Lessons from living in the smog: dealing with toxic people

I have spent the last four years living in the Chilean smog.

Santiago, Chile, has a serious smog issue. There is simply nowhere for it to go. The Andes mountains — monstrous towering sentinels — do an amazing job at keeping the smog prisoner above the city.

Many solutions have been proposed over the years. One of the more controversial solutions is to blow a hole in the Andes, sucking the smog into Argentina — unlikely to happen any time soon.

Sometimes the toxicity is thick and noticeable, causing immediate alarm and repulsion. Other times it hovers above, gently pressing and caressing, and only upon higher ground do I see the blanket of filth and think “Holy crap, I have been breathing that!”

I was struck by an interesting thought recently.

Living in the smog is similar to dealing with the toxic and negative people in your life.

Toxic people attach themselves like cinder blocks tied to your ankles, and then invite you for a swim in their poisoned waters.
 — John Mark Green

The only respite is to seek high ground.

Seek high ground

One of the most damaging sources of smog in our lives is the banter of negative people. Seven things negative people will do to you. They will…

1. Demean your value;
2. Destroy your image
3. Drive you crazily!
4. Dispose your dreams!
5. Discredit your imagination!
6. Deframe your abilities and
7. Disbelieve your opinions!
Stay away from negative people! — Israelmore Ayivor

Being around people who constantly tear down anything in their reach, including you, is exhausting. You literally need to step aside and take a breath of fresh air.

Rising above the negativity and energy in your life requires conscious effort. Just as you would go for a hike or a scenic drive in search of a clear, unhindered view of the city, you need to put in the same amount of effort when dealing with negative people.

Why is it important to find high ground?

Only on high ground will you be able to fully observe the blanket of filth that covers you.

Your high ground can be literal or figurative.

It probably isn’t the wisest idea to rush from the office during a meeting and head for the nearest mountain. There may not even be a mountain in sight.

No, the high ground I am referring to is the mental space that you deliberately and consciously create, removed from the relentless negativity.

You need to create moments where you can rise above, breath fresh air, see the blue sky, reaffirm yourself and come back down into the smog.

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The next time you are feeling nauseous from inhaling copious amounts of negative energy, get to high ground (literally) or create some mental space where you can exercise quality thoughts.

Don’t let toxicity become second nature

A good Chilean friend told me that after living in Argentina for a few years he began to miss the familiar smell of his Santiaguino smog.

That’s crazy I thought.

But upon deeper reflection, I realized that it isn’t too crazy at all.

Before you know it, the smell and taste of smog become second nature.

Some even begin to miss it.

If we can become so accustomed to the presence of smog in our lives, it’s easy to see how the same is true with toxic energy. We slowly accept and give space to the toxic and negative influences in our lives. These influences become the new “norm,” and we fail to observe the slow decaying effect on our bodies and mind.

Believe me, smog does its share of damage over time. So does the influence of those spinning negative webs in our lives.

Do you want to end up like this guy?

A toxic sludge monster.

Beware the smog in your life.

Carve into your routine the ritual of regularly seeking high ground, and if you have the time and means, take a trip to the beach or country side.

Here’s to a toxic free life…cheers!