Is “Get Rid of Negative People in My Life” Good Advice?

Please note:  This post isn’t intended to speak about the cases that include mental disorders, criminals, drug abusers, or those who are willfully hurting us.  The intention of the post is to speak to the vast majority of relationships we are walking away from, without conversation or efforts to enforce our boundaries, because we write them off simply as being “negative.”

This is a two-part blog, in my next one I’ll talk about how to approach friendships we feel are unhealthy, but I want to write this prerequisite post to help clarify the difference between the roles of friends in our lives versus others with whom we’re called to still live beside.


There is something in my soul that stirs with a dis-ease every time I hear some form of the increasingly popular advice: “Only surround yourself with positive people. Get rid of negative people!”

Good Advice? “Only Surround Yourself with Positive People”

It can be found in little cute quote boxes shared everywhere on Facebook saying things like “People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick wisely.”  It’s advice that is freely given from self-help experts with little explanation other than what sounds like a command, “If their presence can’t add value to your life, then their absence will make no difference.”  It comes in many well-intending forms, all with the goal of making us better people: “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

We’ve actually been hearing this barrage for so long now that I suspect most of us just accept these quotables as irrevocable truth. But these single-sentence aphorisms can be misleading at best, damaging at worst.

Needy People in Our Lives

The question isn’t whether we let needy or depressed people into our lives.  The question is how much do we let them in, and for what purpose.

The truth is that we have to learn to be around hurting people– not only because it’s unrealistic that we can avoid them, but how else will we serve this world with what we each have to offer?  We can, and must, be around people who judge, whine, attack, and defend. We’re related to some of them, we work for some of them, and sometimes we have been or are those people. The more important issue is whether we’re counting on these individuals to be our closest friends.

Our friends– the handful of people we choose to let close to our hearts–must fulfill the four requirements of friendship by being, more often than not, a) consistent b) contributing c) self-revealing, and d) positive.  You clarify those quotes above with the words “closest friends” instead of “people” and I won’t squirm. (Or at least not as much… truthfully, even our friends can’t always be all those things without there being misunderstandings and hurt feelings at times. But… I’m okay with us striving toward those qualities with our inner circle.)

But before we evaluate our friendships in the next post, let us own what is ours to own: We are not victims to other people’s’ pain. We are healers. Ultimately it’s around hurting people who we’re meant to be around, each of us giving the gift that is ours to give to those who need it.

This isn’t a world made up of friends and enemies, rather it’s a world of friends and people to be friendly toward.  Enemies must be crushed and eliminated; whereas hurting, jealous, toxic, unhealthy people must be loved and healed. Just because someone isn’t our closest friend doesn’t mean they don’t have value in our lives.

Elimination is Not Necessary

To suggest that I can’t be around anyone who isn’t at their best because it will bring me down glosses over my own strength. Any of us who have been pastors, social workers, therapists, or in any other people-helping industries can attest to the fact that as long as we are practicing our own self-care, have our own support system in place, and are clear about our role in the lives of people who are hurting, then our positive influence can be greater in their lives than their pain will be in ours. Light is more powerful than darkness. And hurt people need love and light.

The answer isn’t just to eliminate and ostracize hurting people, the answer is to learn how to shine our lights so brightly that we can enter any darkness and know that our light cannot be extinguished.

And not just that our light can survive, but actually that our light gets stronger and more compassionate and more life transforming as we show up in genuine moments with others, no matter what condition they are in. We are blessed and grown in those moments just as much as they are.

We do not become the people who this world needs simply by turning our backs on anyone we don’t like, trust, or deem healthy enough to be in our presence.  No, in fact, those are exactly the people we need to let into our lives.  Not just for their sake, but for ours.  To serve others is what we’re called to do in this world– your calling centers around it.  To learn how to forgive is the greatest lesson any of us can ever hope to learn (which means we will need to practice it a number of times).  To sit with someone in pain increases our ability to empathize, which increases our ability to trust and love, which is ultimately what you want: more love.

If your light is dim or flickering, then perhaps you may need to set some boundaries and limit time with people who you feel can’t support the happier and more powerful version of yourself; but that’s temporary, and something to own in yourself rather than blame in others.

Re-Defining the Good Advice

Here’s how I re-interpret these ever-popular quotes to put the responsibility on me, rather than the blame on others.

“People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick wisely.”  I am not picking people, rather I am picking my response.  I get to decide whether I am inspired or drained.  I can be around someone who is shining and walk away drained by jealousy, or I can sit with someone who is chronically depressed and walk away inspired and grateful.  My power doesn’t mean I get to pick who’s valuable, it means I get to pick whether I’m able to see the value in everyone.

“If their presence can’t add value to your life, then their absence will make no difference.” This is such a dangerous quote.  Taken to the extreme, wars are fought, holocausts are allowed, and racism and classism are justified.  No, if their presence doesn’t add value to your life it’s either because you haven’t taken the time to get to know them yet or you haven’t yet seen who you can become because of them.  It is not because they are without value.

