using the word "toxic" to describe the other guest's energy - not in a malicious way, but with a thoughtful and observational tone.

Deborah's thoughts on avoiding unnecessary toxic energy have stayed with me over the years. I feel that this facet of living is a vastly underrated determinant of health and overall quality of life. We know that our emotional health status has constant influence over the health of every organ system in our bodies, particularly our nervous and endocrine systems. And clearly, our emotional health is largely affected by our daily interactions with others. So it stands to reason that learning how to identify and effectively deal with toxic influences are important skills to develop when looking to experience optimal health.

How to Identify Toxic Behavior

Generally speaking, I think it's safe to say that a person is toxic to your health if his or her behavior makes you feel bad on a regular basis. Clearly, there are exceptions to this guideline. For example, if a close friend or family member shares a concern about your behavior with a spirit of wanting to improve your relationship, you may feel bad and your sense of emotional well-being may take a temporary hit, but it doesn't make sense to label such friends or family members as being toxic.

What follows are specific patterns of behavior that I believe fall into the "toxic-to-your-health" category:

  1. Attempting to intimidate you by yelling or becoming violent in any manner (slamming a door is a violent act).

  2. Consistently talking down at you, sending the message that he or she is just plain better than you.

  3. Regularly telling you what he or she thinks is wrong with you.

  4. Slandering others behind their backs i.e. trying to engage you in gossip that is hurtful to others.

  5. Spending the bulk of your conversations complaining about his or her life and others.

  6. Discouraging you from pursuing your interests and dreams when you are capable of doing so without hurting or burdening others.

  7. Attempting to take advantage of your kindness and resources, and trying to make you feel guilty if you don't do what he or she wants.

How to Deal With Toxic People and Behavior

So how do you preserve your health after you have identified a person as being toxic to your health? The answer depends on the role that the toxic person plays in your life. Although it is virtually impossible to categorize all such people into neat boxes, I tend to think of them as belonging to one of the following groups:

Group 1: H&G (Hi and Good Bye)

Examples of people who belong in this category:

Unkind customer service representatives
People who exhibit road rage
Strangers on the street

How to protect your health against such people:

  1. First, think carefully about your own behavior to see if you may have done or said something to cause the other party's behavior.

  2. If you can identify something that you did that likely offended the other party, if possible, offer a sincere apology. If he or she accepts your apology, things work out well for both parties. If your apology is not accepted, you can at least walk away with some peace of mind, knowing that you owned up to your behavior.

  3. If you cannot think of anything that you did that could have offended the other party, give him or her a silent "H&G" and walk away. Confronting the other party about unkind behavior is not likely to be fruitful. Since you don't have to co-exist on a regular basis, you can take the mindset of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." In other words, the other party's unkind behavior is on him or her; he or she will reap natural consequences in due time.

Group 2: No real need to be close, but contact is frequent due to life circumstances

Examples of people who belong in this category:

Fellow students
Members of groups that you regularly meet with (church, book club, sports club, etc.)

How to protect your health against such people:

  1. As before, start by examining your own behavior to see if you can come up with a reasonable cause for the other person's unacceptable behavior. If you cannot come up with a reason for the other party's behavior, find someone who you can trust to be as objective and honest as possible, and explain the conflict as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Ask for honest feedback on how you might have triggered the other party's behavior. Be sure to state that you aren't looking for someone to take your side, but that you are looking to get an objective read of the situation.

  2. If appropriate, apologize for your behavior. If you and your adviser have thought long and hard about the conflict and cannot identify anything that you need to apologize for, work on developing compassion for the other party.

    Most will agree that people are not born to be mean-spirited and toxic to others. People can become mean-spirited and toxic to others for varying periods of time if they encounter enough hurt, disappointment, or anger in their own journeys. Maybe the other person is jealous of you and consumed by his own failures. Maybe she is just going through a really rough time due to a loss in the family. Maybe he has never truly felt cared about by another person. Maybe the other person has been treated so poorly by family members that sensitivity has been numbed and she has no idea that you feel like you have been mistreated. The idea is to generate enough compassion for the other person to overpower or at least quell your hurt feelings.

    This doesn't mean that you need to be a martyr or a doormat and go asking for another three tight slaps to your other cheek. Developing some compassion for another person's toxic behavior is meant to prevent said behavior from causing you to stew and stay emotionally unbalanced for a long time after the actual moment of conflict. And if the other party has or develops the courage to apologize to you, having some pre-made compassion available in your heart improves your chances of offering genuine forgiveness and experiencing that much more emotional harmony.

  3. After you have worked on developing compassion for the other person's circumstances, if you haven't received an apology, be kind, but don't push for a make-up session. An important part of experiencing emotional balance is learning to teach others that you expect to be treated with kindness and respect. To seek out a make-up session when you have done nothing wrong and the other party has not mustered up the courage to apologize is to teach him or her that you can be walked on - not a good lesson to give.

Group 3: Ideal to be close

Examples of people who belong in this category:

Immediate family members
Friends that you have good reason to respect

How to protect your health against such people:

  1. Go through the first two steps outlined above; try to figure out if you did something wrong, and apologize if you can think of something.

  2. While it's important that you teach family members and close friends how you expect to be treated, in some cases, it may be necessary for you to seek out a make-up session even if the other party has not apologized for his or her behavior.

    For example, if it was your spouse who mistreated you, and he or she has not apologized, if you know from experience that he or she is not likely to initiate a conversation that can lead to healing, and a top priority for you is to have your children grow up in a mostly peaceful and love-filled environment, it may be best for you to reach out first. By reaching out first in such a scenario, the hope is that you inspire your partner to edge closer to taking more responsibility for his or her actions during the next conflict. Clearly, this proactive and almost martyr-like approach to increase understanding and intimacy is most appropriate in situations where you are deeply committed to the long term relationship at hand.

    If you are currently struggling in your relationship with someone who belongs in this category, I hope that you find one or more of the following articles to be helpful:

    Using Honesty to Build a Good Relationship

    Understanding Your Partner's Primary Love Language

    How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You

If you have any thoughts on how to effectively deal with people who may be toxic to your health, I encourage you to share them in the comments section below. Just as Deborah's behavior encouraged me several years ago, I hope that these thoughts encourage you to embrace the journey of learning how to protect yourself against toxic behavior.

I also hope that these thoughts serve as a reminder that we all have the capacity to display behavior that can be toxic to others. Staying mindful of this fact can only help to minimize the potential that we have to bring others down.


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The effect that toxic people can have on you is very real and very destructive. I have experienced this a couple of times. The advice above is important, but in the end, with a toxic person, you simply have to walk away. There doesn't need to be any great confrontation or shouting match, you have to gently drop them from your life.It is amazing how such people do gradually disappear and this confirms for me that they only really wanted to be with you to make themselves feel better: they don't have any concerns for the other person. And that is what real friendship has to be about. I regularly pray for my former toxic friends and hope that they may find happiness and the ability to have balanced friendships....with somebody else!

As a therapist-in-training, my daily life consists of encountering toxic people, some who want help and some who are mandated by the courts to get help whether they want it or not. I found the above article to be a holistically balanced view of how to honor one's own personal boundaries and need for peace and social connection with one's concern for others. I think master teachers such as Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, etc. were able to recognize toxicity (the result of woundedness), maintain their own wholeness and spiritual awareness, and offer compassion and understanding--and justice when necessary, which lead to healing. They also took time away from others to restore and refresh themselves. I'm still trying to understand this process and their beingness more fully, but that's my take on it so far. The above article seems to be an excellent explanation of the process. Thanks for writing it...I'm sending it to my friends and loved ones!

Hi Cynthia - I completely agree with your assessment and wish you best of luck in future as therapist. It seems to me, your clients will be lucky to find someone like you, and I hope they realize it, and are able to benefit from your apparent genuine concern and intelligence.
All the Best

What if I'm the toxic person? i'm having a hard time not being toxic to others. I know it's wrong when I'm doing it and feel very bad after my actions have hurt someone else i don't understand myself anymore. why can't I stop? Whats wrong with me?

Hi Tracy. I was glad to read your comment. So often it seems that people who tend to be toxic don't know that they are. You recognize that you might be, and you have a desire not to be. That's very admirable. I have a sister who has so much pain and agony inside her, and she strikes out at others with cruelty and anger. But she is completely unaware of what she is doing, and she doesn't recognize how much she hurts others. So she is unable to seek help or receive it. I think it's so great that you are open to hearing that you might have a problem and to finding help if you do. I am a retired counselor, and my advice to those who are in your situation is as follows:
(1) First see a good physician or health care worker who can assess your entire level of well-being. An endocrinologist or internist might be of help. There are many medical conditions that can make one feel and act toxic.
(2) Secondly, take a look at how you can improve your health and start doing all you can. You already read Dr. Kim's website, and he has so much information about a healthy lifestyle. To be healthy, we need a good diet of fresh, whole foods, mainly from plants. We need a little sunshine daily and lots of fresh air. We need a good nights sleep each night. We need friends and supporters who love us. We need to exercise aerobically for a half hour or more each day. We need to do things for relaxation. And we need to develop ourselves spiritually, as well. Make all efforts you can to address these health needs.
(3) Thirdly, find a good therapist who will work with you on your possibly toxic behaviors/thoughts. A licensed psychologist, esp. one trained in counseling psychology, can offer you much help in dealing with the issues of pain and anger that underlie toxic behaviors. We all lash out at others sometimes, but if this is a significant pattern in our lives, then we need help to overcome it.
Tracy, the fact that you are seeking help tells me that you are very likely to overcome this. I wish you all good things in finding a new way of being. You have my utmost respect.


Thank you for your caring advice. I'm confused about my life right now and harbor alot of ill feelings toward family members and past relationships. I have guilt for wrong choices i made and for some reason when i'm under alot of stress it comes out as anger and meaness my son told me I push people away which is true for the most part I've always been angry even as a child but I'm really tring to put this behind me and change my life I love people very much and want to be close with them I guess I'm realizing I don't know how to do it, I'm really jealous of people who can. I have had alot of very nice people commit on my post and I will take the advice I've been given and use it for my own good.

Thank you for caring, Tracy

Hi Tracy

It's great that you recognize this and want to change it. I would suggest trying to figure out why you are like that if you can. Once you know why, you can figure out the best way to put things right.
Secondly, when you realize you are being toxic to someone, stop, take a deep breath, smile, and say "Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude/sound negative/say it that way...or whatever" and then carry on with the conversation in a better way and with a smile. - The smile helps, even on the phone you sound better.

Wishing you every success in the future and a happy life.


I lived with a toxic behaviour family member.
She never gives up on doing things, big or small to intimidate and put me down - mostly in her actions - not words. She seems to get a lot of satisfaction out of hurting me - even to the extreme of going through my personal things in my room when I am not around. She lies without blinking an eye to protect herself and make every effort to look good in the eyes of her husband and children and she justifies her actions of hurting me with her religious belief. She never talks to me and it is always me who take the initiate to communicate - if I stop - there is never any communication.
As Dr. Ben said, if I have not done anything wrong but I need to always initiate the reconciliation, it is telling the other party it is ok for me to be treated this way.
Recently, I am getting quite tired of her antics and having every intention to bid her a healthy H&G by no more initiating any conversations with her - I want to tell her - I want to be treated with respect too and she cannot any longer intimidate nor hurt me.

