suffering_attachmentDon’t you just cringe when someone reacts to your negative reaction to their negative behavior and treatment by saying, “It’s your choice. I’m not making you feel the way you feel.”

Of course, it’s our choice! It’s also our nature to be social creatures, to seek love and companionship and to give as much as we receive.

Unfortunately, we don’t always invite people into our lives who hold these same simple, humane values.

There are people among us who lack all respect for the opinions, value and existence of others. They are deplete of a conscience and are unable to empathize fully.

These people, without a doubt, are the main source of suffering and pain in our lives and the lives of all they touch.

What do we do about these people who refuse to be accountable for their behaviors and how their behaviors affect others?

The best choice we can make when it comes to people who have proven to us, over time, that they are toxic is to detach from those people.

Sometimes detachment seems a difficult endeavor, especially if that person is a family member, significant other or a boss.

But we can at least detach from the influence a particular toxic person has over our thinking until the time comes that we can finally walk away.

Recommendation #1: Accept that this person does not respect you as an individual.

You have a million interactions and experiences with this person to prove he/she is toxic. In addition to your gut, you have tangible proof that serves as your validation. Do you really need more proof?

Recommendation #2: Accept that you are viewed by this person as having a specific role that somehow benefits this person. You will never be more than the limited role that has been defined for you by this person.

Examples of roles: a wife, a wife-mother, a husband, a husband-dad, a secretary, a subordinate, a barista, etc.

You are NOT a human with unlimited abilities and potential in the eyes of this toxic person. Don’t fight to change that. It will just make you lose your mind.

You didn’t define the role; you can’t change the role.

Recommendation #3: Cease valuing or being affected, positively or negatively, by the opinions and false projections of this person.

If this person is your husband/wife and praises you when you act the part your role demands, resist the urge to allow that praise to define your worth. Why? Because the negative feedback and criticism is just around the corner, and you’ll go from feeling euphoric about yourself to feeling like shit again. Who can remain sane teetering daily between thinking such extremes about one’s worth?

Recommendation #4: Despite this person’s repeated criticisms of you in his/her attempt to minimize you, do not ruminate on them.

Instead, realize that no one is perfect but that we all have areas in which we can grow and improve. Consider the criticism as something temporary about yourself not as an absolute. The toxic person who mentioned it to you mentioned it in order to deflate you, not in hopes you’d correct or change, despite the fact he/she demanded, “You need to stop doing that!!”

Use this person’s ugliness and hatred to your advantage and set out to improve yourself. The person will not see it coming and will become considerably fearful of you and threatened by your abilities. And these fears will trigger increased criticisms from and increased praises by the toxic person.

(How ironic!)

Try remembering “Recommendation #3” and refrain from allowing this person to affect your self-worth. Once you do that, you’ve re-entered the cycle of pain and suffering, which will thwart all of your previous plans to get a divorce, find a new job or whatever it was you were planning in hopes of severing all ties to this toxic person.

Recommendation #5: Above all, don’t feel guilty about not liking someone who isn’t the least bit likable. Its called setting boundaries and preserving your dignity.

We have one life to live. Make the most of who you are by surrounding yourself with people who make the most of you and your mutual relationship. 

Detaching from toxic takes time, effort and patience. But it’s so worth it!


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Join the conversation! 23 Comments

  1. This was an excellent read. I definitely plan to apply this. It reminded me of when I was a stronger man. The times when I cared less and was more in control of my emotions. I’ve been in a bad marriage for almost 5 years. There are issues on both sides. Difference is I take responsibility for my actions and she refuses. It’s a long story but I’ll make it short. My wife disrespects me verbally and by her actions whenever she chooses. Very quick to point out my flaws or failures but won’t recognize her own. That’s a game. We are more than likely going to divorce soon. I have tried to fight for the marriage and I don’t see her changing. She told me today that she doesn’t want to change…..for me. This article is helping me remember who I am and not who I’ve become. I must detach from this toxic waste of a marriage. I know now it’s not love, it’s complacency.


  2. the hardest thing is when you are in love with a sociopathI found myself making excuses for his inability to be thoughtful and his lack of concern when he disappointed me a friend suggested that I look up the traits of a sociopath and it was him right on I always think of the line in the Twilight movie when Edward says that everything about me brings you inmy looks my charm that’s how this guy isthe sad part is I understand there’s no hope for them to change


    • It is sad and unfortunate. But once we accept that beings like this exist, we no longer get sucked in. 🙂


    • I’m trying to walk away from 2 years of emotional detachment from a porn/sex addict. I never thought id fall into something like this. Its absolutely horrible. I thought he was perfect and he turned out to be the worst thing thats ever happened to me.


  3. There is also the Coco [Chanel] approach 🙂
    “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” 🙂 🙂


  4. I have only one word related to your post…….. Amen!

    I’d like, however, to express another means of detaching when the toxic person is your very own child. It’s natural for parents to experience bad behavior from their children and fault themselves for being a bad parent. But a disordered child will easily seize on that as an opportunity to create even greater intensity in the pain they wield.

    Fortunately, modern neuroscience has enabled us to understand that children can be a great deal more nature that nurture, and their genetic makeup comes from two parents, not just one. If you parented that child with a disordered parent, they are at-risk for character disorder themselves. Hopefully, this understanding will help you detach emotionally from their harm.

    When a disordered child reaches adolescence, their toxic behavior can go through the roof. If they have little or no empathy, bully or frighten you, or treat you with gross disrespect, their problems are beyond simple adolescence. But, as their parent, you may continue to feel obligated to try to turn them around, and to continue making a home for them. Remember, that your child will soon be an adult. Once they do, it will no longer be necessary for you to feel so obligated. Keep your focus on that light at the end of the tunnel to give you the detachment to make it through.


