Why Am I Surrounded by Passive Aggressive, Borderline, Toxic Narcissists Intent on Wrecking My World?
For years now it has seemed like the only people I come into contact with or at least the ones that enter my life in some way, are passive-aggressive, borderline, toxic narcissists who are dedicated to making my life a living hell.
I have asked myself repeatedly what I did to deserve this. Did I mortally offend God? Was I a tyrannical despot in a previous life? Are my stars always just wrongly aligned? Is there something just plain wrong with me?
The more people I meet and the more I read the articles here on Medium, the more I realize that not only am I not alone in this but that many people wonder the exact same things.
It seems like there are countless questions asked on sites like Quora or article links and discussions posted on sites like Reddit and Saidit having to do with narcissistic relatives or friends, significant others or spouses with abusive personalities and passive-aggressive bosses.
There are clearly a whole bunch of people out there who know what it is like to have toxic people in their lives. The thing that we all seem to have in common is the sense that our lives resemble that of Job’s. It feels like these people keep showing up one after the other and that they wreak havoc with our world.
As a psychologist, I’ve seen my share of people who have negative others in their lives. They often don’t know how to handle these people and describe the situation as if they are constantly being turned on their head. The chief complaint is not being able to control their interactions with them or even whether or not they have to interact with them in the first place.
Sometimes this is realistic for example when the problem person is a parent, spouse, or boss. Often it seems as if this is realistic — technically, as an adult, you don’t have to be in contact with a parent, can leave a bad marriage or abusive spouse or quite a job when the boss is making you physically and emotionally ill. It may be hard as hell to do any of these things, but it’s not impossible.
When faced with the other side of the coin, the experiences of the people I have treated become clearer. As one after another difficult people enter my life, I find myself also wondering what I could possibly have done that was so awful that I deserve to be treated like this.
Then a friend suggested that maybe the reason for this is that I invite them in. I have to say that this interpretation did not initially sit well with me. After all, shouldn’t a friend commiserate with me, tell me how unfair such things are, how it doesn’t make sense? They certainly shouldn’t blame me, right?
But on deeper reflection, after reviewing some of the difficult people I found surrounding me, I realized that there was more validity to my friends’ opinion that I wanted there to be.
I came to the conclusion that it’s possible that we not only invite toxic people into our lives but that sometimes we draw them to us and are drawn to them in return.
Perhaps we send out signals that we will let others treat us poorly or will accept less than what we deserve based on our talents, abilities, and agreeableness. Maybe they sense we always put others before ourselves without any expectations that someone will do that for us.
On our end, we might be drawn to such people because they are the type of people we were raised by or raised around and so they’re familiar to us.
It may also because we’re used to the way that they act and to making and accepting excuses for their behavior, such as they don’t understand the consequences of what they are doing. We might dismiss the way they treat us as not being such a big deal.
Since on some level it’s normal to us, we may not even realize how toxic these people are until much later, when they’re behavior, words, slights and insults have taken their toll on how we see ourselves.
Or maybe we don’t believe people can really be like that and until it gets really bad we tolerate it. Thinking it’s bound to get better, we let a bad situation become worse, all the while believing if we just work harder, do the right thing, everything will turn around.
When it doesn’t and it explodes in our face it is just one more situation that proves to us how it must all be our fault.
While these realizations were not flattering, I came to understand that at least they put the ball squarely back in my court. Instead of ruminating on past experiences, I began to see that I needed to let them go and think about how to avoid repeating them. This would mean shoring up my self-confidence and not looking to someone else in desperation.
No one, and certainly not I, needs a job, a friend, a romantic partner so badly as to sell themselves out. Going into something with the idea that even though it feels wrong at the outset, if you do all the right things it will work out is not optimism.
It’s turning a blind eye to what you know to be the case. While I can’t say I’ve figured out the perfect formula for preventing this type of thing from happening again, I at least have become determined to do a few things differently.
From here on out, I am going to listen to my gut. When something feels wrong I have learned it usually is. Ignoring this feeling because I can’t bear the thought of giving up an opportunity which may I sense is anything but, is sheer stupidity. Changing my entire life in order to take advantage of this non-opportunity is stupid on a grand scale.
I am not going to let others in my life determine what is good and bad especially those that have always made a habit of criticizing everything I do. It doesn’t matter who they are, they do not have the right to try to purposely make me feel bad about myself especially when it is only because that is the way they feel better about themselves.
Related to this, I also don’t need to know or understand how they got to be the way they are. It really doesn’t matter. They should know better, and just because they can convince themselves it’s all my fault doesn’t make it so, nor does it make it okay.
There is no one so important that they have the right to build themselves up by tearing me down. There is no one so superior that they have the right to try to make me seem incompetent ruining long term opportunities for me due to their own mistakes and flaws.
I am determined to learn to cut my losses early before they have the chance to blemish my sense of self. I will jettison any passive-aggressive, borderline, toxic narcissists who climbed aboard my boat, making it clear they are not welcome.
If they can’t swim, it’s not up to me to teach them. They will just have to wait for the coast guard as I will no longer permit them (to sink my vessel or) to wreck my world.
Sometimes we just have to throw someone overboard to prevent ourselves from drowning and this time around it sure ain’t going to be Job.
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