What does it mean to be “Toxic”

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    • #108214

      So this morning I reread the text message my ED sent to me cutting me out of her life and the lives of her children. She said that I said nasty things trying to hurt her and that I am unhealthy and toxic. I told her I don’t know what she is talking about. She didn’t site any examples of this behavior. She did however mention I was trying to hurt her by stopping paying her student loan.

      Are our EC using the word “toxic” so much to validate their actions?

      I looked up the definition of “toxic people” on the internet and I noticed that in every website the definitions were so general that almost everyone could fit into a category at one time or another. Almost like WebMD when you look up something you usually have almost every symptom even if you don’t have the disease. Are the EC looking this up on the internet or talking with an outside person who doesn’t know the parent and forcing the definition of toxic to fit the parent to justify their pulling away. Actually I can fit my ED’s personality into the same definitions of toxic but I know that way of diagnosing a person is not correct or rational.

    • #108236

      I think that when we call somebody toxic, it means “you make me feel bad about myself.”

      By labelling and blaming, we don’t have to explore that bad feeling any further. It’s somebody else’s fault.

      Maybe that bad feeling about myself comes from my own actions, the way I react to others, unrealistic expectations that I have about myself and what other people owe me.

      Everybody has shames and humiliations that trouble them, some more than others.

      But some of us are so self-protective that we habitually look for evidence that somebody else has to be the “toxic” cause of us feeling bad about ourselves.

      It’s true that mothers, over the course of raising their children, inadvertently tread on sensitive feelings. But part of becoming a balanced adult is to put those hurts in context. I feel that adult children who label their parents as “toxic“ haven’t got to that stage.

    • #108238

      I think Brittany Spears helped generalize the word “toxic” to relationships. There’s a little history of it in Done With The Crying.

      Eldersend, yes, just as anything toxic makes us feel bad, a person can have the affect (and, as you say, using the label means you can walk away without change). We toss out what’s poison.

      What you say at the end, about adult children not having reached the “stage” where they put hurt feelings in context could imply that they will reach it. Unfortunately, there are grown ups even in their later years just now using the word on their folks. Some people never reach the adulthood stage!

      This is not an argument. I am very aware, though, that parents are often told by people that it’s a stage. It enslaves some who keep putting up with abuse, thinking the stage will end. So, I am sensitive the word.

      Hugs to you guys,
      Sheri McGregor

    • #108239

      Flower, In my opinion there is no such thing as a toxic person. Sure some dictators from long ago were toxic. Ordinary people are not toxic. Weed killer that I spray on the weeds is toxic. My

      estrangers say I am toxic. One even says I am evil. But this is just labeling, which is not good. People in this new generation use the buzzword “toxic”. People should not be called toxic.

    • #108241

      That word just roils my insides! Like you suggest, online there are thousands of articles, forums, blog posts, YouTube videos, etc… out there with whomever espousing that it’s OK to “cut anyone toxic out of your life.” Anyone and everyone can assume a mantle of “expertise” just because they say so. It’s dangerous, in my opinion. Similar to the cancel culture that we’re seeing, no one is safe, because we’re all imperfect. It will come back to bite them at some point, I fear.

    • #108243
      Yellow RoseYellow Rose

      I about fell out of my chair the other day when I heard one USA politician call another USA politician “toxic.” I thought to myself “wow” they know just what to say to imply deep disgust, deep defects, and slang that creates a unification in mindset to the listener. It has become a red hot rallying cry that inflicts wounds deeply into the person labeled toxic. But in all honesty, sometimes my husband and I are talking about one of his nefarious relatives and we say their behavior is toxic as we discuss their latest round of attempted pain infliction or bullying tactics. I try to not use that word anymore, but it is so common now sometimes it slips out of my mouth.

    • #108271

      Toxic people are real. Another word is malignant. Look up ” malignant narcissism ” and all that goes with it. Get ready for an eye-opener.

      Throwing out such words and terms as toxic, malignant, etc. without having an understanding that it’s real, is like calling anyone who has an extra glass of wine on holidays a raving alcoholic.

      It’s yet another insidious form of gaslighting and abuse.

