Yes people come and go in our life and they also influence us in one way or another. My constant prayer as a parent is for my child to meet friends who will be of “good” influence to her. I grew up in a traditional manner, raised by strict grandmother and parents, choosing good friends is important.
A motto that marked indelibly in my heart is this saying;
Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.
There are many versions of this quote but they all mean the same thing. In Social Psychology, this influence is being recognized and scientifically proven. Your closest associates (sometimes called – reference group) can determine much of your success in life. Our friends influence us subtly yet powerfully, and that can either be good or bad.
Research shows we do not have as much control over our thoughts and behavior as we think. We take cues from our environment, especially other people, on how to act.
– Psychology Today
Another powerful quote by Jim Rohn – “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around with.” The first quotation stayed with me since highschool. And recently, studying Psychology out of interest helps me gain more insight in relationships and human behavior.
You can’t choose your family, but you have the power to decide who to be close with. You also have the power to avoid certain people – toxic ones, for they will definitely shape who you are.
From my notes in Managing Emotions (Social Emotional Learning SEL) by Yale University – Humans are social creatures, we are influencing each other’s feelings whether we realize it or not.
Surrounding yourself with good people is not a strategy, it is a necessity. Having family and friends who motivate and help you become better (or best) version of yourself is a blessing.
Brainwashing is defined in the Psychology Dictionary as that which “manipulates and modifies a person’s emotions, attitudes, and beliefs.” It reduces a person’s ability to mentally defend themselves and makes it easier for another person to control them.
Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and forced re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques.
The term brainwashing was first coined in the 1950s when journalist Edward Hunter in his article in Miami Daily News entitled – “Brain-washing Tactics Force Chinese Into Ranks of Communist Party.” He described how Mao’s Red Army used ancient techniques to manipulate the masses. He called this hypnotic process – brainwashing, the process to change the mind drastically (Smithsonian Magazine).
It is a theory that a person’s core beliefs, ideas, affiliations and values can be replaced, so much so that they have no autonomy over themselves and cannot think critically or independently.
In 1956, Albert Biderman studied how prisoner of war camp personnel got U.S. prisoners of the Korean War to give them tactical information, collaborate with propaganda, and agree with false confessions. Biderman stated that inflicting physical pain was not necessary to “induce compliance,” but psychological manipulations were extremely effective for that purpose. His report included what has come to be known as “Biderman’s Chart of Coercion.”
In Biderman’s chart, he summarized the tactics in brainwashing;
Monopolization of perception (fixes attention on immediate predicament; eliminates “undesirable” stimuli)
Induced debilitation; exhaustion
Occasional indulgences (provides motivation for compliance; hinders adjustment to deprivation)
Enforcing trivial demands
Not all eight elements need to be present in order for brainwashing to occur. Each element can have some power to distort reality, interfere with perception, reduce a person’s self-confidence, and gain compliance.
How are you brainwashed?
Based on the mechanisms from Biderman’s chart, you can somehow notice that this person is trying to control you. But first, this person who will try to brainwash you will want to know everything about you in order to manipulate your beliefs. Everything – find out what your strengths are, your weaknesses, who you trust, who is important to you and who you listen to for advice.
They will begin with isolation, it may come in a form of not allowing an access for family or friends. The brainwasher must have a complete control of the target.
In the process, brainwasher will attack the victim’s self esteem, making them vulnerable and easier to control. This can be done through physical or verbal abuse, threats, etc.
you are not who you think you are.
– how stuff works
The abuser denies everything that makes the target who he is: “You are not a soldier.” “You are not a man.” “You are not defending freedom.” The target is under constant attack for days, weeks or months, to the point that he becomes exhausted, confused and disoriented. In this state, his beliefs seem less solid (exhaustion).
Most psychologists believe that brainwashing is possible in the right conditions and settings. Plan must be systematic and relentless making it tiresome for the victim.
While the identity crisis is setting in, the brainwasher is simultaneously creating an overwhelming sense of guilt in the target. He/she repeatedly and mercilessly attacks the subject for any “sin” the target has committed, large or small. The victim now feels a general sense of shame that everything he/she does is wrong.
The ultimate goal of brainwashing is Blind Obedience. The victim follows orders without question. This is usually achieved by positively rewarding the person when they please the brainwasher and negatively punishing them when they do not (indulgences and punishment).
Brainwashing is real.
Yes, it is not just in fictional books and movies. Brainwashing is real!
However, this mind/psychological control should not be feared, and target/prospect having knowledge makes any tactic less effective. Here are some ways that you can do to avoid being brainwashed;
Don’t believe everything that you read
Don’t buy into fear or scare tactics
Watch for someone’s hidden agenda
Look out for less obvious messages, try to listen for both sides of the story
If there’s one substantial quality to have in our relationships – with our loved ones, our family, friends, partners, colleagues, etc. – it could be loyalty. All relationships even between sellers and customers are based on our ability to be loyal.
