Fight toxicity: It’s not always about chemicals!

Two female friends arguing
Photo: © Milkos / 123RF Stock Photo

We like everything in our life to be fresh and wouldn’t intentionally choose anything toxic. Toxicity troubles us over time. It may not be lethal at once, but after a while, air pollution can give you a bronchial asthma, trash attracts pests, stale food makes us sick, and dirty clothes could prompt a skin infection.

Are we this cognizant of the choices we make about people in our life? Do we realize that everyone we know isn’t really on our side? Are we hanging out with them simply because we’re too afraid to be alone? Or we are guilty about them feeling bad? Are we still continuing to be in relationships that don’t enrich us?

It’s not surprising that many of us have such people in our lives. They could be jealous or over-possessive or even cold and disinterested. But if you see these tendencies and analyse rightly, you’ll know that they do more harm to you than good, by just being around you and scoring a spot in your existence. We can’t run away from them all the time, but keeping an eye for toxicity can help you keep yourself safe and protected.

Stormy aggressors

Such friends really appear to add zest and spice to a boring life, but they can also get toxic by being hyper reactive and unpredictable — for example a friend who is loud, brash and strongly opinionated. Such a friend could one fine day suddenly lash at you because you did not laugh at their joke. Or unexpectedly get upset about you not showing up for class, or just anything at all. The lack of consistency makes your mind wonder what you did wrong, why they’re really unhappy and whether this was about you.


They send double meaning messages to confuse you. They know how to use you and your niceness, and make you believe that whatever you do for them is as if a favour and that you actually need their support. For the initial part, everybody wants to please friends to gain their acceptance. However, later these friends feel upset and resentful that they are unable to get their way with you because they are too used to making you do things their way. You lose your individuality. Such people have a knack of controlling you and need the power differential. You’re always lower than them in their eyes and you often do not realize it.

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Dr Shefali Batra
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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra, Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist, is the Founder of Mindframes and Co-founder of InnerHour. She is available at