Upon returning to this blog, I want to help you (if you need it), to better understand how to navigate this world so in the face of psychologically harmful people. This should also leave you with a flavour of where I am now. Not physically, as I have never been in greater shape. The scars remain but the bodily healing is all but done. No, I want to share the growth and expansion in my thinking around an issue that has plagued my mind and caused me much angst when I was ill and recovering invasive breast cancer (2017).
It has been a whole year since I posted last. This year I celebrated being 4 years cancer-free. Woo hoo! Work has been good at eating up my creative time, but I have some down time, so here goes…
Much thinking time has been spent studying myself and others. Since my teenage years, I have been fascinated with the psychology of humans. One thing that really struck me during my cancer-experience was the contrast in the way people dealt with me. On the one hand people showed me warmth and empathy and on the other individuals were cold, heartless, and savage at times. Of course, I welcomed the former, but found it extremely perplexing, shocking, and deeply painful to deal with the latter.
There is a saying that goes something like, ‘You find out who people truly are when you’re in need.’ It’s absolutely true in my experience. Now this post is not aimed at verbally punching up others. It is about sharing what I have learned to help other unsuspecting empaths. On the surface, the problems are quite simple, though upon deeper inspection are extraordinarily complex. If I made it complex, this would be a book not a blog, so I will keep it brief.
We tend to believe when we are younger that everyone sees the world the same way we do, and it is through experiences that we learn the cold hard truth that, as my Jamaican grandfather would say “Nuttin nu go suh!” In other words, it’s totally not true.
It was my belief that all people had empathy, respect and in some shape or form, cared for others. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe this happened at the same levels for everyone. I acknowledged there were exceptions to the rules such as with psychopaths and sociopaths. However, it was a huge shock to discover that some people I knew, just did not care that I had cancer and in fact some people delighted in the fact.
The last few years I have pondered on this phenomenon, and I have discovered quite a bit as to why this happens. Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula psychologist and author of ‘Do You Know Who I am?’ has been a godsend to my understanding of toxic individuals and narcissism. These are people who have a major lack of empathy, love to deny people’s realities, dismiss the feelings of others and if they are grandiose narcissists, they tend to have a sense of entitlement and a sense of superiority. In her book, she describes the various types of narcissists and how clever they often are in charming their way into unsuspecting people’s lives, causing emotional and psychological havoc and leaving a mass field of broken-hearted debris as they blissfully move onto their next unaware source of narcissistic supply.
Russell Brand (in his new day spiritual form) has a fascinating Youtube channel of the same name. It has become a staple feature during my cooking time as he ruminates on societal ills, political corruption, greed, a lack of consciousness and compassion that he believes lies at the heart of many worldly challenges.
Dr Brene Brown, another favourite empath of mine (and researcher of human connectedness), has been a blessing in the way she exposes society as being one that promotes meanness, shaming and harsh treatment of others (I paraphrase). I highly recommend checking out her popular Ted Talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability.’
I have learned that society is changing. Empathy, caring for others, warmth, a sense of community, looking out for other and compassion are out of fashion. Individualism, a dog-eat-dog mentality, shaming, calling-out culture, heartlessness and not caring for or about others, are on trend.
This learning has been truly eye-opening for me. Whilst I am not thrilled, at least I better understand the context in which I was the recipient of such cold-hearted behaviour. These people weren’t lone rangers, but fragments of a broken part of society that ignores our inter-connected nature as humans. I would like to believe the covid-19 pandemic has shown us all how inextricably connected we are. We cannot exist without one another. Surely, with this knowledge, if we all wish to thrive and be well, we would treat each other with the same kindness, generosity and respect as we would like to receive? Well, perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part to hope the majority would feel this way.
Even without this knowledge, I knew that being around toxic people when I was ill made me feel worse. I wrote about it (link). These people can be bad for your health. Therefore, be mindful of the human beings you surround yourself with. Work on ways to get better at choosing supportive and kind friends and I promise you the quality of your life will improve greatly. Check out this article too ‘Signs of a Toxic Person’ from WebMD. It offers some great strategies to deal with such people.
Luckily, not all people follow trends. Therefore, what I take away from this learning is the need to be around others who, like me care about people, feel empathy at their core, treat others in the way they wish to be treated and have the audacity to work towards reversing the trend of ‘I don’t give a ****’.
Let me know your thoughts. Have you noticed a change in society? Do you think empathy is on the decline? Have you successfully managed to deal with a toxic person? Comment under this post and share your thoughts. It would really help my thinking on this.