Toxic Avenger Assignment: Creative Damage Control

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on February 10, 2012 0 Comments


I want to start this post out by making it as clear as possible that this assignment does have a positive outcome, although the subject matter is quite negative. Discussing toxic emotions isn’t always easy, but the more aware we can become, the better off we’ll be. Dust off your Passion Action Plan, you will want to add this assignment to it.

Do you have toxic people in your life? Are you toxic yourself? Would you know it if you did? Many don’t. Toxic people in our lives can be in the form of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, celebrities, elected officials and even the butcher. We can be toxic ourselves, which can be tough to accept. The easy toxics (as I like to call them) are really out there for all to see. They blatantly attack you at will, especially in front of others. I say they’re easy because you can identify them and get as far away from them as possible. Unfortunately many of us have the easy toxics in our lives at a very young age so we don’t yet have the means to get away. It’s ok though, these early associations with toxic people can hold great life lessons. They can also warp our perception of what “normal” may be. This can cause us to be toxic ourselves, and completely oblivious to the fact. Then you have your subtle toxics, the passive-aggressive types who make the back-handed comments and classically take opposite action to what was communicated. Romantic relationships and work situations can be a hotbed for this kind of behavior. Do any of these traits ring a bell for you? We’re all guilty of some of these behaviors from time to time (being human and all), but if you find them consistent and repetitive in your life, take action!

  • Ambiguity or speaking cryptically: a means of creating a feeling of insecurity in others or of disguising one’s own insecurities.
  • Intentional Inefficiency: Chronically being late and forgetting things, another way to exert control or to punish.
  • Convenient forgetfulness: To win any argument with denial.
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of dependency
  • Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: the passive–aggressive often cannot trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone.
  • Making chaotic situations
  • Making excuses for non-performance in work teams
  • Obstructionism
  • Procrastination
  • Sulking
  • Victimization response: instead of recognizing one’s own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

Personally, I remember my first toxic relationships as friends in grade school. You know, hanging out with kids who either bullied you or others around you, but they were cool so you wanted to hang around them. High school offers a plethora of these kinds of relationships. Things are changing so much during high school, both physically and mentally. Everything is high drama. Whether we know it or not, we learn a lot about social politics in high school. Politics we carry into our adult life. Some is useful, some not so much. I find toxic people in my adult life are usually those who either didn’t have much social interaction in high school OR had too much and can’t mature into the real world (go see the movie Young Adult for more detail).  Just a theory.

I’m no saint, trust me, I have been that toxic friend. Maybe on occasion I still am to some of my fellows. Let’s face it, it’s fun and easy to be negative and gossip sometimes. Especially when discussing things your ultimately powerless over (which is basically everything in life).Do you have a toxic boss or co-worker? Awareness is the first step, open communication is the second step. Finding a new job should be the last resort. Nobody wants to put up with abuse, but you want to try to give it all you have first. Don’t go quit your job without finding a new one first! What if your family is toxic to you? Do you excommunicate them from your life? I should hope not! Family can be tricky. We don’t get to choose them, they’re these humans we’re stuck with and forced to love. It’s weird if you think about it. It’s more wonderful then weird. The instant bond you have with family is like no other. Remember that. No one knows your situation better than you. Maybeprofessional help is an option to assess your situation. Research on the Internet? Perhaps. The point here is simple, just identify toxic people in your life and make a choice to let them bother you. I know it’s easier said than done. I still have a few toxic people in my life I choose to keep around for one reason or another. I try my best to learn lessons from their antics. I suggest you do the same. The more positive you can be, the less toxic people will want to be around you.

Why am I writing about this? Glad you asked. Toxic people cankill creativity. They can also jumpstart it. I happen to think they cause more harm than good though. My only caution is to not mistake constructive criticism for toxicity. We creatives can be sensitive…I know, I know. If your best friend doesn’t get your latest poem or painting (and they happen to love all your other work), don’t go off and get a restraining order. Constructive criticism can be good for us. Check your ego at the door and accept the feedback. Look at this as an opportunity to tweak it so your greater audience can enjoy it more. Don’t use constructive criticism as a form of resistance to your art!

I have found toxic people to be extremely consistent with their venomous feedback. Many are crafty enough to pepper in praise here and there (passive-aggressive), so their poison isn’t too obvious. This is where writing can come in handy. No need to get too crazy “documenting” each and every conversation. Here’s a simple assignment that may help you:


  1. Identify toxic people in your life (remember, these can be people you don’t even know, maybe a public figure you can’t seem to tune out or it can even be yourself).
  2. List how these relationships serve you.
  3. List how these relationships do NOT serve you.
  4. List three steps you plan to take action (healthy conversation, write a letter, end relationship, search for new job, etc.)
  5. Add this to your Passion Action Plan, call the section “Crisis Management”

Hopefully this assignment can give you a bit of perspective. What does this have to do with your Passion Action Plan? Many people think of crisis and “spinning a story” or burying a scandal when they think of PR. Sure, there is an element of that in this line of work. Awareness of a potential crisis, whether you’re a celebrity, brand or charitable campaign, is essential. Many times PR people (and lawyers) are paid to worry – to think of the worst-case-scenario. If a crisis irrupts, honesty is the key. You want to sway perception versus outright lie to cover something up. What does this have to do with toxic people? Glad you asked. Toxic people can be your own personal crisis. Identification is the first step in dealing with it in a responsible and healthy way.

Awareness is key…knowledge is power. You can practice the beautiful art of communication and tell your toxic buddy you don’t appreciate the negativity. See what happens. Maybe they’ll be shocked and embarrassed (yes, many toxics are oblivious to their own poison, shocking, I know). Perhaps you’ll get an entirely new friend out of this? You never know…stranger things have happened. What if you learn YOU are the toxic person in your life? Well, reward yourself for identifying and accepting this ugly truth. Then make a plan to take positive action to end the negativity.  There are many online resources for ending negative thoughts and actions, just Google it. From my experience, the less toxic you are, the more room you have in your life for good things to happen. Try it.


About the Author ()

I moved to sunny California from sunny Florida in the futuristic year 2000. I’m a fickle and fun Virgo with the same birthday as Mike Piazza, Beyonce Knowles, Wes Bentley, Ione Skye, Damon Wayans, Mitzi Gaynor, and Dr. Drew…AND are you ready

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