She is in good health and knows what to eat to maintain good health. But I suspect she is unhappy with her current situation - with very minimum education, so staying at home as a fulltime housewife, doing normal housework of cooking 3 meals for her family daily, washing, cleaning and doing babysitting for 3 babies (something she opts to do for the money - not that her husband and children can't afford to support her - they all have well paid steady jobs !!). Her situation can be changed if she wishes to - but that's her life - so I cannot tell her what to do and what not to do.
I think our lifestyle, environment and not just the food that's affecting a toxic person the most. Thank you.

I read with interest and sadness the many stories of hurt and humiliation posted by bewildered people, who do not understand why they should be treated as badly as they have been.
I think there were several good points, about dealing with these hurts, made in the posts -
affirmations to go on and not allow these toxic people to inflict further hurt and pain
to face the hurt, the horrible feelings of being made to feel worthless, rejected and to work through the realization that, in reality these toxic people would have done these things to others and that you were not expecially "worthless/bad or ugly" you were just there, in fact, that it was these toxic people who are these things
and also to having faced these feelings (and allowing tears) to then proceed forward and TO MAKE A NEW AND HAPPIER HEALTHIER LIFE FOR YOURSELF.
It is your own responsibility as to how you deal with the rest of your life -
sit down and imagine /dream if you will, how you would like your life to be -
would you like to be educated / take training in your dream occupation, learn to be self confident, learn how to look after youreself and learn to love yourself.
Start with small steps, and progress from there.
And everytime "one of those horrid voices from toxic people" comes into your memory into your mind, speak to yourself kindly and reflect on how far you have come and that you will live a happy healthy life. You give yourself permission to disregard the "history" and move forward (without looking backwards) towards your chosen goals and life. And you will succeed - little by little you will climb the mountain of happiness with freedom and joy.

How do I know this??
- I too have had a toxic "family" with many beatings and even more harsh words (eg you are ugly - what a thing to say to a five year old, andonwards past teenager etc)
you are stupid, a moron, an idiot, mongoloid, totally useless, no one wants you - you get on every one's nerves - and as a punishment - apart from slaps, kicks, punches and beatings - ignore her - do not speak to her - for hours and days at a time - she'll soon learn how to behave herself...etc) and withholding of foods for a couple of days at a time. (Harsh indeed in a very cold climate).

But I learned so very very much in these harsh and sad times - I learnt to look about me, observe other people, other families, learnt how TO BE - honest, true, diligent and conscientious. AND WHAT NOT TO DO....I had plenty of role models for that in my toxic family.

I learnt to appreciate every little worthwhile thing, events (rainbows, sunsets, first snow (even though it was cold on my feet through soles stuffed with paper and cardboard),flowers popping out of the snow in springtime, may beetles with their antlers and fog - I used to love fogs and used to dream that I would wander magically into another world with a different family, who didn't expect me to lug heavy buckets of coal up five flights of stairs from a dark cellar (from five years onwards), scrub floors, wash clothes (no washing machine then).
and so forth.

I learnt how to be caring about people by NOT doing what my "parents" did.
I learnt how to be a good and caring mother and wife by NOT DOING what my mother did.

Above all I learnt how to be me, despite or inspite, of the many beatings and the harsh words, the lies and the betrayals, the ridicule and the obstacles put in my way when I tried to learn English and learn other skills at school (no textbooks - just look over someone's shoulders) And the "alone-ness" of living in such a family. I evaluated what happened in our "home" against that which I saw elsewhere and judged my attitude.

BUT I won through - I proved them wrong - I became top of my class (including English within six months), so I wasn't an idiot or stupid. I wasn't useless - I was asked by my teacher to help mark Language papers (my native language),
I made friends at school (but wasn't allowed to invite them home) so I wasn't horrid or get on everyone's nerves.

And so I dispelled every horrid thing and replaced it with REALITY.
One very important thing I learnt was that I DID NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT AND KNOW EVERYTHING to be a pleasant person and to be accepted by other (non toxic) people. I am still working on minimising the "bad childhood aspects" which seem every now and then pop up. No big thing - I look about and no one is perfect, so I fit right in.

And all my efforts to learn to be happy and healthy have resulted in my being
happily married with a marvellous man (not perfect but great) and two adult sons, one of who has two sons of his own - three and seven. Friends and a great lifestyle and a lovely home with a peaceful atmosphere.

I wish you all well.

Thank you for sharing your pain, and the joy of rising above it. We are all shaped by our environment throughout our lives, but we have the ability to choose how those environments affect us in the big picture. I too, learned through similar experience my family wasn't the same as everyone else's. I too learned I had to decide who I wanted be and make a conscious effort to become the person I wanted to be. I started by ridding myself of the behaviors I displayed (and the thought processes) that were toxic to me and those I interacted with. A very valuable lesson I learned through my first of many of these cycles of consciously implementing change, was to fill up the spaces I emptied with the qualities I wished to replace them with as part of the process, instead of a separate, follow-up process. The first time, I emptied everything first, before I attempted to replace. There was a period of time in between the two processes where I suffered greatly from the emptiness. It was very difficult to rise from such a low point. With subsequent life changing cycles, by combining these two steps I have learned my recovery time is faster, and I am not allowing the toxicity of emptiness to infiltrate my life.

After reading your post, I just want to say thank you for sharing. I went through the same type of childhood and to this day feel held back everytime I see my family. Despite creating my own reality, it seems like those feelings always pop up and it is diff to control. I feel angry because their behavior now and then pops up unexpectedly So as much as I go on my days, one encounter can change my whole week. So how did you deal with seeing them again? or do you?

It's quite similar situation my wife, who passed away 4 years ago, had experienced. She may not be pretty, her education may be just so-so, her family looked down at her since she was young. But maybe as you say, has learned to be good in almost everything in life. So she had lots of friends, no matter where she meets people or every church she goes to, she's able to make tons of warm hearted friends. Even when she faced cancer and we went to a new church, she was easily highly respected by all! I'm very proud of her and missed her dearly.

I was very moved to read this account of someone overcoming a toxic childhood. You are a pretty special person, kangapeggy.

Well done, KangaPeggy, you have proven that one can conquer adverse circumstances with the ability , as you have, to rise above poor conditions and construct a better life for yourself and others around you!, all my best wishes for you and yours in the future, Murray Smith. Australia. Ps, Nobody is "Perfect!".

I can sense how much pain you feel over your actions. First, don't wallow in self-pity and overwhelming guilt and remorse. That will not help you change your behaviour. The fact that you feel badly shows that you are not without hope. Are you truly toxic or are you just human? If you believe that you are consistently hurting others, try taking an honest look at what prompts your actions. A self-examination can be painful, but you will never change if you don't first address the root cause.

I have found the Bible to be an enormous help for relationships. The Proverbs contain a lot of wise counsel on how to treat others. There is some very specific discussion in Ephesians Ch.4 Verses 20-32. Try reading that section and meditate on how you might apply that in your relationships. You might try to imagine a scenario in which you usually act or react in a certain way that is harmful, and instead imagine yourself being calm, kind, considerate, etc. Make it a practice to treat people the way you want to be treated. (Matt. 7:12). Studying Jesus'life and ministry is also immensely helpful. Imitating the way he dealt with people will surely help. In time you will find yourself improving and others will see that too. Pray for God's help to overcome the habits of the 'old personality' and to put on the 'new personality' (Eph.4:22-24).

Your honesty in evaluating yourself is refreshing. I bet you are harder on yourself than you deserve. I hope that this will be of help to you. May Jehovah God bless your efforts to become a better person and to conform to His standards.

Hi Jen,

For some reason, I opened my Bible, which has been sitting on a shelf for a long time, and read the passages you mentioned. I have found for myself the ideas of reincarnation very helpful: that people maybe being in your life for a reason, to teach you something important, like opening your heart. In this respect I find buddhism very helpful. In particular I read books by Pema Chodron, where she tackles these things. Her book Start Where You Are she explains the "bodhichitta slogans". Bodhichitta means the awakened heart. One of the slogans is: " Be grateful to everyone".
Maybe we will need to walk away from a toxic person, but it is essential that we first consider what they are teaching us, it may be that in this process we will start to respond differently, and maybe their behaviour will change. This practice is of course important if such a person is in our life to stay, like a family member.
To Tracey I would say also to look at yourself with compassion. To know that there is a Buddha inside you, that the part of you that snaps at people is your ego, and that you can aspire to live from a higher place inside you. Pema Chodron writes: "Aspiration is like a prayer". So you could say to yourself: "May my need to be unkind decrease. May I experience myself as kind and patient. May I think of how this person feels, and treat them as I would like to be treated."
Another very strong tool to use is tapping some acupuncture points whilst stating the problem you are experiencing, with a sentence such as "Even though I have been unkind, I love and accept myself". You can learn to use this technique on . It can help you to alter the pattern that makes you behave in this way.
Basically, I you genuinely want to change this, you will find the way. the kindness that you will be able to give to others will benefit you. it will be like being kind to yourself.
All best.

Hi "Little Sister" Tracy: It was great to read something different and compassionate; you care deeply about how you affect others. That is beautiful. There's nothing "wrong" with you. You are in a lot of unresolved emotional pain which expresses itself outwardly in a similar, atmosphere-contaminating way. Some people in your midst will get sick/hurt from it and others will be able to protect themselves. You said "I know it's wrong when I'm doing it and feel bad after.." You already have the awareness. Remain alert to that. When you are conscious, then you can choose to act in a hurtful way or in a loving way. Recognize and eliminate/heal your "Pain-body" from which the bad behavior originates. (Read about the pain body in Eckhart Tolle's A NEW EARTH: Awakening to your Life's Purpose) You are capable of doing this even in an instant. Look within and change, and then the things you don't like outside yourself will change accordingly. Love yourself. You are wonderful. Your true and indestructible essence is love.
Love, Nancy

Hi Traci- I think it's a huge step just to be aware of, and admit to your toxic behavior. I too have felt this way about myself. I have become more aware of it as years go by. Sometimes it's a "control" issue. I believe most people are not conscious of their "wrong Actions" I have read that, what bothers you in others, is really a reflection of what you feel is wrong with you. I also read that meditating on it for answers may help. I think keeping a journal is also productive. I hope this helps. Linda

Tracy, It doesn't matter so much what's wrong with you, as to how you can change. The answer is INTENTION. Please read this EVERY MORNING (or several times a day at first until it becomes part of you): My intention today is to show love and kindness to each person I come in contact with. My intention today is to make each person feel good about themself. My intention today is to be accepting of other people's shortcomings. My INTENTION today is to be a "Ray of Sunhine" in other people's lives.
You can be this new person, Tracy, by simply changing your intention. You can do it!

Linda, Thank you so much for sharing that intention affirmation with Tracey and with the rest of us. Starting now I will be be intending until it becomes a part of my automatic behavior. George

Dear Tracey,

I recently sent a response which included something for you, and realise now that your post was from 2007! I don't know if you are still reading this blog, but I wonder how you are doing, if the discussions here have been helpful to you, if you have managed to move on and are feeling happier?
All best,

Dear Tracy, the very fact that you ask the question "What wrong with me?" reveals that deep inside you are a good, moral and honest person. It also means that you have not something like a psychosis,because if you had one, you wouldn't be able to realise that something is wrong with you and would always blame the others. So that's good - there is much hope for you. Look attentively at your past experiences in life - especially at your childhood. You have probably been emotionally harmed by an unhealthy closest relationship - emotionally unbalanced, tiring, demanding mother or father, or both. Read about psychology - about different neurosis and other psychological conditions, their causes and treatment, and try to understand your own case. I believe it would be really helpful to you. Living for years in an difficult and unhealthy marriage, I developed interest in psychology, which helped me greatly to see things clearly, to correct what is wrong in my behaviour, to understand the behaviour of the other, and to manage to forgive him.