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”  In the closest circle of your life, I agree that this is a good ideal.  We want to create relationships that nurture, uplift, empower, and love each other well.  But even this has its limits… because it’s not others who end up deciding whether we lift higher or not, it’s our call.  Sometimes it’s the person who wounded us the deepest that pushes us to grow and lift. The universe can use anyone and everyone to help us become our best selves.

This was a hard blog to write… so many caveats I want to give, possible misunderstandings I want to avoid… I end it with a prayer that these words will land where hearts are receptive and ready to see just how powerful we are, how others cannot limit us, and how much the world, as needy as it is, needs us to not turn our backs.  For what’s the point of getting healthy if not to turn around and love others to their best as well?


My next blog will be about what to do when our friendships aren’t living up to all four of the required qualities in a friendship and how to make decisions about the best approach to either healing them or limiting them in our lives. Subscribe in the upper right corner.

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140 Responses to Is “Get Rid of Negative People in My Life” Good Advice?

  1. melissa says:

    I can definitely see you point, although I don’t entirely agree. There are many people in the world who do drain you, who are not willing to help themselves but beg for others to fix them. Having been raised in a household of an alcoholic father, and a co-dependent mother who would run to me with her problems it wasn’t until my early 30s that I realized all my girlfriend friendships mirrored this unhealthy form. I was the one they came to fix them and all their situations. I was exhausted and felt very unfulfilled. I’ve since had to remove myself from needy people, and only befriend those who didn’t just want me for a therapist but valued me for me.

    • Sandy says:


    • ShastaGFC says:

      Melissa– Good for you for seeing the pattern and setting up boundaries! I’m all for that! And in my next post I’ll definitely talk about the friendships… in this post I am only making the point that someone, not necessarily you, still needs to be able to show up lovingly in those people’s lives. And it seems like just as important as them not using their friends as therapists is you not allowing it– you just got healthier before them– but I’ll still hold hope that they can reach their ah-ha, too! 🙂

      • melissa says:

        Exactly, I had to stop allowing it. I felt guilty at first, but now I know I have a right to be happy as well and that friendships are a two-way street. I’m still trying to find the balance and I think I may have with a recent friendship or at least it’s a work in progress. She has problems, but she’s mindful of not dumping them on me in the heat of the moment but will let me know how things are going with positive energy not the yucky kind that makes you want to take a shower after visiting with them. She has a therapist and knows that that is what they’re for. But there is a part of me that’s a little scared in ending up in old patterns, but I hope I don’t react by pushing her away. And her problems are basically her own realizations of her childhood drama so I understand. Only time will tell.
        Side note: I love all your vblogs thanks for sharing them. 🙂

    • a work in progress says:

      I’m not a therapist by any means, but I know that being affected by addiction creates it’s own set of rules. If you haven’t seen an addiction councellor it might be a good idea to do that, to get you back to a healthy place in your relationships.

      • melissa says:

        Thanks, and I haven’t. I’ve just worked through it on my own being insightful and aware. I will say my dad has been sober since I was 21, so that’s 15 years now. He’s a wonderful man whom I’m able to now have a great father-daughter relationship with. My mom, she’s still working on accepting reality. Cest la vie’

    • Sheila says:

      I’m from an alcoholic family as well. At one point, I did need to eliminate some people from my life. It helped immensely during that time. But people are not objects, and they do respond to stimulae. I agree with with the entire post. I have a problem with those sayings, as they are really huge oversimplifications. It’s not a right and wrong topic. It’s a situation where you check with yourself and decide whether you can handle contact right now. It’s up to you to set boundaries with people. So many of us go around not knowing how to set boundaries, not really understanding ourselves. Sometimes it is necessary to cut people out for a time, until *you* change and are able to set boundaries. Who knows? You might have to cut them out forever, or it may takes days, weeks, months, or years. My dad was an alcoholic, my mom was crazy, my sister is a meth addict and bipolar. I didn’t have much contact with my dad, and when I did it was on my terms. I set boundaries with him and if he didn’t follow them, it was time for me to leave. With my mom, I was direct about what I wanted from her and what I was willing to give. My relationship with both of these people healed, and I discovered value in those relationships. With my sister, I have her on call control ( I so love technology!) , but in a way so I can see her texts and check them from time to time. I’ve set boundaries with her and and our relationship is healing too. Even she has value to offer me. So it’s not really about eliminating people from your life. It’s about eliminating negativity in you by taking care of yourself and learning to set boundaries. It’s about accepting these people as they are, not trying to change them, but deciding where or if they can fit into your life. Phrases like “people either bring you up or down” are silly. YOU either bring YOU up or down. They are *our* feelings, and our power, we need to own both.

