WembleyWonderful #161 - How to avoid toxic people

A bit of a heavy subject coming, so I you need something to cheer you up do not read on!

Last week, I was bullied by a school mum at a level I had not encountered since high school. I will not give her name (even if you beg). Nor will I reproduce any of the horrible things she wrote down in her text messages, although I admit sending them to the world via social media was highly tempting. After the shock was over, it actually gave me great food for thought – and something to talk about in my newsletter, hurrah!

Since lockdown #3 has been over, I have found relationships with others quite difficult. The pressure of lockdown did not bring the best out of people (me included); and going back to normal social interactions with the lingering fear of the virus is not easy. Last week’s episode was only the epitome of a number of low-level aggressive behaviours I have been encountering regularly in the past few months (please share your stories so that I know I’m not alone…) So here are the steps I have been taking to make things better .

First, I’ve worked on myself to let off the pressure caused by a year of on-and-off isolation:

  • I exercise even more regularly than usual and preferably in the morning . For me there is no better way to release stress than a good session of kickboxing or body trainer!
  • I pace myself down , especially in the car, as I am far from a relaxed driver…
  • I try and stop being scared of catching the virus from random strangers and resenting them for it – given the level of vaccination reached in the UK, this kind of behaviour does not make sense.
  • I refuse to socialise when I don’t feel ready.

Despite all these efforts, there is still a possibility a mad person will come by and try and make hell of your life – as happened to me last week. What to do?

  • Avoid, avoid, avoid! Some people are fundamentally nasty and there is nothing you can do about it… except avoiding them like the black plague! It does not mean you are not empathising with their plight; it just means you are very reasonable. Narcissism in particular is a fascinating condition, whereby the person will construct a world revolving around them, where they are always right and you are always wrong, so no discussion is possible – so don’t try to discuss, run away! Several books have been written on the subject, including “Les pervers narcissiques” by Jean Charles Bouchoux and “It’s not you, it’s your mother” by Danu Morrigan.
  • Forgive but don’t forget, as a very wise priest told me once. There is no point holding a grudge, as resenting someone is in a way being dependant on them. But there is a point in keeping a record of when you’ve been wronged, because you may want to be generous but not completely stupid.
  • Tell your kids about these issues, as there is a high likelihood that they will encounter them at some stage in their life. Last week’s episode was a great (although very unpleasant) life lesson for our teenage daughters.

More than anything else and no matter how cheesy it sounds, after the shock of the past 15 months, I think we should all try and be kind to each other. As Philip Larkin wrote:

The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.