From very personal experience I can share with you that what actually tremendously helped me to cope with the constant and destructive trouble was committing my life to Jesus Christ, in Whom I became gradually more humble, more loving, understanding and forgiving, reaching a level of patience and self-control unknown to me before. I believe the key for resolving difficulties in the relationships is making constant efforts to increase our UNDERSTANDING, COMPASSION and LOVE for our-self and for the other.
Good luck!

I agree with Brenda above. I realized after 45 years that my mother was the toxic member in not just my life, but in all lives she comes in contact with, and after studying a little more regarding what a true psychopath is, I have learned that 90% of psychopaths are not in prison (they are much too intelligent to end up there), 4% of the American population are psychopathic, and that they come in all shapes and forms and walks of life. Once you have identified the "toxic" people and/or "psychopaths" in your life who are doing you real harm, emotionally, financially, etc., there comes a time when you decide you must walk away from them to protect yourself from further damage. My mother is 76 years old. She's not likely to change a life time of manipulating others for her benefit just because I choose to apologize to her or take one of the routes Dr. Kim has suggested. Now that I have no contact with her, she leans more on other members of my family to selfishly obtain what she wants. My absense hasn't affected her in the least, and this is the life of a psychopath.

Thank you, Dr. Kim, for bring up this subject in your newsletter. I will forward a copy of it to my older sister, who is still in the throes of having to deal with my mom.

Something that has really helped me with this issue is a sermon I heard on tv from a local Christian minister. He compared being offended by someone as picking up a rock and carrying it around with you. Over time if you have picked up rocks and keep putting them in a bag and carry them around long enough, they become so heavy that they weigh you down enormously and cause you great distress.

He went on to say that picking up a rock[an offense] is a decision. You can decide to put down your bag of rocks and never pick up even a tiny one as long as you live. I realised that I had a huge bag of rocks that I had been carrying around for decades! Setting the bag of rocks down felt strange at first! I have had several opportunities to be offended since I heard this sermon and enjoy NOT picking up rocks of any size!

He also went on to say that no matter how heinous the offense against you, it is always your choice whether to pick up the are only burdening yourself by doing so...we can give the offense to God to deal with and get on with our life!

This analogy has help me tremendously in dealing with a lifetime of toxic realtionships! Hope it can help someone else!

This Toxic Topic is provocative and as important as any other about keeping one's immune system healthy. Unlike a communicable disease, Toxic people, while contaminating an emotional environment, are not necessarily infective if the other person is in a state of Aware Presence and/or has taken care of their own toxicity thus having no residue for resonance. In fact, mere Presence can be a catalyst for the healing of any ego-based pain unconsciously emanating from another. The only reason one could be affected by a so-called toxic person is if they themselves were able to resonate with the other's cry-for-help toxicity. In other words, having the same basic problem of unhealed emotional pain allows a person to react to it in another. The effects of a so-called toxic person can alert another of his or her own toxicity (AKA pain), need for healing and for looking within oneself. This is a gift. Let us not bash and condemn the in-pain "toxic" person but rather apply compassion, see it in ourselves, and heal it. Neither we not the other person is (fear-based) pain or actually toxic - that is ego's identification. And, we are not our egos but something far greater.

Simply walking away will not solve anything. It will only prove to separate us all the more with separation being among the most painful experiences on Earth.

Brenda: If in awareness you could see these people for who they really are, or the true person for whom you praying, you would have nothing to run away from except another child of God like yourself. Are you running away from your own unhealed pain? A person in pain does not feel better at your expense. They are reaching out to you for empathy or perhaps to show them the way out of pain. When pain is emanated unconsciously or without awareness, it does not diminish that pain inside of them. Only aware acknowledgment and letting go can do that. Model compassion for them instead of running away from a person in pain. Would you want someone to abandon you in pain? Be loving. We are all brothers and sisters.

Nancy your words remind me of a story about a Hawaiian shaman who heals psychopaths, sociopaths, manic depressed people and many other 'toxic' inmates of a criminally insane ward. He never attends the patients at all, simply spends time in meditation, with a certain person in mind, consciously forgiving himself for that portion of him who is the person's illness. His results were apparently spectacular.
Here's a link to the story.

Dear Nourisher: It is with great gratitude and full body chills that I acknowledge the truth of your words. The Shaman probably meditates, zeroing in on the so-labeled toxic person and overlooks, sees through (That is basically what FORGIVE means.) that toxicity, which is ultimately not the real person's essence. Thus, the illusion of toxicity in its various negative manifestations is diminished or disintegrated resulting in healing - even at a distance. Nancy

One can offer solutions, ask for specifics when being criticized. But when the manipulative person refuses family therapy, or any other attempt to drop the pain body, walking away is the only solution.

It's called "healthy boundaries". I am 65 years old and have been hospitalized twice this year. My son has been my principal caretaker since Nov 29.
The more ill I've been, his "help". carries with it a nasty discharge of the pain body :constant litany of devaluation. He thinks he is entitled because in his opinion, I've never respected him over the last 35 of his 38 years. No specifics

YOU'RE RIGHT, WALKING AWAY DIDN'T HELP THE YEARS I LIVED AWAY CAUSED HIM MORE ANGER. NOW I WNAT TO LIVE IN OUR FAMILY HOME; HE LIVES DOWNSTAIRS AND WILL NEVER LEAVE. The primary lesson I have learned is to love him anyway, have compassion, meditate, do the Ho'OponoPono, honor and respect everyone especially myself.

Does a toxic person want to leave the source of energy that comes from hurting someone?

(I'd like to hear how it goes with Tracy.
What does it take to change? Being accountable for the hurt, making real changes and heaven forbid, being on your own totally responsible for your words and actions?)



It would be good to believe that a toxic person is a 'gift', helping us to address our own pain, but how so if their lies have assassinated your reputation without you realising it for years, they have destroyed your friendships and relationships with their lies, to the point that it is impossible to make amends, they call you 'sick' in the head when you dare to stan up for yourself,and beacuse thay are a mother, an older person, people believe their lies.....yeah, that was a real gift....narcissists, psycopaths, bullies, batterers, all easy to solve then are they?

It's true. Sometimes you simply have to walk away.
However, if the toxicity comes from within us, we cannot walk away. The only path is through it.

Being aware of it is the beginning. Realizing that intolerance and hatred have replaced love and joy in your very own soul can leave you seething with anguish and dispair. Hopefully, this breakdown (breakthrough) will be in the presence of someone else's compassion: That compassion can help snap a person out of the spell - and break out of a decades-old imprinted pattern of knee-jerk toxicity. Transformational? Yes. Easy? Not really. It takes commitment, but it's worth it. Love, tolerance and compassion feel big, beautiful, full-bodied and wonderful.

When the gift of compassion is accepted and helps one person transform, many others benefit. Thank you for this article.

Yes it is helpful to forgive the people who have been harmful to us - regardless of whether they accept it or even know about it - but we are wise to keep our distance. A great testing ground is when you get into trouble and they do more harm than good.

I encountered a woman on a train who I told that I had forgiven my sister for what she had done to my children and I, but have cut off all contact. Her response was, "has she forgiven you?" Trouble is, I did nothing to cause her animosity and dangerous attitude - drugs may have! I pray.

Sometimes it can feel hard to just walk away when a person really does need help; but if we can't, then we may be doing (especially ourselves) more harm than good!

We're all so eager to label OTHER people toxic--it might do, as Jesus reportedly said, to check the beam in our own eye. Dr. Kim did say to examine our own behavior for possible actions that cause other people to respond unfavorably towards us. Many people are angry, cruel, destructive and so forth, and we can also experience others as toxic by projecting our own faults on to others. We all have anger, hatred, violence and resentment hidden inside ourselves.

What I've come to realize is kindness does not always work with toxic people as most are incapable of admitting any fault (See: Narcissistic). You may come to a temporary agreement and find peace for some time, but in the long run what these people really need is professional help (and often times even that won't help). The best thing you can do to preserve your mental health and overall is get away from these people, otherwise the pattern will not stop. Trust me.

Sadly you'll always meet these kind of people no matter where you go. But the worst of them are the ones you have to come home to. They drain you the most. Sometimes sympathy is wasted on these people, for your own good move away from them and don't come back, it'll only get worse. Cheers.

My spirit is almost broken! I hate leaving a sick person,but its him or me! I can't deal with it! My mind & heart is broken! He never apologizes! Its daily torture with toxic words spewed to me! I Dont deserve it! I can't deal with it! I pray & pray. I Dont won't to betray GO,D with divorce,but I can't live in misery another day! My children & g' children need me! I love life,but he's draining my joy each day!

This so true and I am totally agree with your opinion .Toxic people are injurious to health so stay away from them as far as possible .:)

I do accept as true with all of the concepts you have offered in your post. They're really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very brief for beginners. May you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

Thank you for your wonderful advice, as usual. I have had to deal with many toxic people in my family and outside of my family. I think the things that have helped me the most was: first, looking closely at my part of the relationship; second, communicating clearly and honestly with the other party; third, making a clear decision about how much space I need to keep between us if necessary (based on the circumstances) without feeling bad about it; and finally, insuring that I have learned something positive from the experience. I truly feel that if you learn nothing from your life experiences, they will continue to repeat themselves in your life until you do. Once you accept and grow from your experience, new journeys appear in your life and you tend to get out of negative "ruts" that may have plagued you in the past. By just walking away from people who seem toxic, without gaining something from the encounter . . . you may be more likely to continue to find yourself attracting the same people into your life.

I just watched an old episode of Magnum PI. Thomas Magnum was asked to protect an 18 year old, female super star, professional tennis player. She yelled and humiliated all around her. When the tennis star said to Magnum, "you don't like me very much?” Magnum replied, "you don't make it very easy". When her family wondered who was trying to kill her, Magnum said, almost anyone around her. In other words he was very honest and didn't pretend that her behavior was anything but obnoxious. Anyway, I always feel refreshed when I watch him in action. His honesty wins in the end. You don't see an apology, just honestly and coping with whatever. Just a thought, it blessed me!

Dear Dr. Kim

This is a topic that is very close to my heart and I know the story is long so I apologize for that in advance.

Very early in my life, I recognized Toxic people and understood at a very young age, 16, to take these people out of my life although at that time, 1966, I did not yet recognize the word "toxic". I just knew these people to be like large stones on top of my head and what I used to call, "bad energy in my space." Unfortunately for me, two of these people were my father, who was old an school European who felt that beating his daughters and wife into submission was the way to go and also my future husband and his family who were very heavy drinkers. I left my fathers home at 16 to run away with my boyfriend (who eventually became my husband)to become a "Hippie" in Yorkville. By the time I was 18, I had two babies 13 months and a newborn. I realized right away that I had gone from worse to worse. I did eventually forgive and make up with my father who died in 1971 of a heart attack at the age 0f 55. But I suffered through my relationship until I was 22 and had yet another child. When that child was 3 months old, I finally invited my husband to leave our home. There I was, 22 years old and a single mother with three children to raise. It still took me another 10 years to divorce and remove this man once and for all because he just kept hanging on and would not let go.