    • Thank you so much for sharing your insight, Joyce. Too many parents of pathological children blame themselves. It hurts to see them hurt and to feel like they are somehow to blame for their adult children’s behavior. 🙂


    • I read your posting with a great deal of interest, Joyce. In print it all sounds very logical, but in reality it is incredibly difficult to separate oneself from a child emotionally, even when they are adults.


  5. […] How to detach from toxic when you can’t walk away from it […]


  6. I love this Paula. Thank you. I have taken the five tips and printed them out and put them at my desk. There is no limit to the manipulation and decisiveness of the father of my children. He now has a new partner, who I suspect is someone who has been on his scene for quite sometime. I don’t want to “go there” but it really hurts when I imagine how long this woman has been involved and how much of my privacy she has exploited, not to mention, the life of my children that was destroyed. How do I prevent myself from going to the “what if” place…..
    This man has done some very sick things to me, taken very special and deep personal wounds of mine and poured his own salt on them. And to think that she knew about this, makes me worry about what they will do together now that they are “legit”. And what they will try to convince my children of. I go to this place because I cannot imagine she is a normal human, knowing what I know about him. There is nothing to him but lies. He would be scraping the barrel to come up with a plausible story, yet he must have done this to convince a normal person. Yet, what I do know about her matches with someone he mentioned from time to time in the past. So either way, I feel this hopeless sense of no control and I fear getting deceived again. And what is worse, that my children will buy his shit and turn on me. I trust them and I have been very good about taking the high road when it comes to their dad, when I can. But some of his behavior is so despicable, even they see that.
    Anyhow. Your blog is immensely helpful to me. I really love this post though.


  7. Oh dear Lord. You’re right on time with this one! I really needed to read this one. Thank you so much!


  8. This is an awesome post Paula! It’s very true. ANY reaction these people get from you, whether it’s positive or negative is just another hook in to keep you hanging.


  9. Your writings are always so spot on and help me get out of any fantasies I may have. You are so correct in your recommendations. I am printing them out and taping them to my desk 🙂


  10. You are so right Paula about the 5 recommendations you have outlined above. I have pretty much done exactly that over the past several years after cutting ties with my socio sister. My detachment from her was particularly difficult because she and our mother always came as a “package deal” – you get one, you get them both; you fight with one, you are fighting against both. I think that is what psychologists refer to as “enmeshment”. My mom has acted as her defender no matter what she did, and believed (and still believes) every lie that came out of her mouth. So about 6 yrs ago I laid it out for my mom: Told her I no longer accept the “package deal”. I don’t want any more to do with my sister, and if she (my mom) can’t accept that, then I will have to sever ties with her too. Thankfully, once my mom (sort of) accepted my decision, she decided to keep me in her life. So I have been able to maintain a fairly good relationship with her while totally detaching from my sister. I say “fairly good” because I know I can no longer confide in my mom the way I used to. I realize that everything I tell my mom is shared with my sister, so I am very guarded about what I say. This renders our relationship somewhat distant and I miss having a mother I can be open and honest with, share my problems with, etc. but I have a great husband and friends that fill that role instead. I am happier in the sense that I no longer have to feel like a victim of my sister’s lying, manipulative antics, but I have lost a lot in giving up the closeness my mother and I once shared. I have read that when you detach from a socio, you must also detach from all of their minions, enablers, and disciples as well. But when it is your mother in that role, it’s harder to cut ties with those around the socio altogether. So I have severed ties the best I can while my mother is alive, and my sister will be completely out of my life once my mom is gone. Not looking forward to that time – not just in facing the loss of my mom, but dealing with my sister’s fake persona at the funeral, and since she is the executor of my Mom’s Will I will be forced to deal with her toxic behavior to some degree. Note to self: never be in her presence without a witness!!


    • I’m very happy that you can still have some type of relationship with your mother who is accepting your point of view. And I absolutely agree with you about always having a witness present…These fools simply can not be trusted. 🙂


  11. he had a similar phrase he used about my feelings and how feelings were a choice and “that’s how you feel about it (a situation) now tell me what you think about it not what you feel” everytime I would say something like that makes me uncomfortable or that makes me feel like – he was VERY good with word games


    • They can’t relate to feelings. Feelings are foreign to them unless the feelings are their own. And even then they are limited to fear, envy, rage and jealousy. They can’t communicate on deep levels. They fake it well by mimicking our emotions. They can even cry on cue. They’re shitty people. Period. And they try shaming us for feeling.


  12. Reblogged this on Madeline Scribes and commented:
    Number 5 needs to be repeated…Recommendation #5: Above all, don’t feel guilty about not liking someone who isn’t the least bit likable. Its called setting boundaries and preserving your dignity.


  13. It is so hard, especially if you’re dealing with a close family member. I’ve always been a pleaser, and I’ve had to really work on accepting that there are some people who will never be pleased, who will always be critical. It’s just how it is, no matter how unfair. Loving yourself when you don’t always feel loved is hard, but I know so many who have it far worse than I ever did. I’ll try to remember your suggestions for the future.


    • I agree. It’s so, so hard. All this self-empowerment and self-love business is hard as hell to master considering we are surrounded by others who test our boundaries every day! If we lived alone in private caves it might be easier. But, then again, we may end up losing ourselves instead of finding ourselves if we remained isolated. Every time we open our mouths to interact, we open up ourselves to being rejected. So we may as well like ourselves, not reject ourselves, because one day we may find ourselves all alone in that cave. 🙂


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