a Poison Personality
Some people seem to have a knack for making life miserable
for others. Like poison, they cause problems for everyone they come
into contact with, while remaining unscathed themselves. These
people have poison personalities
— their reckless, ruthless, and selfish behavior hurts everyone
Distinctive Thought Patterns
Poison personalities believe that:
Having power and control gives them excitement
in life— and they are always seeking excitement.
are unique. They see themselves as smarter and more important than
“ordinary” people. They are narcissistic and grandiose.
They are never wrong. When they do not
get what they want or are caught in dishonest or manipulative behavior,
they complain that they have been victimized, misunderstood, or
They are “good people,”
despite their manipulative, exploitative, or otherwise harmful behavior.
Caring equals using. If you care about
them, you will let them manipulate and take advantage of you.
They are entitled to have what they want
regardless of the consequences for themselves or others.
They can rationalize the use of any means in
the pursuit of their goals.
When we are caught in the hands of a poison
personality, we often experience feelings of confusion, impotence,
betrayal, depression, anger, anxiety, and fear.
Sometimes poison personalities tell victims that they
are to blame for their own suffering. Some
manipulate their victims into believing that they have hurt the poison
person. Others don’t hang around
long enough for the victims to know what hit them. In
any case, victims are left holding a bag of negative emotions that will
distort their feelings about themselves and others.
Because poison personalities excel at creating self-doubt and
confusion, it is vital to identify the manipulations
commonly used by poison personalities, and reduce your vulnerability to
Know the signs. The charm of the poison personality
diverts attention from their real goal of self-gratification.
Be skeptical. Enter new relationships with open eyes.
Listen to your gut.
Risk selectively. Poison personalities use others
needs or desires to give themselves the upper hand.
Set limits. Demand to be treated fairly, honestly, and
Understand who’s being hurt. Don’t blame
yourself for the behavior of a poison personality.
Get help. Never think you can change a poison
personality. You can only change your responses to them.
Poison personalities are the most aggravating,
exasperating, and crazy-making people we are exposed
to. We may find them among colleagues, family, or friends. The quicker
we learn how to protect ourselves from them, the happier our
relationships and feelings about ourselves become.
If you are involved with a poison
personality, counseling can help.
Source: “Update on Human
Behavior,” Human Services, 1998.