Over the years, I met and was associated with so many people who had the poor me's and who were only content when they were berrating and gossiping about others. I constantly removed myself out of the negative energy these people exuded. I have been accused by many "friends" and co-workers of dismissing people from my life. I have been told that instead of working things out and staying in something for the long-haul, I just walk away and write people off. I felt guilty very often for doing this to people, but what it came down to for me, was them or me. I could stay in these friendships and relationships and let them take me over and pollute my environment making it toxic or I could just walk away. I had a full time job and three children whose father was not a particpant in their lives, that needed me to be strong. I could not focus on the job at hand when other people were as I used to say, "emotional vampires" in my life. Therefore I spent many nights alone after the kids were tucked in. For me though, being alone and being lonely are not the same. I did not feel lonely because I made the choice to give 100% of my free time to my children.

I chose to walk away from the person who got belligerent and put me down and belittled me in front of our friends for fun when she drank too much. When I called her on it, she accused me constantly of having no sense of humor. From the men where demeaning and did not treat me well. When I called them on it, they accused me of expecting too much from other people and told me I would be alone forever because I scared all the guys away. I replied, "The only guy I am scaring away is my future ex-husband." From co-workers who wanted to make themselves feel better by putting down the single mother who could not afford to dress in the latest fashions. When I stood up for those people, I was accused of being a bleeding heart.

The first time I used the word toxic was when in 1996, when I lost my mother. My supposed best friend came to the funeral, and all she could talk about were her problems with her three step-children and her husbands ex-wife and the latest fight they's had. She also brought her todler son with her, who was screaming and crying the whole time and she kept telling him to go see Aunt Connie, me, for comfort. She said she could not find a babysitter and had to bring him. I was heartbroken to have lost my mother to breast cancer and all she could talk about was her, her, her and her problems. As you said in your statements above, I phased her out slowly after that. I heard a news report a little while later about toxic shock syndrome and the light bulb went on for me. That was what these people were like to me. They were my own personal toxic shock syndrome. The first time I used this phrase with my sister, who is very much like me, she understood exactly what I meant when she asked about why I didn't see "susan" (not her real name) anymore considering she had been like a part of our family for so many years. I just said, "she is just so toxic, I can't keep doing this to myself". She told me then what a great word that was to describe these sorts of people so I kept on using it as it explains it all.

I am 56 years old now and remarried to a wonderful man who treats me with respect and kindness. I have my three children in my life, seven grand children and two step-children as well as sisters and brothers. To this day, if someone comes screaming and pounding into my life, I just walk away and try to avoid them at all costs. I had to teach my 14 year old son this lesson when he kept getting into trouble with the police at my door. Tearfully but with a strong will, I sent him to live with his father. I kept telling him if he couldn't behave for me, he would for his father. He thought I was bluffing but it was tough love and I did it.

When my new husband's ex-wife kicked out his 16 year old son for being verbally abusive and difficult to live with, he moved in with us. I only agreed to it if he went for counselling and he did. But after time when he became comfortable and said his dad would not let Connie send him back to his mother,he became argumentative, verbally abusive, cussing a blue streak when he didn't get his way, and refusing to live in a peaceful environment with us. I asked my husband to please consider telling him to try harder to get along with us or he would have to go back to his mother where they are comfortable with that kind of personality. When by the age of 17 it was clear he would not be able to live peacefully, we did ask him to go back and live with his mother. By this time I had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Every day I had to beg him to please come down and clean up the kitchen after making himself a snack at bedtime, and one night he flat out refused. I do not argue with people. I cleaned it up and the next day when he wanted to go on the computer, I said no and he said I couldn't stop him. 6 ft. 3" and almost 300 pounds, he was right, physically I couldn't. He went anyway and got furious with me when he realixed I had turned off all the power to the downstairs office and put a lock on the fuse box. Just as his father came in the house, he heard him say to me, "I hope your blood pressure goes through the roof and you die from it." Needless to say, he did go back to his mother because I said to my husband, "I can't force you to send your son away, but as much as I love you, I don't have to stay in the same house and put up with this." My husband had no idea how he treated me when he was not there. I continued, "it is abuse and I have spent far too many years eliminating this kind of toxic energy from my life." He is now 22 and has not changed much outside of our home, but when he comes here his is respectful of the house rules.

My husbands 17 year old daughter now lives with us for the last 18 months, and having seen what happened with her brother, she has turned her whole life and her whole attitude around. It took a lot of soul searching on my part and many months of promises from her and her father that she would behave and not make my life difficult. There have been some bumps in the road, but we all work on forgiveness and doing better next time. We are very proud of her and the huge effort she has made to live peacefully in a peaceful home and change her whole negative, combative personality into positive happy energy.

It is so difficult sometimes because often these people are brought in by other family members, or are a part of your family, so I try to limit my exposure. I have been called a "loner" and "cold hearted" when in reality I am protecting myself as much as possible from the bad energy.

I learned at a very young age the most important thing is to breathe deeply and be still inside. It is impossible to do when there are toxic people in your space. I am trying now to cope with high blood pressure and type II Diabetes so it is even more important for me to try to remain stress free. I thank God that I was blessed with a great deal of "common sense" because I believe that is what got me through my struggle with life at such a young age. I just sort of knew the answer inside whenever life became difficult.

Life is very good now and I am very blessed.


Connie,you are not alone in what you have gone through in your dealing with toxic people. I grew up in a toxic household. You are 100% right in not allowing bad behavior from people to have a foothold in your life. In the end, if the other person isn't willing to be honest about their bad behavior and change for the better, it is best to walk away from them. I know that this can be a very painful thing to do, especially if there is a bound of love. Love does not mean that anyone has the right to disrespect you or to trash your heart. It is easier to forgive someone then it is to figure out why the person has violated your love and trust. I am very happy for you that you have found a good man that truly loves and cherishes you. You are indeed blessed. I pray that the Heavenly Father with continue to bestow all of his blessing on you and your household.

P.S. I hope that you get your health problems under control. I have had high blood pressure problems but have gotten it under control with herbs. I have not dealt with diabetes, but have friends that are suffering with it. In my spare time I like to share my knowledge of natural healing with people: free of charge. I am not trying to sell you anything and I don't represent any company. If you would like, I can E-mail you the ingredients of my inexpensive and safe herbal formula, if not take care, and have a very blessed and love filled life.

Dr. Kim, thank you for this insightful message. I’ve been receiving your newsletters for about a year now and am regularly impressed by your holistic approach to healthy advice. Having recently lived through a life-changing experience involving a group of traumatized individuals prone to toxic behavior these observations hit closer to home for me than anything else I’ve read thus far.

Since I was a teenager I’ve striven to be a more conscious, spiritual individual, and yet when I found myself suddenly surrounded by people who were hurting so much inside that they often expressed that pain by lashing out, I was dumbfounded as to how to reach viable solutions with them and often found myself adopting their energy, unwittingly—a habit I think I picked up from years of similar exchanges with my father, who had suffered from an alcoholic father as well as the tragic loss of his mother at a young age.

This new situation I found myself in was particularly tough, though, because it was a self-made one that was a mix of your second and third categories; we were all friends from school who came together to start a business with the hopes of using our art to spread positive ideals. Unfortunately, we did not know each other anywhere near as well as we thought we did; cue the irony: violent outbreaks became a constant factor from a couple of individuals, along with more subtle abusive, egotistic and selfish acts. Had I seen your message about toxic behavior back then it might have made a world of difference.

In the end, the toxicity levels became so lethal that neither the business nor our friendships survived. After the fallout—about eight months ago—I found that by finally being rid of that insidious situation and re-harmonizing with myself and my own wisdoms I could finally see very clearly just how perverted I’d allowed myself to become. As a result, I gained a great deal of personal insight about a lot of things, most notably how these type of energy exchanges work, how to sense them coming and respond with compassion as best as humanly possible…and ultimately how to avoid being dragged into them and remolded by them. It became clear to me just how easy it is to be corrupted by another person’s poisonous patterns despite one’s own sensibilities…and how it perpetuates from person to person unless we have the compassion and experience to address it wisely.

Everything you’ve presented here perfectly resonates with my own education in this matter. This is a very real predicament we as individuals and groups are faced with on a daily basis—one that affects our personal and global, physical and mental health in ways we as a planet are only beginning to comprehend. Education—like everything else—is clearly the key towards learning how to create healthier exchanges with our fellow man and help one another heal from our personal traumas…rather than adopt and reinforce them. The more physicians like yourself who recognize this and take the time to raise public awareness of this all-too real condition and how to deal with it intelligently, the closer we will be to a balanced and healthy society.

Thank you--again--sir,

Eric Wilmoth

I have to agree with Tracy -- this article is very insightful, though I find that I may be partially toxic myself. What do we do to help ourselves in these situations?

Great article, Dr. Ben, and lots of good responses here. The are two things I would emphasize, and others have touched on these too.
(1) The importance of boundaries (especially to the section about family members): I agree that one needs to look closely at one's part of the relationship. One also needs to try to understand empathically and sympathetically where the toxic person is coming from. We need to extend compassion to them. Most of them are suffering agonies deep inside. Communicating clearly and honestly with the other person is quite helpful, but one also needs to be prepared that the other person cannot and often will not receive this honesty very well, even when given compassionately. And that's okay. It's part of the process. If someone is using guilt or other methods to manipulate us, it doesn't help them if we let them continue. We can extend love and compassion and at the same time, hold an appropriate boundary with someone. This is a difficult challenge to meet, but it is possible, and it is healthy.
(2) Learning something positive from the experience: Life is a spiritual journey, and all these people we encounter are in our lives for a reason. We have something to learn from being around them. If they are "pushing our buttons" then maybe we need to look within ourselves and discover why we have those particular buttons and what we might need to do about them. Maybe we need to learn patience, tolerance, or compassion. Maybe we need to learn how to forgive the unforgivable or love the unlovable. Maybe we need to learn appropriate boundaries.
I remember a wonderful saying someone emailed me once: "If a little love isn't working, try more love."


I appreciate your response and subject matter. I just recently subscribed to Dr. Ben's newsletter and appreciate the abundance of holistic information I have received from it in such a short period of time. Thanks Dr. Kim.
In the last 10 years, I have survived two bouts of cancer. I am 44 years old, and have learned from my survival, why I need to set boundaries. It was not easy, but I realized as time went on, how beneficial this would be for my well being. After surviving the experience twice, my every relationship with my spouse, family members, friends and co-workers changed. I was not prepared for this at all. My emotional state was crushed and I immediately knew uncertainty, guilt, fear and yes, happiness and relief all at once.
My spirit was willing to be strong, but my outlook was tired if that makes any sense. The bottom line is I was changed by cancer. I lost a huge part of the person I was and was not able to relate back to that person.
My husband, family and friends were shocked, sad and concerned about the diagnosis. I felt that their support was strong at this time. Through both experiences, the surgery, treatment, follow up, waiting for results, sitting through chemotherapy and radiation I felt left out of the world. It was as though it was moving forward and I had stopped somewhere. Each time I tried to relate back to "my life" it did not make any sense. I lost track of time and what was really, real.

