How to Heal After the Cruel Words of a Toxic Person

How to Heal After the Cruel Words of a Toxic Person

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It was the perfect day.

My husband and I spent the day with our kids walking through the park. Close friends from out of town we hadn’t seen in years joined us.

The weather was gorgeous. Our kids were laughing. Everything felt so peaceful and happy.

After we said goodbye to our friends we went to grab an early dinner. We found a restaurant we loved that allowed our dog to sit outside with us. The perfect ending to our perfect day.

Until she showed up…

Park picture

An old woman walked by and sat down at the table next to us. She told the waitress she wasn’t going to order anything, she was just resting. There was something odd about her, her eyes were ice cold. I wondered if she was homeless.

As she sat there, she began to stare at us, wickedly.

Before we knew it, she started yelling at us. Calling us “disgusting pigs” and making comments to the wait staff about my dog.

She continued to harass my family and even got up and walked closer to our table yelling all sorts of nasty things at us, most of which were aimed directly at me. Given our mixed raced family, I couldn’t help but wonder if her comments were racially motivated.

I could feel every cell in my body filling with anger. Who was this nasty woman who was ruining our dinner and who dared to act like this in front of young children?

I wanted to shout a few choice words at her but my kids were there. I felt so much pressure to both protect them and set a good example for them on how to handle confrontations. But truthfully, I had no idea what to do…

I finally told her that if she didn’t back away from our table, I would call the police.

She responded “Good, call them so I can tell them what a disgusting pig you are!” as she waved a crooked finger in my face. I said okay. And I dialed 911.

In the meantime, the manager was trying to get her away from the restaurant, but she refused to leave and continued to stand there, screaming at us. When she finally heard me on the phone with the police, she quickly walked away. A true coward.

By the time the police came she was gone. They mentioned they’ve received several calls about a cranky old lady in the neighborhood who harasses people.

Now, I knew this woman was crazy, but as a sensitive person I’m extremely affected by other people’s energies and words and her venom had completely consumed me. Every cell of my body felt enraged, shaken and angry. I felt like our entire day had been ruined by this ten minute ordeal.

And I even had the creeping feeling that maybe, somehow, I was deserving of such abuse…

The Choice You Must Make

old-man-2Just a few minutes after the police left, an old man walked by our table as we were still trying to gather ourselves. He looked at us with our young kids on our lap, dog at our side, and said:

“Enjoy guys, these are the best years of your life…”

His expression was so kind, and his simple words were so full of truth and love.

It was as if, within a span of just a few minutes, we had received messages from both the darkest and brightest sides of humanity, and it was up to us to choose which side we internalized.

I wanted so badly to embrace the message from the wise old man, but it was the mean old lady whose words infected me entirely. I could barely think about what that man had said, let alone be present for my daughters. And that frustrated me even more.

I was determined not to let this woman win the war for my thoughts so I did everything in my mental power to work through the experience and pull my thoughts out of her icy grasp.

If you’ve ever been subject to the cruel and venomous words of a toxic person, here are some of the things that helped me recover and gain control of my thoughts:

Don’t Believe the Lie

That cruel woman’s words had no truth to them. She didn’t know me or my family. But when someone tells you how disgusting or stupid or fat or whatever you are, even if it’s a complete stranger, there’s a small part of you that allows those words to creep in as your truth.

Fight against those lies, don’t believe them. You can determine your truth. You can choose which words you open yourself up to and which ones you close the door on. To get through this experience, I fought hard to make the words from the wise old man my truth.

Ask for the Love You Need

After all the noise that woman shouted at us, I needed the silence of a quiet embrace. So I asked my husband to hold me, so that I could feel grounded. In that moment I knew I needed his presence, love and comfort, more than I needed words.

My husband would never have known this if I didn’t ask for it. Love yourself enough to ask for exactly what you need.

Use Nature’s Healing Power

Toxic words are so poisonous, it can be hard to get them out of your mind. Following that ordeal I was having trouble being present for my daughters so after we got home I took a walk through the woods with my dog.

I could feel my cells relaxing with each rustle of the wind in the trees. When negativity consumes you, nature is always there to show you how soft and beautiful the world can be. It will bring you back to you.

Find Compassion for Your Attacker

At first I hated this woman, she seemed so evil. But then I considered a different perspective. She probably had dementia or some other mental illness. The ugliness that came out of her mouth likely reflected that illness, more than a true evil.

Perhaps this woman, as harsh as she was, needed my compassion. Once I took that perspective, I no longer felt like a victim. No matter who your attacker is, finding a compassionate outlook for their struggle can elevate and strengthen you.

Take Your Time Park picture

It can take a long time to recover from venomous words. Trying to rush or bury the emotions they’ve stirred only makes the poison seep deeper. Take the time you need to process things and heal. However long, it will be worth it.