We may have different perceptions of loyalty but there are common characteristics that indicate loyalty. It is the most valued virtue in all relationships and encompasses the following traits.
Character Traits of Loyalty
a loyal person fulfills promises
a loyal person is supportive
a loyal person stands by you and for you
a loyal person values honesty
a loyal person is empathic
a loyal person is reliable
a loyal person is committed and dedicated
We all want the warmth and security that a loyal relationship brings. We like to be with people who are more likely to be faithful to us. And it is one of the basic necessity according to Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs – Belongingness and Love Needs.
But remember not to expect other people the exact values we possess. We are all unique and different in personality traits, character, priorities, etc. One can cheat or be faithful to someone forever.
Loyalty is a value that is necessary for a lasting and meaningful relationships.
In my previous post, we talked about manipulation and sampled the character of Jin Mu from Alchemy of Souls. Fact check, we meet a gaslighter in real life sometimes unaware of it, and so before falling to their trap let me show you ways to spot a gaslighter.
Gaslighting is a colloquialism, loosely defined as making someone question their own reality. The term derives from the title of the 1944 film – Gaslight. The term may also be used to describe a person (a “gaslighter”) who presents a false narrative to another group or person, thereby leading them to doubt their perceptions and become misled, disoriented or distressed.
Gaslighting is a favorite tool of a toxic person. It is a form of abuse and psychological control. A gaslighter will start with small lies, eventually misinformation increases overtime. Anyone can be a victim of a gaslighting and the most effective gaslighter is the hardest to detect.
Gaslighting can appear in various ways. Here are examples or techniques they use (from Medical News Today);
Countering: This is when someone questions a person’s memory or recall. They may say, “Are you sure about that? You have a bad memory,” or “I think you are just forgetful.”
Withholding: Pretending they do not understand the conversation, or refusing to listen, to make a person doubt themselves. For example, they might say, “Now you are just confusing me,” or “I do not know what you are talking about.”
Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards how someone else feels. They may accuse them of being “too sensitive” or overreacting in response to valid and reasonable concerns.
Denial: Refusing to take responsibility for their actions. They may do this by pretending to forget what happened, saying they did not do it, or blaming their behavior on someone else.
Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion by questioning the other person’s credibility. A great tactic and often use by personalities to divert the attention from them.
Stereotyping: A person may intentionally use negative stereotypes about someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to gaslight them. For example, they may say that no one will believe a woman if she reports abuse.
From the examples listed, you maybe able to detect a gaslighter. As a disclaimer, this behavior becomes toxic based on intentions. And we may accidentally use the phrases sampled above without really intending to gaslight someone. It’s all in the intention or motives of a person.
It is different from Manipulation though. Manipulation is a key part of gaslighting, it’s a common tactic. Can be used in marketing strategies, politics, institutions, etc. But gaslighter, they are very rare and much more toxic.
Gaslighting can be psychologically devastating. According to PsychologyToday, it violates trust, upends a person’s view that people are generally good, and can make them suspicious of everyone who is close to them. Falling victim to a gaslighter also erodes a person’s trust in themselves and may make a victim never want to be part of a relationship again.
There are ways to protect yourself from this form of abuse. First to simply gather evidence, write journals, take photos, etc. and use them as your proof. You may also talk to someone trustworthy and if needed, leave that toxic relationship.
Studying Psychology shows you a myriad of complicated terms, endless name of disorders, personality types, etc. But let’s be practical here, everywhere you go there’s always a “toxic” person. They’re impossible to avoid, can give you negative feelings and worse affect your mental health.
But do you know that Toxic behavior is something that can manifest in us all?
We all have bad days but it is important to be aware of our actions and how they affect the people around us. “Self-awareness” – according to my professor and the author of best selling book Permission to feel – Marc Brackett, is the start of becoming an Emotional Scientist.
First, let us learn how to identify a toxic individual.
Being toxic is never fun to be around, you drive people away and usually encounter conflicts and misunderstandings. Keep in mind that these behaviors don’t happen overnight, it is developed through the years and has underlying causes or triggers like childhood trauma. They are actually unconscious and developed over time as their defense mechanism. Not an excuse though, that’s why we begin by realizing if our behavior is already hurting other people.
Ways not to be toxic.
1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
it all starts with your mind, your thoughts drive and guide how you behave.
Professor Marc Brackett said that our brain is hay wired to think negatively right away, it is our automatic way of thinking. This is not good for the body as it activates our limbic system.
Thinking positively takes time and lot of effort.