I was diagnosed with cancer 6 months after my wedding. I had everything "new" ahead of me, the planning, the energy and knew what my plans were. Now cancer comes in. Imagine that? no, no one ever does.

Toxic people never mattered to me until after cancer. The toxicity became overwhelming and I became emotionally drained in it's wake. I knew moving forward I would need to work at my recovery, body and soul and I continue to do so. I sought a spiritual counselor and I was determined to stay healthy, both spiritual and physically. I continue to gather strength when I can not breath. I give much of myself when I know how hard it is to do.

Unfortunately, many of the toxicity is from family and friends. I try hard to not to get angry but I do. I try to understand why they choose to make a negative comment towards me and if I did something to initiate it and I can't come up with any reasoning. I have learned that if I avoid the negative energy as much as possible, not engage, I am safe this way. It's not easy to do and sometimes I feel self absorbed but, it's my protection. I have worked hard to keep my spirit alive, so I set boundaries. I look but don't go to close.

Thank you. Patti

Hello everyone. I have enjoyed reading everyone's responses so much. The discussion of when and how to set boundaries is very interesting. And how to do this while still being compassionate and loving presents a challenge for many of us. We each have to decide for ourselves at what point a boundary is necessary with someone, and how firm that boundary needs to be. It need not be an all-or-nothing situation. In some situations, it may be wise to say we simply cannot be around a certain person because they are too dangerous to ourselves and our family. But in many other situations, we can still be around the person some of the time, extending our love and compassion. And we can set boundaries for those times when they impact too negatively upon us (such as remove ourself from their presence for the time being); that is okay for us to do. For many years I stayed away from several of my family members because they only wanted to attack and blame, and it was terribly upsetting and unhappy to have interactions with them. I just couldn't handle their negative anger. I was too sensitive, and I felt depressed and angry after being around them, so I chose to withdraw from their lives for a while. After years of meditation, learning forgiveness, and learning how to form different kinds of appropriate boundaries, my situation changed with my family members. I found that I could be around them again. Some of them had improved while I was away, and I found our relationship was much better. I forgave and really forgot much that had gone on before. Only one of them is extremely difficult to be in contact with these days. She blames and complains most of the time, and sometimes she goes into horrible, violent rages. So I still have a definite boundary that I exert at times, although I don't shut her out of my life, as once I did. I now extend my friendship and love to her as much as I can. I recognize that she is suffering very much, and part of her anger and rage is probably due to physical problems (she may have liver and adrenal gland problems, but she won't see a doctor to get a diagnosis). And some of her problems are due to drinking and using substances. And part of her problems are simply due to her personality. So I do set some boundaries. As long as she communicates in a civil and rational manner (and sometimes she is even sweet and loving!), then I am open to communicating and being with her. If she goes into blame/complain mode, then I become increasingly silent. I pray for her well-being, for improvement of the situation, and for myself to have understanding and compassion. Sometimes things will then get better, and she will become okay again. However, if she goes into irrational anger and rage, I withdraw from the situation for the time being, until she is feeling calm again. I continue to think of her with love. I usually say to her, "I'm sorry that you are not feeling well. I hope you are feeling better soon. I'm keeping you in my heart and in my prayers. I love you. Good-bye for now." And then I physically and emotionally withdraw from interacting with her. I pray for her and think of her with love. I also pray for help with whatever is in myself that might contribute to the situation. Sometimes I feel very upset and hurt, so I pray to forgive her for the things she has said and done that have hurt me and others.

So this is the way that I have found where I can interact with her from time to time, but at the same time, there is a boundary that must sometimes be there, because I'm not a perfect person. I wish that I could, but I'm not able to extend myself and my love infinitely. I know that we are all one at the level of soul, and when we exist at the level of soul, then no separation is possible, and there is only love. Yet many of us still operate at the level of mind and body for much of the time. So I recognize that I am not Christ or Buddha yet!

I have always loved Christ's teachings to accept the slap we receive from someone and offer the other cheek to be slapped also. My spiritual teacher once told me that if we do not react to someone who gives us anger and abuse, then the karma ends there. But if we react in anger and hatred towards that peson, then we keep the negative karma going. This doesn't mean we have to stay in a situation of abuse. It only means that we should not react in anger and negativity. Rather, we can leave the situation, but still hold the person in our heart with love, compassion, and forgiveness, even if we are unable to withstand being around them very often.

So in regard to boundaries, we each have to find how much love we can give, and if we have to withdraw for our own emotional and physical well-being, then we can give ourselves permission to do that. We cannot fix the other person... This situation reminds me a little bit of what the flight atttendant tells you on the plane about the oxygen mask. You first have to put it on yourself before you help anyone else. So we first have to develop love, compassion, and forgiveness in ourselves... and then others will feel these wonderful things from us, and that may be the beginning of hope for them, and for us too...

(Sorry this is so long! Thank you for reading!)

I would suggest an additional way to recognize a toxic personality is, #8: One who is quick to say "I'm sorry", but refuses to change the behavior that needed the apology.
Before I sat down to go through my e-mail just now and read this wonderful article and most helpful replies, I had - another - encounter with such a "sorry" person. While I and others have continued to treat this person by extending compassion and continuing to give our forgivness to what appeared to be sincere apologies, it has become clear now that, in this case, a caring, forgiving and capitulating response from those of us she is toxic towards only serves to support her toxic behavior. It goes something like this: She exhibits the behavior, finds she has hurt and distanced people around her because of it, and then dramatically apologizes for the behavior. We forgive her (or at least agree to give her another chance) and before very long it occurs again. I see now that our forgiving her, which we thought noble on our part, has only served to permit her to continue to pollute our environment. For reasons I won't go in to, "walking away" in the strict sence is not a viable option at this time. But now I can see that "walking away" in the emotional sense is. As you say, Dr. Kim, a point comes that after which no longer have to be martyrs, nor do we need to keep turning our cheeks to be slapped and re-slapped. Nor do we need to keep accepting her empty, "I'm sorry"s with which she has been using to take advantage of our compassion. Thank you.

This was an excellent article and I have greatly appreciated reading not only the original article but all the comments. I especially agreed with this one as I believe that we are too much about "ME" in our society and don't take the time to see or feel empathy for the other person when it's ME that is being wronged. My mom has a tendency toward this type of behavior (neat how it's so easily seen in the OTHER person!), and through the years I have learned to deal with this without completely walking away. To this day I'm the only person who can reason with her and not react to her. Do I think that sometimes one is forced to walk away...yes...but many times we walk away too fast. I've reached the age of great feat on my own, but one thing I have learned is this: we learn and grow by the behavior of all the people who come into our lives by learning from our own reactions to those people rather than the other persons behavior or actions. Do angry people have the tendency to make me angry or do they just make me uncomfortable? Sometimes I reciprocate road rage but most times I can laugh it off and let it go. Does the gossip mill entice me or disgust me? The question for me to look at is not why are THEY that way and how can I get away from it, but rather, why am I reacting or feeling the way I am because of the way they are? Also, I worked with a woman for a period of one year who had very negative energy and though I did learn to deal with it, I also found myself accepting some of those negative emotions and I firmly believe that if we spend too much time around angry, abrasive, dark-energy people - we can't help but become more like them. Though my personality did have a tendency to calm her down I also knew her energy was changing me slowly toward her direction. When another similar job landed at my front door without me looking for it, I took it. Little did I realize I'd be jumping out of the frying pan straight into the fire. I stayed there for 8 months until I found the job that I'm currently at and that I'm very happy at and intend to stay at. As the years go by the job only gets better but it's also a large group of people who are not toxic by any great extent. My point to all this rambling is: some things are worth fighting for and some are not. But, learn more about yourself and life in general as you journey through life by that which comes into your life or is present in your life. "We must not sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the temporary" And this life is one of those temporary things...

Advice please. I live in an apt. complex. Even though I don't have a car, every resident gets one parking space. My neighbor below me,who is vastly overweight, and slowly eating himself to death,bought a second car and now uses my spot. I've talked to him twice about this, and he'll abide by the rules for a while and then resort to the same behavior. I have a bad back from a drunk drivng
accident years ago (I wasn't drunk)and I'm a musician. Whenever I need to unload equipment, I frequently have to carry it much further
because my selfish neighbor has his second car parked in my spot. I also like to have the space available for guests.I'm very put off by the fact that this man has done NOTHING to lose this weight,let alone, just assume that because I have no car, that the spot it his.He's one of those "the world owes me" people and he brings out the worst in me.
Any advice?

I had a similar problem which was solved when I put up a sign that informed would-be squatters that they would be towed if they parked in my space. It also included the amount it would cost them to get their car back, which was the final word.

I understand about if people are causing trouble (violence) or overly loud a lot, but that makes me sad to hear about hassling squatters in general because I think paying rent is a big part of stress on most people and I consider a less stressful, less demanding way of living a step in evolution. There is a enough space and resources to go around, but capitalistic enterprise is unfortunately stealing people's labors and making them pay more for less, so I don't blame decent people trying to live for free or cheaply at all.

Thank you, Dr. Kim, for broaching this topic. I believe my life experiences with toxic family members makes me a painfully informed witness.

I left home at age 18 after growing up under the complete dominium of a cruel father. This mini-tyrant used physical violence, material deprivation, verbal insults, and so many other forms of controlling behaviors in order to maintain his own personal fascist mini-tyranny.

The seven items listed in How to Identify Human Toxicity merely scratch the surface of his various behaviors. At age 52, much of my mental energy is still spent working through the low self-esteem issues that always seem to surface in new ways, as soon as I seem to have worked out the previous one.

I was a very angry young man. My two older brothers were also. We had drug and alcohol problems as we attempted to self-medicate.

At age 30, I married a woman with the SAME personality as my father’s. The marriage became the longest relationship of my life, as it was familiar ground for me. Within a year of the marriage, I developed adult-onset asthma and my life became a life of poor health. Only later did I learn how toxic people suck the breath away, your very prana. (Another poster called these people “emotional vampires”.) I later learned from yoga instructors and other spiritual people why I married this woman. They said I had “unfinished business” with my father that I was seeking to resolve.

I will tell you now that this unfinished business was only resolved when I finally walked away from the woman, this time replying to her threats to commit suicide if I left with, “Go ahead, make my day”. (She did not commit suicide.) I learned that there is no resolving relationships with toxic people. Forget about the unfinished business. You must not just walk away, you must RUN away.

Dr. Kim may disagree here, but I learned to give up on toxins, to not even bother with them. I’ve learned to listen carefully to the vibe I get from people. The instant I sense toxicity, I am gone. If this is not possible, the toxins quickly find that they are kept at arm’s length – with a rubber glove on.

My father is 82 now and he has not changed a bit. I live in another state and visit two or three times a year, spending only 3 or 4 hours per visit. I am coldly cordial toward him. He’s lucky he gets this from me.

My asthma magically disappeared after I shut my ex-wife out of my life. My brothers have not expended the same effort as I have on growing past this. Both now have potentially fatal diseases.

I’ve learned that when you beat on yourself, you attract negative energy. Negative energy attracts negative events…and so the cycle continues…

Those of us who have been dealt a bad hand of cards have to play them the best we can.

And we must not allow the negative assessments of toxic people to affect us, Goodness knows, we beat on ourselves enough as it is.