I have two little girls counting on me to channel my best, no matter what life throws at me. I needed to ask for the embrace, go on the walk and take the time to heal, so that I can show up for them, fully present, as they deserve.

Choose Your Focus

Once I had calmed down and no longer felt like that woman’s words held me in their grasp, the words from the wise old man took center stage. And they still do today.

Every time I feel overwhelmed, spread too thin or run down as a mother (which is often!), I remind myself that these are the absolute best years of my life, just as his kind words promised.

Move Forward with Love

We all hear awful words. We all experience awful things. We all struggle in hard relationships. But we always have a choice. We can choose to internalize someone’s venomous words or actions as a reflection of our self-worth, or we can fight hard for ourselves. We can choose our truth, ask for what we need, and find deeper compassion for both the ones who hurt us and for ourselves.

Whose words are you believing that are based on lies, manipulation, condescension or lack?

Whose words are telling you that you’re not good enough? Perhaps the harsh words are even coming from yourself.

How can you fight harder for yourself and your well-being? How can you separate yourself from the harsh words and find your truth? 

Perhaps hardest of all, how can you find compassion for the person hurting you, and more compassion for yourself?

And how can you honor the people who need you and your love, by living from a place of worth?

I will forever be grateful for that wise old man who so innocently blessed us with his kind words, never knowing the harrowing experience we had just had. His serendipitous kindness showed me that no matter what, there is always a choice. We can either believe the things that makes us feel small, or we can fight hard for ourselves and our worth.

My hope is that you will always choose to fight for yourself. No matter where you are in life, or what you’ve been through in the past, you are worth it.

If you like this post, please “like it”, share it & leave a comment. I love hearing your thoughts <3

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24 Responses to How to Heal After the Cruel Words of a Toxic Person

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you, I will try. I needed this loving gift

  2. Shell says:

    So sorry, you had that experience. Not to use this as an excuse for her behavior towards you. The older lady might have been drawn to your light. And attacked with harsh words wishing she still had that same inner light

    • Liz says:

      Hi Shell, wow, that thought never occurred to me. I guess that’s possible, I was so happy that day and she was really after me, I thought she might actually physically attack me, despite how frail she looked. Thank you for sharing that perspective!

  3. Sharon Goemaere says:

    I am so sorry that you had this experience . You handled it very well . I have a toxic family member in the family I married into . We never speak or see each other anymore due to his behavior .It is better for my health and sanity . ~Sharon Goemaere

    • Liz says:

      Thanks so much, Sharon. I’m sorry about your toxic family member, things become so complicated when it’s family. You’re wise to protect your health and sanity!

      • Sharon Goemaere says:

        You’re welcome Liz . The person in question has been a repeat offender and it’s often been directed at me for some odd reason . I believe he has an issue with women in general and also has narcissistic and control freak tendencies . I can forgive but choose to not be around them . Since we moved 3 hours away it’s been so much easier . 🙂 ~Sharon Goemaere

        • Liz says:

          Those characteristics certainly sound like a recipe for disaster, Sharon! Made even worse that he directs things at you. Like Shell said above, maybe he sees your light and it makes him feel vulnerable, which then triggers him to direct his aggressions towards you. Glad the long distance has helped things 🙂

  4. Kim Orr says:

    Another powerful story Liz — and you provide really valuable advice based in your experience.

    It is in the nature of our minds to go to the negative — that is how we are made. It actually takes effort — and practices of the kinds you describe — to dissolve the negative thoughts which we so easily believe. Then we must learn to replace them with the true thoughts — that you are valuable and important. And no one can take that away from you with words or with any other kind of unkind or toxic deed.

    Your experience was traumatic and you honor it as such. Sensitive souls as well as those who have suffered childhood trauma, are more likely to be disturbed deeply by such an incident. It brings up old ‘stuff’ that, depending on how young people were when they suffered the abuse or trauma — they may not even know they have until there is an incident like the one you describe.

    For those souls, it becomes nearly impossible, at least in the moment and for a time thereafter to locate the incident in the rational — she was clearly mentally ill. She had done this to others in the neighborhood — so it wasn’t personal. None of that rational knowledge matters when the executive brain shuts down as it does in trauma — no matter how much we “know” that what someone is saying is not true.

    Your advice is precious. What is particularly important is how you managed it in the presence of your daughters: your firm and gentle conduct, your asking for touch afterward– one of the most healing things as recent trauma studies prove — your willingness to allow for your own trauma and then take your own advice to heal it — are the perfect examples for your children.

    Perhaps most beautiful of all is the nearly perfect poetry of the wise old man who approached you later — to remind you of the truth and of the important things.

    And that most important thing of all which you state so clearly — you are worth it.

    This is what you taught your children, and this is what you are teaching others to remember.
    Well done Liz. Extremely Well Done.

