If you’ve spent any amount of time scrolling through the self-development sphere on social media, you’ve probably encountered memes instructing you to cut toxic people out of your life. As well meaning as these posts are, they often over simplify something which is usually, in practice, quite complex.

Consider first of all how you define a toxic person. Someone who outwardly sabotages you? Someone who belittles you and drags you down? Someone who just sucks the energy right out of you? Perhaps most importantly, WHY does this person have this power over you? What is the root of the extreme reaction you have to them? In essence, it’s important to define exactly what makes you perceive certain people as toxic. And really getting clear about why someone is toxic to you usually requires you to do some not-so-easy work on YOURSELF.

Because one common thread that runs between the people you define as “toxic” in your life is that they they trigger you. They have an energetic key that releases your demons. This makes you feel unsettled, upset and rattled. This unpleasantness is why so many people share messages promoting cutting ties with toxic people. We don’t want to feel unpleasant, and sometimes we’d rather kick someone out of our lives than feel icky.

The other thing about toxic people is that they are rarely ENTIRELY toxic. As Martin Luther King Jr famously said, there is some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us. The same person who sometimes inspires, uplifts and supports you might at other times infuriate you. In fact, it seems to generally go that the closer we are to someone, the more hyper-aware we are of their toxic traits. We get pretty intimately acquainted with the toxic aspects of our lovers, close colleagues, dear friends and family members. Since these “toxic” people are often so engrained in our life, totally cutting them out isn’t always the solution.

I’m not saying that there’s no instance in which the best way you can support yourself IS by cutting ties with someone. There are times when you’ll find that you’ve tried everything you can to learn from certain people, but their presence in your life is too destructive. For the love of everything, yes, please DO cut out toxic people if and when you know it is the best choice to make.

But there are other instances in which the best way you can support yourself is by exploring your inner darkness that this person draws out. Toxic people can be your greatest teachers, sometimes, believe it or not. Sometimes a certain person’s bullshit is the only thing that gets you to finally confront your own unconscious bullshit. “Toxic” people can be paradoxical healers – it’s just that you might at first mistake the medicine for poison.

Toxic people show up and shake up your inner landscape up – it’s by going right through that ruckus (not avoiding it) that you develop a more secure and stable foundation. The more willing you are to confront the fuckery a toxic person is drawing out in you, the more unfuckablewith you become.

Here is a tarot spread to help you explore the lessons a toxic person is teaching you:


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