I’m way better off now at this stage of my life. Readers of this account might not agree. But I am in a relationship with a positive, giving woman – as opposed to a negative taker. I haven’t had a cold or illness in the four years we have been together. That speaks volumes. But much has been missed through the sustained efforts of self-healing. I have no children and no family relationships. But I’m okay with this, for me, it’s the price of serenity.

Blessings to you all.

Did anyone try to get to the root cause of their existence?

I think, I found it? It is money itself. Why? Money is anonymous medium of exchange that interferes in building genuinely friendly relationship that is ensured by exchanging favors without money. Money makes people judgmental and cause stratification of society. Someone might say but money is essential to "turn the world around". With today computers memory money can be replaced with a virtual multibarter...and there is already a patented project waiting to be tested and developed.

Best regards,


Hi to all first, I have as small story to tell, I am toxic and have problems with chemical in balance. I was posioned by large doses of toluebe back in 2003 and my life has taken many changes. I ask that if you run into people like me (chemical posion)dont be affend or judge us to quickly. There is a good saying dont or get mad at someone until you have walked in there shoes a mile most of the time we cant help how we are. One we some times give off a strong oder that has a sick sweet smell and we cant control when it will happien. You can watch us change right before your eyes our temperment, are skin can break out in red sploches or even bleed just seconds before we are normal we may feel fine then the next second feel weak or dizzy. Yes this causes us to strike back at anger even to ones we love for we hate who we are now at times it seems we dont have control of our own bodys or minds. Yes be toxic is terrible thing your emotions are like a roller coaster for depression to out right rage. yeah they can give you meds for it and and turn you into a zombie or you can deal with and learn control methods to handel. But the next tiem soem tell you hay i having a bad day i think in tocxic have little compassion for they might be as me we have had to deal with day knowning we are like a time bomb always ticking never know if we are offend some one by our smell, or are uncontrol actions of trimmors or, words we say or just are reaction. I ask you pray for us ther are many of us out here that have no control and seek and want help but it either cost to much or is to far to travel, we feel frustrated , usless, and sometimes beyond help. but for you that do suffer as I do dont give up hope ever, ok fight always fight to keep going, one day there is an answer and someone will care and help you.



Jerry, I was diagnosed with toxic metal chemicals about 2 months ago. I have lead, arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, mercury, nickel, thallium & tin. There are doctors out there that can treat you. Look under Chelation doctors in the internet. The test that shows up the chemicals is DMPS (I think). It is the only reliable one there is. Then chelation is done with a chemical EDTA - an anti coagulant is the only chemical that can get the toxic chemicals out of the brain, the last place it comes from. You do Chelation once or twice a week. Check with the doctor first to see if your insurance will cover the treatment. Can't you get the company you work or worked for to pay for the damage to your body?
You can go into and it shows how they treat toxic chemicals. I am sending you good vibes as I take my garlic, cilantro, chlorella and lots of Vitamin C. All the best to you in your recovery.

oh, you guys... no one means literal toxic poison... it's a metaphor for people who "poison" others' lives with their negativity.

hello, i need some advice, my freinds. i completely understand how toxic people can affect us...everyday i experience it. bad vibes just feel bad......but there is one toxic person that i dont know how to deal with. it is my mother. everyone in my family fears her....she has great anger, reacts impulsivly, and wont listen to anyone. if i try to talk to her about how i feel, she becomes defensive. i feel at a loss....any advice will be great help ^.^ thank you. peace and love..

Dear Amber, like Henry said, RUN. Really: RUN for your life.
Henry, I totally understand you.I am reparenting myself : it takes discipline and a lot of time and energy. But it is a price I pay almost with joy because , little by little, I am building something good. But you can't, for example, do this and have kids. No way. I had a super toxic father and a super super toxic mother. If you are raised by two people like that, you are still very luky if you find the energy to run away and start reparenting yourself from, literally, zero. Not an easy task. But I love Life, I do not give up.
Love and apologies for my horrible English

First i belive you have to recognize the reason for her toxic behavior. Is your mother livng alone? does she have a social life? It sounds like she is not happy, or something has happen in her life before or after you, that has caused a brick wall to go up. Say very little to her but i love you, and shower her with gifts. Tell her if you need me, i am here, then walk away. Constantly remind her that you "love her" and walk away. I belive if you continue to do this as much as you can, she will begin to slo wwwwly start to melt and realize that everyone is not a enemy, but it will take time. Be patience .

I have just ended a toxic friendship.The person exibited behaviors that actually put me in danger with others.
One idea that I used to combat this person and try to help her be less toxic was putting a rule in effect in my home. If you want to say a negative thing about someone you must first stop and say two positive things. A neighbor I had a long time ago used this in her home and she cured a few of us from making negative comments about folks, plus she was a person who could fill you up with a good feeling when you were around her.
This rule has helped the children who visit my home also, they are being a little kinder to each other as they practice this positive thinking in our house.

I choose to add a consenting voice to the advice to extract oneself from the toxic environment as soon as possible. Yes, one should extend human kindness and love to every human, but if you have been around a toxic person long enough to observe that their choice is to do NOTHING to help or get help for themselves then for a certainty you do NOT help them by staying and allowing them to harm you. (I CANNOT state how important it is that people understand this ESPECIALLY if you are also responsible for minor children who have no choice but to remain in a toxic situation as long as you do.) Of course the same applies if you have only yourself to care about, but especially, if you have others who depend on you for their well-being.

Free will was given to us all and even in the case of someone being mentally or physically impaired to the degree that they CANNOT control their behavior, you would set boundaries so that others around them can experience an environment free from abuse.

Don't buy into the belief that YOU, YOU, YOU, can change another's free will. You can't and thinking you can is self-importance personified and completely FALSE. Wake up.

I loved this topic.

Especially the one submitted by Brenda on August 14, 2007 - 07:48.

I dont have anything to add to it except that I highly recommend to watch this here, it is a great movie.
Nutrition & Behavior: A Lecture By Russell Blaylock, MD

Dearest Dr. Kim,
I was very intrested in what you had written, particularly around how other peoples actions have and still do affect my mental health which at this point is in ruins. I respect what you say and was wondering if you had any thoughts on a big problem I have with stubborness and pride?
I have built lots of large walls to protect myself over my life I cannot see past them. I have less fear of getting into a physical fight with someone than I have of apologising to them or to be the first to extend the olive branch. I can sometimes try to quietly forgive but never forget.
It's a lot to walk around with. I really like the idea of being able to let go but I physically can't do it, I'm constantly haunted by the things people have said and done against me (except when I play sodoku lol!) but I can't do that all the time!
[Please can you help me?)
Yours Sincerly

This topic is so poignant to me right now that I am compelled to write briefly about my current experience. After a couple years of living in a chronically stressful and toxic situation, I finally made the changes necessary to remove myself from it, but found that I was not getting healthier. I was only 25 and was suffering severe physical and mental consequences (acid reflux, acne, bad digestive problems, anxiety, chemical sensitivity, etc.). And a most recent and scary symptom to me was that I was turning into my father. I was getting angry at my boyfriend for things like leaving messes around (though I am messy myself) and was annoyed by normal conversations. Unlike my father and other toxic people in my life, however, I was aware that this was not normal behavior. I was not mad about dishes in the sink, or annoyed by my boyfriend, there was some greater underlying issues that went deeper than the current stress I was feeling.

It took awhile, but I figured out that my body was overloaded with toxins from the years I tortured it by remaining in such a negative space, and maybe even stemming from childhood as well. The "natural cures" I tried for my physical problems did not work because I needed to remove years of toxins and get a fresh start.

I am now on day 21 of a restricted raw foods diet (I basically only eat fruit because I can't even digest fats and protein properly). I am still detoxing, but I am improving drastically. The first thing that came into check were my emotions. I don't get angry about nonsensical things and my relationship with my boyfriend is great. The physical problems still have a ways to go, but everyday I get better.

I intend now to write my father a letter explaining what I went through as a last ditch effort to get him to change. If this does not work, I will continue to leave him out of my life. As for the toxic people I don't feel comfortable trying to change, I don't have a solution for that yet. Basically, I am hoping that by improving my own mental state I will be able to more easily ignore outside negativity. Dealing with toxic people who are unaware that they are is difficult and I'm not sure they can be helped. We'll see! Good luck to you all.

By the way, it is interesting that the toxic woman in Dr. Kim's article was fasting (I presume) and still toxic. Perhaps it was the early stages of the fast? Perhaps there is no hope for some? It would be interesting to know if she improved.

I really appreciate your newsletter and I found this article to have a lot of useful insights.

To those who fear they might be toxic or who have not been able to get beyond experiences with toxic people in their past, I want to say that seeking qualified help for your need is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength that you are ready to overcome your problem. If you are carrying a huge weight on your shoulders, you may need help in getting it off.

Dear Dr. Kim,

I'm an actress, comedienne and an improv talent. I loved your "School of Rock" references. As a professional, let me tell you, there is no way to please everyone and there will never be a consensus of what is funny and what isn't. Comedy is what is sacro-sanct, not someone's hurt feelings. For every joke out there, there is always someone who is boo-hooing how their feelings were hurt or how their profession/family/disability/etc. has been maligned. There is only one litmus test for the validity of a joke; Is it funny?! Now, who decides if it's funny? We all do. So, if you don't find it funny, it doesn't matter because someone else did. Change the channel, don't go see the movie and don't read the blog if there is a chance that your delicate sensibilities will be offended but please, please let me enjoy what I find funny and let Dr. Kim share what he thinks is funny with those of us who want to hear it.


Fuller Hunt.

Personally I feel that Dr. Kim's article was really well balanced in both asking oneself if there was something one could do to address the situation or take responsibility & making sure to rationally apply responsibility where needed.

I believe the Hoopoonoo healing was a great thing but I believe that it over-simplifies the picture. For some people I believe they have a path of learning how to be more compassionate hence they are able to apply healing by forgiving themselves or the other person. However, there are some like myself who have had "toxic" people in our lives & our lesson was one that many people miss which is: Learning to Love Ourselves also. We tend to be the types who are already naturally healers who tend to give too much to others...hence we draw in "toxic" people like flies to honey.

We forget to say..okay well I tried loving & forgiving but this person is still stealing, abusing, or stalking what do I do? I agree with the idea of resonance to a certain extent. While I have greatly decreased in sensitivity over the years by healing myself & my own personal baggage does not mean I walk around & am immune to a gunshot wound. I can still feel pain to some degree however it does not disable me anymore at all.

I used to misunderstand spiritual teachings about this sort of stuff so I can kind of understand where others are coming from with this concept but I learned the hard way that no matter what you do sometimes you must remove yourself & Love yourself because it may that person's life lesson to be a "toxic" person. This may be their chance for a better life...who am I to know what is best for them in the long haul? I also realized that spiritual people often develop great boundaries at some point. Just because you may understand & love a thief does not mean you open your pockets & say take everything especially if you need cab fare to get home that night.

:) I hope I have not offended anyone by posting this but I applaud Dr. Kim thoroughly for this much needed article. I see many people in my life who do not apply this & are depressed, anxious, & on medications & do not know what to do about it.

I myself suffered poorly healthwise as a result of longterm exposure to "toxic" people in my family. I used to think I had to be unconditionally loving which meant zero boundaries but I realize now that it is much easier for me to love them unconditionally 3000 miles away. :) Dr. Kim I really respect your website & your articles. Keep up the good work. I also personally feel (I work in the medical field too) that emotional well being is one of the major cornerstones in good health yet many people do not address it & I am glad that you cover this part of health also.