    • Liz says:

      Kim, gosh, your words are so poetic and insightful. You managed to flesh out what I felt but could not put into conscious thought or words – that incidents like this bring up old stuff. Her harsh words triggered so much in me, which is why they were tempting to believe. And just as you say, my mind was immediately absorbed in the negative, I had to work hard for the positive.

      Thank you for what you said about the example for my children. In that moment, I wasn’t sure what kind of example I was setting. She was way too close to my kids and I made it clear that she could not get any closer. I was definitely in mama bear mode. They’re so young so it was hard to explain to them what happened, but it was a lesson for me – once I called the police, she sprinted off. If something like this ever happened again, that’s what I will do immediately.

      But I do feel it’s important to show them that we have to love ourselves enough to allow for our own healing, as you said, so I’m glad I set an example for that and will always try to do so.

      Thanks as always for your kind and insightful thoughts, Kim <3

      • Bev says:

        I agree, Liz. You set a wonderful example for your children and did the right thing by calling the police. It’s their job to handle such things. Your emotional control in such a situation was exemplary, even if you didn’t feel the control, you still had it, and you should be proud of yourself. I ditto…well done… extremely well done.

        • Liz says:

          I appreciate that so much, Bev. It took me awhile to even think of calling the police, as the whole thing caught us so off guard, but once I thought of that option I finally felt like I had some control over what was a crazy situation. Thank you for your support!

  5. Vicky says:

    Once an old lady who was a stranger to me spat in my face, grabbed me by the collar tightly and started screaming at me. I was terrified and completely shaken. Luckily, there were some pedestrians who came to my rescue. And I was 13 that time.

    Later, I came to know that she was a homeless old woman, and a few children of my age were used to throw stones at her and run away. She considered me as one of them and acted like that.

    • Liz says:

      Oh wow, Vicky, that must have been traumatizing! Especially at such a young age. You were definitely lucky that people came to your rescue. Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. I had a similar incident with a Christian woman at a conference. I agree with Shell maybe she saw my light.

  7. Janis says:

    True words indeed. Thank you again, Liz.
    We have so many choices throughout the day, from the moment we wake up to the person who wants to take some of our joy for their own purpose. I often forget in each moment, no matter how cruel or seemingly random, we still have a choice.
    Thank you for reminding me of the option and the right path.
    Thank you for sharing your light, wisdom and North Pole.
    Love and Blessings

    • Liz says:

      It’s so true, Janis. Being mindful of our choices is something we have to constantly practice, as it’s so easy to forget. Thank you for your kind and generous words and for sharing your light here as well!

  8. Lauren says:

    Dear Liz,
    You are such a wonderful and thoughtful person, and I love the photo of you and your husband and your two beautiful children and your lovely dog (Golden Lab?).
    I am so sorry that the awful words were thrown at you and your wonderful family (including your faithful, loving dog). That old lady has a serious mental problem, and you did exactly the right thing. She is seriously ill, and since we cannot cure her (probably no psychiatrist could even cure her), all we can do is protect ourselves and our families from her.
    I send you, lovely Liz and your lovely family, my kindest wishes.You have a treasure in your family life. Enjoy it all, and screen out the “pollution” that tries to enter and tries to hurt.
    I send bright, kind wishes.

    • Liz says:

      Lauren, your words are SO touching, thank you so much! Screening out the pollution is wise advice.

      My dog really is so faithful and loving, my mama bear instincts are as strong for him as they are for my children! He is a mutt but mainly Shepherd and Chow, we believe. He is smart, protective, loyal and always at my side <3

      My kindest wishes to you and yours as well, thank you for sharing your voice here!

  9. Jennifer Sinclair says:

    Liz, thank you as always for sharing your story. I have a lot of complicated thoughts and I don’t know how to say them. First, about the old woman’s illness. I have a mental illness, and I certainly was very toxic before I took medication. So I feel really thankful for your kindness in understanding the old woman in that way. Second, you did great, and your priority must always be protecting your kids.
    Third, I am very sensitive to words myself, and to sounds. I notice that after I watch TV programs at night,when I am tired, my inner voice becomes one of the characters! So I think I, and maybe you, have a particular vulnerability to angry words.
    Well, if one is vulnerable, one is vulnerable. I remember Trump’s words, that people who suffer from PTSD are ‘weak’. I always want to answer him, yes. Yes, we are weak. We are humans, we are not machines. We have weak points and strong points, and always need compassion for each other. And I am glad you have compassion for yourself, Liz.

    • Liz says:

      Jennifer, thank you for these beautiful words and for sharing your truth. And thank you for further solidifying why it’s important to find compassion for those whose words or actions might be a reflection of struggles we can not see. And you are absolutely right, I do have a particular vulnerability to angry words and like you said, “If one is vulnerable, one is vulnerable.” Mr. Trump may not agree but I think it’s our weaknesses that breed the most compassion and empathy so I am grateful for them. I will happily be “weak” alongside you <3

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