      There are varying degrees of toxicity, and as humans, I think we all have a little in us or the capacity. IMO it’s when their toxicity begins to take complete control of who they or we are, and usually because they feed that wolf. Their need to control and feel good about themselves becomes their entire existence. They do not explore the whys or hows, as long as it’s not their fault. They frequently throw tantrums, exploit others, and always ALWAYS have to be right. Gas-lighting and projection are tools in their arsenal….” you are toxic ” To them, yes. In reality, they are toxic and projecting their own bad feelings about themselves onto their targets.
      Keep them far far away from you.

    • #108296

      This is what is so great about this site, Sheri, everyone is kind, thoughtful, yet can share varying opinions on something such as the word ‘toxic’. And it all adds perspective to the subject. Thanks everyone who participates here. No-one here is ever unkind, cruel, toxic, malignant, or so it appears for the years I’ve been here. We all come from varying background, varying places in the world, Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa and maybe elsewhere that others reading this reside. We all contribute In our own way, writing or reading. And Sheri masterminds us all, in a very healthy context.

      So, Toxic, is another buzz-word for ” I’m not quite grown up now, mom and since mom’s are a convenient person to place blame on, I’m going to do it, because I read on the internet it is allowed, in fact, it is encouraged, look at all those websites about toxic mothers or toxic parents….heavens, I’m right, see, all along I knew there was something wrong with my mother. Why, she won’t even pay for my divorce, or she won’t pay for my student loans or she won’t give me money to do this or that or look after my children when I want to go out with friends and have a good time. No, growing up to become an adult in every sense of the word, heck, I’ve been grown up forever, I know my parents are sadly lacking in parenting skills, just look at me how great I am. It’s a good thing I know what to call them now and to restrict them from contaminating my own kids.”,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      And on it goes. Enough to give you mental indigestion.

    • #108295

      I think it is mostly a new buzz word but of course, as always there are bad people and good people, and making the determination of whether someone is bad or not is always contextual and subjective. I feel if anybody wants to make a point (such as somebody being toxic or just a bad person) they need to include examples, not just use a word like that.

      I think many of them who love to overuse the word “toxic” have very unrealistic expectations of perfectionism from imperfect humans (as we all are). In addition to unrealistic expectations, those expectations are 100% based on their own notions of what a “good” person is supposed to do in any circumstance. Some of the comments of others in this forum come to mind such as an ES or ED feels a mother who won’t pay their student loans is “toxic.” And another will label the same person toxic for paying and enabling an already troubled adult.

      In one of the last exchanges I had with my ES, he did state that I’m “toxic.” I know his wife uses that term all the time. He certainly never called me “toxic” in the first 30 years of his life. But now I’m toxic and he had a cop call me to tell me that he doesn’t want me to contact him ever again. Guess I was not toxic enough during that time he had me paying all his bills. He never REALLY thanked me but he would say things like “I appreciate all that you have done, but…. and the but would always be something negative…I bought the kids something I shouldn’t, I did something his wife doesn’t like, (a biggie was that I encouraged the bio mother to also be present at an appointment with a psychologist when my grandson was having some serious issues right after my son married his new wife) as I know DIL did not want any input from his mother, and the list would go on and on and on.

      ES appreciates nothing. I’m not going to call my son toxic. I think the word narcissist is overused as well, but I’m going to use it anyway. My son is a bit of a narcissist.

    • #108342

      Hi movingonwithmylife,

      your post resonated with me because it’s so true. Malignant narcissism is toxic and their toxicity is damaging beyond imaginable to those closest to them.
      Toxic relationships can also exist between two people, when a co-dependent gets involved, or rather love-bombed into a relationship with a narcissist.
      “Toxic” in my opinion is a way of describing situations where one party feels powerless, emotionally drained and deeply unhappy. When his or her emotional needs are never met and his or her feelings are never validated.
      And yes, I think one way or another, there can be a certain toxicity in every relationship at times, over unresolved conflicts for ex.
      In a way I also feel that the on-off relationship with my ES holds a certain level of toxicity (for me), as I’m vacillating between hope and fear and hurt and love…

    • #108358

      Toxic is a word my son called me through the barrage of emails he sent which was the night he cut me off. I am a narcissist and I’m all about me. I claim recognition for things other people have done, and I crave publicity and constant appreciation and gratitude.

      In my view, my house was an open home to him, his partner and dog when ever they needed a place to sleep when they came into town. My house was a long term kennel for their dog when ever needed. Hubby and I dropped everything to help them build their new place, and lent them (long term) half of the value of the property so they could buy it. I might have felt that I had contributed to helping their lives become a little easier, but feeling that was labelled as wanting it all to be all about me.

