Seeking Solace

Recognize toxicity to form better relationships

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More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019
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Back to Article

Seeking Solace

Photo by Savannah Jo Reeves

Photo by Savannah Jo Reeves

Photo by Savannah Jo Reeves


When the phrase “toxic person” or “toxic environment” is uttered, a lot of things come to mind. Maybe it’s some horrible person who tears everyone down and tells them they’re nothing. Or maybe it’s a place where it seems like no good could ever come.

Toxic, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.” I’ve heard toxic people described as soul-sucking, like those fish that clean the insides of the tanks.

I’m finding that as I get older, my radar for toxicity is getting sharper and more exact.

I can pinpoint what about a situation makes my hair stand on edge and why it isn’t a healthy place for me to be. Unfortunately, my education on toxicity was not gleaned from time alone. Situations that I didn’t think were bad at the time, I now realize they only built on the insecurities and frustrations with myself and my life.

I think it’s a common experience in college to search for friends wherever they’re found when the first year in school rolls around. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I tried to hold on to any friendships that I thought were at least halfway decent, thinking that with time the glaring issues I noticed, even then, would resolve themselves.

This wasn’t the case.

It’s important for me to say that not being compatible with someone, whether it’s in a platonic or romantic relationship, does not mean that the relationship or the person was toxic. No, I’m talking about how toxic influences in life can muddy the understandings of a situation and make it difficult to realize the positive aspects of a situation or person.

I can say that I’m guilty of being pessimistic about everything in difficult times. When I’m stressed and emotional, my usual attempts at being a ray of sunshine fall short. I know that in those moments, I dwell in the land of toxicity. There are moments when I wouldn’t even want to be around myself.

When researching for this week’s Seeking Solace topic, I found myself going down the rabbit hole of self-help websites and psychology articles. One of these articles, from the Science of People website, discusses 7 types of toxic people.

Before doing this research, I didn’t know just how many ways a relationship or situation could turn toxic, but one aspect of this article in particular stood out to me, that is the role of guilt.

Guilt is a major player in toxic relationships.

I know I feel guilty when even debating calling any kind of relationship I currently have or had in the past toxic. I feel it’s also pertinent to recognize the fact that every person can be toxic in some regards. No one is perfect, and the relationships that a person has with others are dependent on circumstance and timing.

I can admit that I need to get better at recognizing the toxic tendencies in my own life. I keep things that are bothering me bottled up until they explode, landing me in such a mess of emotions that even I have difficulty digging out the root of it all.

The moral of this story is this: Finding what is toxic in life isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to do in order to find some peace.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected].

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