2. Be actively Grateful
When we practice gratitude, our feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction increase, and the feeling of burn-out decreases.
Toxic people are unhappy because they tend to look at the past and for them everything in their life is not good enough.
Take a few minutes everyday to be actively grateful. This could be anything from your pet, sunshine or good weather, family, or the roof above your head.
If you really want not to be toxic, know that acknowledging the good things in your life lets you focus on them and everything else seems brighter and happier.
3. Think before you react
build the habit of pausing before reacting.
toxic people are highly reactive, they tend to lash out on people around them.
this is the best time to practice being a better listener, so instead of reacting try to listen first.
being an active listener shows that you care.
4. Let your ego go
a toxic person is desperate to maintain a certain image to the point of attacking others, or being defensive and becoming a habitual liar.
they believe they’re entitled and people are beneath them.
accept that nobody’s perfect and that you’re not always correct.
kindness is free and without your ego this is easy.
5. Show accountability
this is related to ego, apologizing is like admitting defeat to a toxic person.
admitting you’ve made a mistake and taking responsibility makes it feel you’ve failed.
if you’re not able to be accountable for your own wrongdoing — if you dig in, and have to maintain your image — this is a big potential problem. For one, it’s a sign of narcissism.
it will be a struggle to maintain a real relationship to someone who can never ever accept fault. It makes other people uncomfortable, denies their emotions or needs, and leaves them feeling wronged too.
Just as environment has its toxins and so is humanity.
In the Philippines, Mental health has a negative connotation so I’ll be using emotional and mental health interchangeably.
What is a Toxic Person?
Toxicity is not considered an illness but there could be underlying causes or trauma behind their toxicity. But how will you know if they are toxic? A toxic person is anyone whose behavior gives negativity and upset to your life. They consistently cause you a negative response and you feel uncomfortable around them.
Before I give you the types, here are toxic behaviors you watch out for;
Enjoy Others Suffering
Never Taking Ownership (non-admission of faults)
Refusing to Apologize
Just to be clear, we are all imperfect in one way or another. The difference with toxic people is that they “always” manifest the behaviors mentioned above and has destroyed relationships and brought conflicts.
I’m studying Psychology because I’d like to know how to deal with different kinds of people. As an entrepreneur, I face a myriad of people everyday. Not to pat myself at the back, but I know I’m a good-hearted person so I need to protect myself and set boundaries. I believe that truly toxic ones are not worth my time and I feel like a portion of my life is deducted or shortened as I deal with them.
Believe it or not, there are 10 types of toxic people. Yes! that many. Maintain your peace and emotional health by being aware of their kind.
10 Types of Toxic People
The Gossiper – we have a term here in the Philippines – “Marites” not sure how they derived that name but gossiper a.k.a. Marites is on the top of the list. What’s sad is they derive pleasure from talking about other people and they seem to celebrate with others’ misfortunes.
The Temperamental – they seem to have anger management issues. It’s also difficult to deal with them as they don’t know how to handle their own emotions and can become explosive.
The Victim – they see themselves as victims. Some may shower you with (superfluous) gifts, sort of bribery then they will open up to you. And you empathize with them, kind-hearted ones can easily fall for this trap.
The Self-Absorbed – inconsiderate and a total narcissist. Fact check – they’re only using you for their benefit.
The Envious – self explanatory and I’ve met many. Perfect to pair with “Marites” as they try to bring down one’s reputation.
The Manipulator – they are a pro in manipulating those around them to get what they want. Another overlapping sign is when they excessively give you gifts and make you ask the question – “for what?”
The Seductive, Overly-Dramatic Person – quoted this from Psychology Today. They’re fun to be with, often the life of the party. They are charming, seductive, physically attractive and do things to attract attention. They focus a great deal of time on outward appearance but really insecure deep inside.
The Narcissistic-Aggressive Person – another from Psychology Today. Coming from the word – narcissism, these individuals are abusive, verbally or physically. They are selfish and aggressive, tend to be adventurous and risk-takers.
The Judgemental – have you heard of the saying – “don’t rain on my parade” The judgemental are quick to tell you what’s wrong about your decision. They only see your faults and look down on others. Nothing is ever good enough for them.
The Arrogant – arrogance is false-confidence and always masks insecurities.
Everything begins with awareness.
If you know someone who is toxic and there’s no way to avoid them, don’t fret. You may not be able to physically avoid them but you can set boundaries. First identify them and maintain a safe “emotional” distance. Expect the behavior/s mentioned above so you’ll be well prepared to “rationally” face them. You are now equipped but don’t ever try to engage or mix into the chaos. Call them out if they do something wrong to you.
Always choose peace. Respond and don’t react, I know it’s easier said than done but I’m just being optimistic here. For normal people like you and me, there’s hope and peace.