      Over the course of the emails, I learned that I destroyed every relationship he’d ever had, I had poisoned his sisters against him, and all this was summed up in one word. TOXIC. I had completely ruined his life, and left him with depression and anxieties. The only way he could recover, and begin his own family without the possibility of of me influencing him with my toxicity was to cut me off.

      And so he did.

      We haven’t had anything to do with each other for three years, except one interaction at my uncle’s funeral, where he reiterated those feelings. I still question some of the things I do or say, especially when interacting with my daughters with whom I have a good relationship. I worry when I’m with my friends that I am ‘claiming’ or seeking validation too much. It’s always there.

      But I’m the one who is toxic.

      It’s a funny old world.

      Hugs to you all, lovely people


    • #108357

      My first post here.
      My daughter 43 Has called me toxic now for Over 20 years. I don’t feel like I am. But I guess it’s subjective? She says I don’t understand her. I don’t get her. She uses the you always… phrase an awful lot. Sometimes I Wonder if she is projecting. I’ve never tried so hard ,spent so much money and took so much crap in return for anyone as I have for her. I am not sure why I allow this maybe it’s hope that finally we’ve come around a corner. Only to realise again and again..nope. I despair. Honestly every time I talk to her I come away feeling traumatised. She routinely plays at communication and I feel I am being played a fool. It’s only when she wants something that she is sweet and literally the minute she has gotten what she wants she turns on me. She has turned everyone she knows and even one of my friends against me. If she doesn’t like someone she expects you to follow suit. I’m pretty sure she is a narcissist.
      We never have a decent communication and of course it’s my fault. She holds things up like the hope of relationship and then snatches it away. She regularly ghosts me, refuses to talk on the phone or FaceTime and I live n another country. I’ve spent thousand visiting her frequently taking her and the kids on holidays only to have her ruin them. She says we’re not close, but I do all the work to make that happen and she criticises. She says we’re not close becasue I chose to live in another country and guilts me regularly. Yet when I’m here she treats me badly and Always did so and was one of the reasons I left so that my granddaughters would not grow up subjected to a hell of a lot of drama. Financially I’ve helped her to the point of drowning myself. I’ve lost a home becasue of her. She is awful yet goes around to anyone who will believe her and Smear me so she can play a victim. I am at the point now where I really feel general hate and disdain for her. Ive had nightmares about her stabbing me. And lately I can feel myself just wanting to lash out at her Physically to make it stop. It has affected my health. I know this sounds dreadful. I wouldn’t ever do that, but I get so keyed up from the yo-yo way she treats me. I feel like a mouse when a cat has it cornered and toys with it for quite sometime enjoying the predicament before it Finally just devours it. As I said this has been going on for over 26 yrs. I still get sucked in by her and feel so stupid for doing so. My granddaughters are caught in this too. One is her flying monkey and the other one is the only one who shows me love but just stays to herself. It’s up to mama if I get to see them as they wouldn’t dare cross her. All my friends have relationships with their daughters. It’s so difficult for me, I feel like I’m a ghost of a person and everything has been stripped from me, thus why I call myself vacant eyes.

    • #108374

      Vacant Eyes,
      It seems like wanting to prove, to ourselves and others, that we are good mothers can be a sticking point in understanding how to respond to bad behaviour from our adult children. We keep going back for more disrespect after it is clear that our angry, entitled adult children are not able to contribute to a balanced relationship with us.

      These difficult people make the most of our low confidence and guilt by continuing to blame us, and us alone, for the relationship problem.

      For me, it has been important to realize that my need to be recognized as a good, self sacrificing mother has blocked me from common sense in responding to my daughter’s attacks. The more I give up that need for validation, the freer I feel, and the more I like myself.

      If I find myself putting my energy into negating my daughter’s opinion of me, instead of discovering and honouring my opinion of myself, I know that I’m off the track, heading for an unpleasant dead end in my life journey.

