Know When You’re Toxic

Disclaimer: This blog post is not about anyone specifically nor is it supposed to come across as insensitive to individuals’ personal situations. I accumulated both objective (research) and subjective (opinion) points to write this. All of my posts are reflective in which I try to grow from past actions and thoughts.

They say people come and go. Some stay a lifetime and some are only present temporarily to serve their purpose – often for you to learn a lesson or 10. I never really understood this to its full capacity until recently.

My personality is certain. I’m stubborn, I’m opinionated and I’m blunt. However I’m honest, I’m ambitious and I know exactly what I DON’T want; both in friendships and intimately. In addition, you bet your bottom dollar that I’m aware of my flaws and I would do anything for my friends that put an equal amount into the relationship.

Previously, I often surrounded myself with fun people, but not necessarily people who would contribute anything to my life. These friendships depended on alcohol, an overwhelming amount of group energy and the ‘cool’ personality you show when partying, rather than the real you. It wasn’t obvious if these friendships were quality; disguised by a smoke screen and it would take more difficult situations to occur before they could be classified into positive or toxic.

I’ve taken to the internet to explore why certain friendships fail or why certain people react the way they do in situations. Immediately I found myself drawn to attachment styles and linked research. Now before you go ‘bleh, boring’, attachment styles are kind of like when you classify a novel into fiction, crime, travel and so on; attachment styles can psychologically indicate how the story develops and their personality in general.

I found that how secure an individual is (attachment style), indicated how they would cope. Less secure females are likely to choose revenge as their preferred coping strategy in which their parent-child relationship is highly associated. In addition, it was suggested girls who are insecure with their fathers, blame their closest friends for negative events. However, it should be noted that an individual’s action towards voicing blame to the other individual, is a whole different tangent. (Dwyer, Fredstrom,  Rubin, Booth-LaForce,  Rose-Krasnor, & Burgess, 2010). A second study undertaken in 2005, supported the idea that insecurely attached individuals experience more conflict throughout the duration of the friendship and expected their friendship to be unsurvivable during hardship (Saferstein, Neimeyer & Hagans, 2005).

From the initial research, I chose to deviate away from attachment styles and explore the coping strategy – revenge. To understand exactly why people decide to select such a strategy to lower others in the ground. Funnily enough, I found a study regarding college/university students and ‘revenge goals’.  The results enforced what I expected; revenge or hostile behaviour was more likely to be carried out in regards to a romantic relationship. This was obvious to me due to concepts such as commitment, passion, intimacy and rejection…these are hardcore emotions. However, friend and roommate relationships are most influenced by disrespect in which rejection can play a part, but does not independently motivate revenge (McDonald & Asher, 2013).This particular time in life is quite impactful due to individuals having the freedom and independence to develop closer relationships than previously. Interestingly, college-age students are actually more likely to carry out a revenge in comparison to older adults. The higher intensity the relationship, the higher probability for vengeance (Frey, Pearson & Cohen, 2015).

So, what is revenge and is it good? Revenge is used to accomplish justice and assist in restoring an individual’s self-worth or self-esteem by undertaking a vendetta regardless of the ramifications. Key words: Self-worth, self-esteem. Now, professionals in the revenge business believe there’s a fine line between healthy revenge and just plan pathological. Personality, coping styles and early development (hello attachment styles) are all factors which assist in understanding why people go way too far. In a ‘not so conventional’ upbringing in which the ego-ideal does not form properly, an individual will create ‘the grandiose self’ via fantasies; sometimes known as Narcissism. This leads to an individual inflating their ego and believing in special treatment or entitlement in life (Grobbink, Derksen & van Marle, 2015). These people can start off harmless by speaking ill of others, to mass destruction of self or others (Columbine shooting). It can move from zero to 100, just like an ex-alcoholic having a sip after 20 years of sobriety. Maybe vengeful individuals are just genetically predisposed to hardcore revenge coping strategies as alcoholics are genetically predisposed for addiction.

In my life, I have had a few strangers and even friends speak negatively of me without actually thinking about the motivations or intentions. I have also done the same to others…haven’t we all? However, after removing toxicity and negativity from my life via new friendships and via mindfulness, I find myself wanting to support others by being aware of others circumstances whilst also striving for forgiveness; for sanity and for hope in the human species. We can choose to take a narrow view of life, to punish those who do not understand us, who do not agree with us, who do not support us; or we can choose to move forward with ourselves and hope others will too. I have decided to live by the saying “what Susie says about Sally says more about Susie than Sally.” When people are aware of what Susie is actually trying to do to Sally, no one wants to be a Susie. Forgiveness is underrated and revenge is overrated. It’s important to be self-aware, know when you’re mind and actions are toxic to yourself, or to others.


Cota-McKinley, A. L., Woody, W. D., & Bell, P. A. (2001). Vengeance: Effects of gender, age, and religious background. Aggressive Behavior27(5), 343–350.

Dwyer, K. M., Fredstrom, B. K., Rubin, K. H., Booth-LaForce, C., Rose-Krasnor, L., & Burgess, K. B. (2010). Attachment, social information processing, and friendship quality of early adolescent girls and boys. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships27(1), 91–116.

Frey, K. S., Pearson, C. R., & Cohen, D. (2015). Revenge is seductive, if not sweet: Why friends matter for prevention efforts. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology37, 25–35.

Grobbink, L. H., Derksen, J. J. L., & van Marle, H. J. C. (2015). Revenge: An analysis of its psychological underpinnings. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology59(8), 892–907.

McDonald, K. L., & Asher, S. R. (2013). College students’ revenge goals across friend, romantic partner, and roommate contexts: The role of interpretations and emotions. Social Development22(3), 499–521.

Saferstein, J. A., Neimeyer, G. J., & Hagans, C. L. (2005). Attachment as a predictor of friendship qualities in college youth. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal33(8), 767–776.

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