That was well said, Rosalyn.

This discussion has revealed two viewpoints; (1) those who seek to heal the toxic person thru love, compassion, understanding, etc., and (2) those who have actually had to live with a toxic person and have been on the receiving end of their endless complaints and various abuses.

It is clear that group (1) people have had the good fortune to not have had to live with a toxin who was their parent.

The group (2) people identify themselves through their viewpoint of walk away, run away from the toxin.

The victims of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim il-Jung, Pol-Pot, ad nauseum, didn't change their situation with love and compassion.

Many toxic people are this very same personality, with different levels of ambition.

God's greatest task for us is to be happy.

If that includes living 3000 miles away from a toxic parent, then you must do what you've got to do.

Blessings to all.

Henry, I just want to say "Thank you" for such a clear, concise and simple answer.

Furthurmore we can try to 'help' the other person by showing them compassion but there has to come a point in time when we can say, "I have exhausted myself trying to 'help' this other person to no avail and so I am CHOOSING to expend my energy in other areas." This is when you walk away without a second thought.

Finally, being raised by a toxic parent or two sets one up to be extra-sensitive to toxic people and so yes our level of tolerance may be more limited than others who were raised by more healthy individuals.

I too, believe that God's greatest task for us is to experience joyfulness and contentment. We NEED to take care of ourselves FIRST, other adults must come second.

I recommend the book "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend to all. I hope this book will change your life as it has done for mine.

Henry and Rosalyn you are spot on. If people have never lived with toxic people in their lives, it is easy to preach healing and compassion. I pray that they remain 'toxin free', that they never have to experience in person the suffering that they think they can imagine in our lives.

I have to agree with Rosalyn. You have to honor and respect yourself as much as the other person. If you allow yourself to be a doormat, there will always be someone there who will try to wipe their feet on you. Be assured that toxic people will attach themselves to another victim if you are not available. Many people spend their entire lives complaining and poisoning the lives of others. It is up to you to remove yourself from their presence. You cannot save the world.

We are all responsible for our own behavior and if you think you can change the behavior of others, I wish you great luck. You can spend your entire life trying to change someone 's behavior but that is a lot of wasted energy. You can only change yourself.

I remember a statement I read once: If you are here to be of service to others, what are the others here for.

My mother spent her entire life with my toxic, miserable father and would not leave him no matter how he treated her. In the end her health suffered from the anger and resentment and the years with him and she had a serious stroke, which left her totally disabled and paralyzed. I have now spent nearly ten years of my life taking care of her and my health has greatly suffered as a result. I look and feel years older.

My advice is, run as fast as you can from this type of person. Your life and sanity may depend on it.

This is in reply to Suzanne Chen's response.

My mother lived the EXACT same life as your mother did. My mom also had a severe stroke that left her paralyzed. She left her horrible excuse for a husband and father and moved in with my brother. Unfortunately, it was another toxic situation. She suffered a massive stroke and was buried last month. I am in a similar situation with my current spouse and know that if I am not careful I will end up the same way. I hope to take this year as a way to strengthen myself so that I can make some life decisions that will assist me in not ending up that way. My heart goes out to you Suzanne as I know from experience what it is like to have to care for someone that ended up with health issues largely in part of not being able to take care of themselves emotionally due to succumbing to the toxicity of others. All the best to you and your mom.

Roslyn, I am a longtime practitioner of Ho'oponopono and would like to address what you say here:

**I believe the Hoopoonoo healing was a great thing but I believe that it over-simplifies the picture. For some people I believe they have a path of learning how to be more compassionate hence they are able to apply healing by forgiving themselves or the other person. However, there are some like myself who have had "toxic" people in our lives & our lesson was one that many people miss which is: Learning to Love Ourselves also. We tend to be the types who are already naturally healers who tend to give too much to others...hence we draw in "toxic" people like flies to honey.**

Actually, the Ho'oponopono mantra, "I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you" is all addressed to the SELF. Simple words, but a subtle practice.

I have experienced many difficult and sometimes toxic relationships over the years. As I learned about Ho'oponopono and applied it in earnest, the difficult people gradually faded out of my life and experience.
This didn't happen in a short period of time, but over a period of years.

I wrote a post about Ho'oponopono at my blog if you want to check it out:

As others have shared, I too have experienced toxic people up close and in my family. In some cases, they were able to recognize their toxicity and sought to change their ways. I supported them as I was able. Since I'm not a perfect being and am evolving myself, my support varied based on my understanding and ability.

As Dr. Kim's article points out, we too might play a part in toxic exchanges, and when I concentrated on seeing my own part in it and making amends as I was able, it helped me to be more objective about the relationships I had with toxic people. Those who were aware of their toxicity and trying hard to change that and those who were oblivious to their toxic behaviour.

Sometimes, I could stay and help the person, sometimes I could not. Most times, when I could not stay, I left the relationship with great sadness, even if there was a sense of relief.

As I mentioned, some of these toxic people were family members. Once I was able to live away from them, I did. I worked on establishing healthy boundaries, released false guilt, accepted blame for things I had done wrong. In some cases, the toxic people chose to stay away from me. I could continue to love them, send holiday and birthday cards, and show I was willing to stay in touch. In one such case, a sort of truce ensued, and while it wasn't a warm, caring relationship, we were able to make peace, which made me very happy. When the person died, I could lament the toxicity that robbed us from a potentially happier relationship and let it go. I knew I had done all I could do at that time to make peace in that relationship (and I'm not a peacemaker by nature, so having to walk that path was also very difficult for me, but I learned many lessons).

One family member chose to hold onto the toxicity, even after everyone else in the family could see that she was hurting herself. Her toxic actions had inflicted a lot of pain and hurt on me. As hard as it was, I learned to let go. I couldn't change her, and the equation which was our relationship would not change unless one of the variables did. She was either unable or unwilling to change, so I did instead. Like Deborah, it sometimes meant that I ate alone rather than with others. Others didn't know the whole story, especially when the toxic woman would spew about how evil I was. It was sometimes lonesome, but I knew I had to be true to myself and my beliefs. I spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation about it. I was given many opportunities in which I could badmouth this person, but to my surprise (and I'm sure hers had she known), I didn't badmouth her. In some cases where the other party knew both of us, I honestly stated what I knew to be true. There was some kind of misunderstanding, she never directly told me what it was even when I asked her what I had done to cause it. I truly did wish to make amends, as she seemed very hurt by whatever it was I unwittingly did. I never did find out.

I tried inviting her to my house, and each time she accepted, only to stand me up. After many attempts, I decided that she could approach me when and if she were ready. I changed all I could in our relationship equation. If the variables I could change did not render active reconciliation between us, then I had to accept that I did all I could do and be ready if she became willing to change the variables that she controlled.

While I wish this relationship would end on a positive note, I don't dwell on it. I've made peace with the fact that this person has chosen to remain toxic for now and most likely for the rest of her life. I still remember the hurt, but it no longer wounds me. It has served as a lesson for me, and I do not wish to make the same mistake if I can help it.

What I found interesting was that once I truly had peace in my heart about this relationship, the toxic person did all she could to stay away from me. She tried doing hurtful things, but my wiring had changed. Once she saw her actions were ineffective, she stopped being a part of my life.

I find that if I'm in the company of toxic people and only toxic people for a long time, I tend to get sucked into their negative energy vortices. Perhaps those who are more centered and balanced are able to withstand the onslaught better and can effect more change by staying. In my experience thus far, I've found I effect more change by creating distance between myself and the other person, either by physical distance or setting and enforcing healthy boundaries.

I have dealt with my friends' past toxic behaviors in different ways, depending on various factors, with varying results. There are a few important areas of topic here:
1) MY ability to change myself;
2) MY ability to change others;
3) MY capacity to continue to sustain damage to the bonds of the relationship, as a result of being exposed to toxic behavior(s).
My efforts depended on my love for the other; my own limits of compassion; my own level of commitment; my own perceived need to help correct the condition; my related skill levels; the severity of toxicity directly towards me; severity of toxicity towards others (when not directly against myself); the measure of results from my past efforts to improve the situation; what I THOUGHT I could achieve; the measure of impact on MYSELF, of my efforts to help the other while positively or negatively impacting my own mental and emotional health; the severity of the damage to the bonds of our relationship that have held together in the past.
I have worked wonders; mostly with my becoming be more sensitive to my own abilities, limits sensitivities and needs; being much more aware what true compassion is, and, of my limits on what I have so far, achieved and how those limits HELP both the other person AND myself.
It is about improvement and empowerment for myself as well as the other and of my abilities and my love and understanding of humans and the complexities of behavior and the limits on what I have achieved and what I may be able to achieve. And also what not might be achieved. Questions: whose expectations are at risk ?; WHY should there even BE ANY expectations in the first place ?. We may be opening ourselves up to being or becoming overly vulnerable. Be careful; be thoughtful; easy does it. I now try to not to get too wrapped up in the problem or the fix; in myself or the effect. I DO my homework.
And then I try to do the best that I can. This can be hurtful. Another person may be able to do more with the other person than you can. You may want to be ready for:
A) Maybe the person doesn't seem to change.
B) Setting expectations for yourself or others may be setting up yourself (and the other person) for failure.
You don't know every thing and neither do I. The work is worth trying. Read all of these prior comments and then readd them again. See what works for you and see how you can try to improve the situation. Learn to take measure of what is going on; with the other's person's behavior and your own. If it still hurts or the pain gets worse, stop and think for going further. Theres is a time for everything. There is a time for you to remain strong. There is a time for you to stop and walk away. Recognize that learning is valuable to all. Use what you learn. By the way, I have virtually stopped creating expectations. I find them mostly useless and often are (were) detrimental (except maybe for academic or technical issues).
I recognize that there is a limit on what I THINK I can achieve and what I can achieve. Some bonds seem to be so damaged by toxic behavior that I can also see doing harm to myself and/or the other person if I continue to keep trying. I think recognizing my ability to grow is just as important as what I need to do to protect myself.
Maybe this will help...
I sincerely want to put out a fire in my neighbor's burning house but that does not necessarily mean that my unsuccessful attempt to put out the fire is cause for guilt or depression. Maybe I could have learned firefighting or have convinced the neighbor to spend more money on installing a fire sprinkler system in the basement or... or... or...
There ARE limits; but I try to not get caught up in those either. I do think that limits exist and I must be aware that trying to do well may not always work. I do the best that I can and and hope others can pick up the effort if toxic behavior continues. Finding peace can be tough but I think it is always worth every effort. Regards. GeorgE

The toxic people I was thinking of reading the article, are two aunts, my mother's sisters. As long as I've known them, they are always harping on the same string: how heartless, and selfish my mother (their sister) is, and how dependent I am on her, and how I haven't yet cut the umbilical cord.

There may be some truth to their words, but the frustration thing is that they never fail to play the same heartless song.

Thanks for giving me that word, toxic. It puts them in that catagory for me.

One of these aunts gave her game away once: I like to have people where I know they are. To be read as: where I want them. This has always stayed in my mind to unpack later. And finally I realised she liked to control others.

I hadn't seen one of these aunts for several years. Around 1996 we had lived in the same town, and she had had ample time to talk to me, and influence me. At that time she had some point about the umbilical cord with my mother.