    • #108382

      Dear Vacanteyes, Reading your post was like reading
      about my life with my only child that estranged herself from us decades ago . There are parallels in mostly everything you wrote. I’m so sorry you have been going through this too . My dh and I decided for the many reasons you wrote about , that we were going to back away from the relationship in the hopes our AC would have self reflected and re evaluated how she had been to us for so many years , so we could have hopefully come together and move forward in love, peace and harmony as we always strived for; family being the most important aspect of our life .
      It never happened . I’m sad and empty and I’m working on that to move forward , but I certainly don’t miss her drama .She was also very controlling , besides self centered and selfish , but if she wanted something the charm was turned on in a split second .
      I was a very loving and supportive mom who gave
      my child a wonderful foundation , and I tried my best .
      Please take care of yourself and try to guard your heart .
      Hugs xoxo

    • #108397

      Toxic people are poisoners. They poison relationships, workplace environments, and they are pathological liars. They are all around us, blending in society, but they reveal themselves in many ways. Listen to them and pay attention. It usually starts by them portraying themselves as virtuous and wonderful people, and then onto the victimization part. The lies are always present.

      It’s one thing to act out in a toxic manner occasionally, but another all together to make it the center of one’s existence. They started out as narcissists, and became toxic. They have few if any friends, except people just like themselves. Everyone else got sick of their games and moved on. My older sister is a toxic narcissist. She was a manipulative lying and abusive child who grew into a toxic person. She nearly killed me as a child and tried to kill her 2nd husband. She is also a nurse held in high esteem by those who do not know her.

      Toxic narcissists always have a mask on.

    • #108398

      In my journey of healing and moving on with my life, this site that Sheri offers has been beyond a blessing to me.

      On youtube, I follow Dr. Carter and Dr. Ramini for help with the damage done to me by toxic narcissists I am related to, and how to deal with them. Both are qualified in their fields. They also post new videos often, with comments sections which are also helpful.

      There are videos on how to heal from narcissistic abuse, too. IMO this is a big part of the behavior of our estranged adult kids.

      I see this and I get it but still I walk around in a near constant state of grief. That is up to me to fix.

    • #108459

      I have been called toxic for making a minor suggestion about a minor issue. It was ordinary conversation. Later was told l constantly demanded my own way and influenced them negatively. Oh and made them look stupid. I was shocked……learning to not be shocked at anything

    • #108468

      MamaHope, I’ve been assigned the designation of negativity. I can’t let the past go. Now it doesn’t matter that the past contains years of verbal negativity towards me, no, my problem is I can’t let the past go. Well, heck, when the past contains a lot of negative and hurtful behaviour towards me, why would I be so dumb as let it go. Better that I make sure I don’t leave myself exposed or open for behaviour towards me that hurt me badly over the years. So, negativity surrounds me like a cloud of dust…and if that’s what I’m labelled, I’m okay with that because the dust is protecting me from more bad stuff coming my way…Am I making any sense…who knows…Labels. If we were to put labels on those who put them on us, what might they be? I wonder. I wouldn’t want to hurt my kid by doing that regardless of how she felt towards me,

    • #108474

      Aussiemom its mind boggling. I have my negative days. I think it certainly is ok and good to protect yourself. At this point I have to be realistic about what and who I am dealing with. I dont recognize my own kids

    • #108909

      My ED has not directly called me toxic, but has posted on FB that suggests it. She has cut ties to most family members on both sides and her relationship with her only sibling, my son, is tenuous. I don’t know what I did to be granted the title of “toxic.”. My husband and I have been there for her throughout the years. It has been 5 1/2 years since we last spoke.

    • #108910


      As parents, we try to do the best for our children. None of us are perfect. Calling someone toxic is so hurtful.
      I hope someday our children realize that, as we are not perfect, neither are they-and should be accepting of the fact we all have faults.

    • #108923

      I don’t know our two estranged adult daughters anymore. I now feel like they are strangers. One I hear from only when she needs something and the other not at all.Oh, the crying and emotional storms I went through year after year.Now I must recognize that they don’t love or miss us.My memories are of their growing up years. After those? I do not recognize the women they are. I love them and pray they are healthy and have good lives, but I no longer know them.

    • #108925

      We are usually “toxic”….but hey can you pay my student loan (insert any other huge expense). Its crazy

    • #108970

      Toxic is definitely the buzz word right now. I agree with the others, that it is just a word….it is used as a catchall term for anything/everything that an estranged child doesn’t like about you. Remember this is projection, it is really what they feel about themselves NOT you. This is really all about them…and they are just using the term as a way to lash out at others. You are not going to pay their student loan, so all of a sudden their anger turns into you being labelled as toxic. Please don’t accept these labels , ( unhealthy or toxic). You know in your gut, you are the furthest thing from being toxic.

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