We're almost ten years later, and I found that her discourse was still the same, she was still treating me like the woman I was then, only, I had moved on, and gained more insight into her behavior, and my own relationship with my mother.

She had hardly greeted me, before the embarked on a particular vicious tirade. There was no open inquiry about our lives. I said: you have your own relationship with your kids, my mother has her own. She apologized the next day. I responded lightly to this, telling her almost jokingly: it's your style alright.

I realised the relationship I thought I built with my aunt then, was none. Both aunts don't allow a relationship of trust. Both prefer telling me again what is wrong about me, even though they may not have the right knowledge if what they say actually holds up.

I had several emotions about this relationship with my aunts: sadness, for never seeming to get any closer to them, for their incapacity to build up a relationship of love with their own sister, my mother. And I also experienced strong anger inside myself about it.

That anger has not ebbed away fully, but I do see a glimmer of hope: sometimes I feel compassion towards them. I hope this compassion to grow, and what feeds it, is not taking this abuse personally, and accepting that they have their own hurts and frustrations in life, and may act on them.

I only hope that I never emulate their behavior, but develop enough awareness to respond more lovingly.

I am so happy when I receive your newsletter, it is my heaven in my home.

I am a cochlear implantee, since Oct. 23/03 and since Dec 2/07 my life changed with the sound coming back and all its joy and sorrows. I am hearing a lot of people giving nasty remarks and it really bugged me, but on the other hand, life showed me another way of communicating and I consciously listen to my inner voice and send Light to these people instead of feeding back to their comments. It has helped me a lot and acquired wisdom through it.

I want to say how much I love your newsletters and all the wise input you give me, it is so amazing. I learned through my growing up, to use a positive word instead of saying as an example: "you are a liar, etc, "I will say I feel the truth is missing, could this help you?". I noticed that the person did not feel attacked and sometimes it helped to deal in a loving way to deal with the situation. I seldom use negative words even if they are in the dictionary, using it just emphasize the attitude to criticize and hurt people.

Thank you so much for all the goodness we receive from you every week. May God bless you.



I worked 3 years as an administrative assistant to a very toxic administrator. After 3 years I walked away and it took me over a year to get over it. She screamed and threw things and would walk ahead of me in public and ridicule me in many ways. She publicly sabatoged me and that was the last straw. I was devasted. She claimed to be my best friend and crowded everyone out of my life. I bounced back with a wonderful change of job and reunited with old friends and am making new ones. I walked away and that was my survival or I would have ended up as physically sick as she is. Dr Ben I congratulate the openness of your articles you put on your website. Thanks.

Hello. This is my first time posting. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Kim's article on how to deal with toxic people. I also realize my actions are, at times, toxic when I complain to my husband about what someone did at work or about something my mother did, etc. It is hard not to express your feelings about things people do each day so I believe it is important to find a constructive way to express them with compassion and not destructive criticism. Even though the people we work with are not in the room when sharing with my spouse what they did or said that day, it still affects them when they are talked about, in my opinion.

I appreciated what you said about not making up when you did nothing wrong. Toxic people don't usually think they did anything wrong, at least the ones in my life, and I used to apologize to make up but I ended up feeling worse so I've stopped doing that. If I call them on something now, I let it stand even though I always get the urge to say "I hope I didn't hurt your feelings by saying what I believed to be true."

I manage a Senior Mobile Home Park --- lots of people with lots of time on their hands, some of them using it for negativity -- and I'm here almost 24/7. Several years ago I was given this Prayer of Protection and I have it memorized. I could relate many stories about how well it works - but suffice it to say that it does and it works very well. Whenever I find myself in a situation this is the first "weapon" I pull out, even tho silently.

Prayer of Protection

Father/Mother God I/we ask that I/we be cleared and cleansed
Within the universal white Christ light
The green healing light
And the purple transmuting flame.
Within God’s will and for my/our highest good
I/we ask that any and all negative, evil energies
Be completely sealed in their own light,
Encapsulated within the ultra violet light
Cut off and removed from me/us.
Impersonally, with neither love nor hate,
I/we return all negative evil energies to their
Source of emanation, decreeing that they
Never again be allowed to re-establish themselves within
me/us or anyone else in any form.
I/we now ask that I/we be placed within the triple
capsule of the universal white Christ light of protection
and for this blessing I/we give thanks.

Peace and Blessings


Great tool to use for diffusing toxic energy. Thanks for posting this.
love and blessings to you.

I have to tell you that I do not agree with the part under the section of toxic family members when you say,
" if a top priority for you is to have your children grow up in a mostly peaceful and love-filled environment, it may be best for you to reach out first.

My husband and I have chosen to completely cut off communication with his toxic family members for that exact reason. Our top priority IS for us to have our children grow up in a peaceful, love-filled environment and that is exactly why we have chosen to walk away from the people who were causing us nothing but pain and dysfunction. No one has to put up with being treated in an unhealthy, dysfunctional way. Even if it is your own flesh and blood.

I am currently dealing with a toxic person. He is my roomate of 9 long months. It took me awhile to realize that he is indeed toxic. I'm moving out next week, and couldn't be happier. I understand and applaud the compassion aspect, but there comes a time when enough is simply enough. My roommate is very negative, jealous, bullies, intimidates, has terrible road rage, has violent outbursts, (although not directed AT me directly, the impact is still huge). In all honesty, there is nothing I can do for this person, but completely remove them from my life. For my own well being. I am a person who tries to be positive, and make the best of situations (which I've concluded promote his toxic behaviour). Being "good" does nothing, nor do I react to his violent emotional outbursts. If I could afford to leave, I'd have RUN as fast as I possibly could days ago. One thing I wonder is if any of his other friends see him the same way that I do? He once told me that he knows how he is and what he does, and "doesn't give a sh*t about it". I then questioned howcome I allow this to continue to happen as he literally drains me of my energy, leaving me feeling empty. I'm doing the best I can to avoid him until I move out. I decided it's best to take care of my emotional self, and no longer be a victim of abuse, which clearly, it is. No guilt, no regret, just goodbye. It's hard to not get sucked into his negativity, but I pray for strength, and I pray that I take away with me experience that I can recognize for "next time".
Thanks for the insight, and helping me make this important decision.
Many blessings.

Thank you for structuring your introduction to toxic others by first advising that one doesn't judge or label the person they've decided is toxic; it's such an overused phrase, and it's a hurtful one. If someone hurts you, that person is hurting. Either for reasons you know of, or don't; if you wouldn't punch someone in the arm who had a dislocated shoulder, don't call people toxic. What you think of them is none of their business and vice versa because situations like this only create more hurt, more shame, and it goes on this way forever. Want to see change? Be change! Give what you need from others - if you need understanding, then try listening to them - if you need love, give love. If you need separation, give separation.

Hi Dr. Kim,
For 10 years I endured employment with a lawyer who constantly made me wonder how he had graduated from university. I am a former Court Reporter and have observed literally hundreds of lawyers. His inability distressed me, but every month the invoices literally made me feel sick. He would accrue charges for divorce in the neighbourhood of $30K and more - this was just the tip of the iceberg in some cases - when it could have been done for $2K or $3K. I knew that people trusted him because I'm a trustworthy person who cares and I always felt badly that in a sense I was creating a false impression. But where I live it's difficult to get employment unless you're bilingual and I highly doubted a new employer would invest in me becoming bilingual, because I'm not in my twenties.

This employer's behaviour was extremely toxic. I got to the point where I didn't feel very well and I took Dr. Kim's advice and (with almost a protest/quizzical look) of my doctor she authorized a Homocysteine blood test taken. It came back with a number indicating trouble. Too late to do anything, because about 2 months later I was admitted for major surgery. The day I knew my fate, I sent a stinging resignation to my lawyer employer and the Upper Canada Law Association and Human Rights. Amazing that Human Rights didn't even reply!!!

After surgery, a $2,300 month's stay in a Senior's Residence (another pretty interesting experience...) I returned home and made the decision to drop my complaint with the Old Boy's Club aka, UCLA. They obviously weren't interested in my wellbeing. I'm still thinking about Human Rights, but you know I need to live my life in a happy here and now and not rehearse the past.

I'm writing all this to say that I follow your thoughtful and intelligent commentaries and have been tremendously helped by you. Thank you, Dr. Kim! And obviously, the point I'm making here is that life's too short (I thought I was going to die) and if you have the personality to "put up with" toxic behaviour, please think twice about it because I am absolutely positive it was the cause of what happened to me.

As a bit of a p.s., I ordered some Jonah creams and your suncream and Crystal at your facility in the states was so nice - she really exhibits the qualities of the people who would be attracted to work with you. She's lucky, but she's also a wonderful person!!

Thanks again for the time and trouble you devote to humanity. I am very grateful.

I think the one thing above all that truly toxic people are good at is figuring out others' weaknesses and playing on, or taking advantage of them. This gives them a sort of sense of superiority and control over you. Often you don't realize but you go along with that control because you believe in your own weakness. Sometimes your only "weakness" is that you are a decent, caring person who doesn't like to hurt others. You have to recognize when your decency is being manipulated by someone.

I have relatives like that. In the end, walking away is the only option, otherwise the manipulation and intimidation will consume my life. Some people just does not realise what they are and if they do, does not want to change. I was amazed to hear of some of their self-justification for their bad behaviours, which would sound quite ludicrous to any "normal" person.

I think it's important to set boundaries for oneself. When dealing with a toxic person, self-examination can lead to one feeling they did something to offend the other party when in actuality they didn't. The offended party "owns the problem". If boundaries are set beforehand on what one will or will not accept, then the self-examination is clearer.

I've found the book "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud to be helpful in this regard.

When I identify toxic people they have no place in my life, I make sure they are not in my circle to cause grief, pain, or humiliation! I do try to figure out why they act so badly to understand where they are coming from. I attempt to forgive and show kindness but when that backfires I turn and shut the door. I will only open the door when that one comes to the plate and ask for forgiveness and wants to make it right with me. I am by myself (no spouse, nearest family member is out if state , and girlfriends are out of state), with that being said I have to sour onus my self with loving people. I have no shoulder to lean on which is needed to deal with toxic people. I am strong and believe it's my job to protect myself from toxic people to have peace.

My father died two months ago. Today my colleague told me I had been a nightmare to work with since my father's death. No compassion, no consideration, just a bunch of snide remarks for the two months that I have been grieving and today he decides to tell me how bad I have been. Excuse me? Oh, and he told me I was paranoid. All i have wanted to do for the last two months is keep my head down, do my work and not discuss my very personal grief with someone who has had a compassion bypass. He expects me to apologise to him. I feel so depressed and devoid of any ability to fight back. He will get me sacked because he's a manipulator. Sweet one minute, verbally abusive the next. He'll work it so I am the one in the wrong. I want to leave but I need the money. Without this job I will be homeless.

The toxic behavior i have to deal with for rest of my life is from my child's father... We are not together and his behaviors are up and down and he yells and degrades me.. My life is going accordingly and doing well until i have to encounter him. It is draining and aggravating! He doesn't communcate with me on a daily basis so he'll randomly text or call me and i instantly get anxiety because i don't know what kind of behavior to expect... It's insane. I'm grateful i don't have to deal with him on a daily basis but i wish he could be more mature and cooperative for the sake of our child he's more interested in humiliating me and the temporary things that keep him sane. Sad.