      • melissa says:

        Thanks for your reply Sheila, but I actually don’t have problems with addicts. For me I just don’t befriend them. But I did notice the co-dependent pattern within myself which I’d learned because of my mom in the need to help needy people and them always coming to me with their problems, mostly relationship or marriage /family relative type problems. So it’s those people I’ve had to redirect back to their spouses or significant others to handle their own problems and not come to me. But quite a few people in life don’t like to actually fix their problems but complain about them and make themselves out to be the victim. When really they do, like you said, have the power to change if they want. I always say, there’s no sense in complaining if one isn’t willing to take action. 🙂 And you last sentence is very true, we’re in charge of our own feelings and our own energy.

    • ameeta says:

      Agreed completely

    • Martin says:

      Absolutely agreed

    • ZARA says:


    • Me says:

      I concur… Some people are very needy!! They drain you dry which leaves you little room for yourself..
      I used to make myself available for all that needed help with making up their minds about whatever …. But no more. I have energy for work and home, the minute someone comes around needing me, I RUN!!
      I’ve learned not to be too dependent and others should learn to do the same. Seek real counseling and not just anyone..

  2. Sandy says:

    Some people are destructive. I’ve listened to many people expounding on the good value of illegal drugs. Only then did I realize that these people were TOXIC TO ME. I have found if you hang around alcoholics, drug users or people who keep focusing on how bad life is,then you will be the same. We are all created differently but at times we just have to say no. No is a complete sentence. We also realize that we cannot cure or change anyone but ourselves.
    My Mom gave me great advice: Walk away from trouble. Someone could be ok for you but not on for me.
    That is when we must use our 2 best friends –our feet to get away from negative places, people or thoughts.
    The sky is not falling although some keep harping on how bad things are.
    As for me I need to practice gratitude thinking daily. I live in the greatest country in the world, the good ole USA and I have lived in Europe and travelled all over the world.
    God bless us always.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Sandy– your point is well made that if you’re healing from something or not feeling strong in an area– it makes no sense to place ourselves where we can be influenced in ways that damage us. But even those people need someone, not you, who is able to be in their lives and love them…. thank you for sharing your daily practice of gratitude!

      • Sandy says:

        Nope. You are are using the label that others from you are broken by saying we are healing or are not strong enough. That’s negative and I don’t accept that thought.
        We have a right to choose and that does not mean we are healing or broken.
        We’re just moving away from negatives

        • ShastaGFC says:

          Sandy– sorry my choice of words didn’t communicate what I was trying to say… I don’t think of “healing” is a negative word or something to be ashamed of, I think all of us are doing that all the time, so thank you for giving me your feedback so I can see how that felt to you. I definitely don’t want to put anything negative on you. You are right that we all have reasons to not be around some people and you brought up an excellent example of situations where many need to set very firm boundaries.

          • Renee says:

            No wonder Sandy wants to stay away from negativity since her own negativity is right out there for all to see.

          • Sandy says:

            Healing again implies you have a wound. I’m talking about the opposite. When others choose bad behavior, we have a right to say no and walk away. We many times listen to others but we can choose to set barriers.
            You cannot set yourself up as a counselor without credentials. If people choose drugs or a screaming lifestyle that is on them. It’s stupid to think you can cure anyone. You can only cure yourself as you learn in a codependency 12 step program. As for me I choose life.

  3. Renee says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The “Friendship Blog” is full of people that want to rid themselves of these awful friends that are draining their entire being. They get the advice to do so and to do so by slowly, sneaking away sometimes without a word to someone that they once cared about. This has got to be the worst possible advice to give to someone when the friend they wish to rid themselves of is probably going through a difficult time as it is. You’re advice is right on the money.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Thanks Renee! I’m going to speak in my next post about how I think we can better manage this with our friendships that seems to be unhealthy now….

      • Renee says:

        Looking forward to it…

      • melissa says:

        Definitely looking forward to that one. I know I’m still in a place of needing more advice about healthy boundaries with crazy people. And when I say crazy I’m partly being sarcastic. Having just moved back to my hometown a year ago I joined a few groups through meetups. I met a gal 4 years older who’s very personable and fun in a group. But 1 on 1 I heard all about her past heroin addiction, her sleeping with a man engaged to someone else, how her family hates her and think she’s addicted to pain meds. This was ALL on the first girl date! So I hung out with her 5 more times, trying different outings. Everyone was the same with the same story. So finally I had to tell her that while I appreciate our time together I’m feeling overwhelmed with her life and her past. She retaliated “I have to keep all my friendships shallow”.
        I only mentioned anything at all, because the last 3 times out of 6 total visits I had a panic attack after hanging out with her. Needless to say she removed me from facebook, and her life which I was relieved about. So please, any advice is helpful! Thanks so much for your time and care in creating this blog.

        • Renee says:

          You don’t have to be friends with everyone you meet. Sometimes you have to keep it simple, I’m sure that if you aren’t familiar with things like addiction, cheating, dysfunctional families etc., there’s no reason to feel guilty about not being comfortable with that person and putting up some boundaries. The panic attack thing is an unusual response to what you’ve described. Everyone has a PAST, including you, so I’m not sure how that would or should cause such discomfort.

          • melissa says:

            It’s okay you don’t understand.

            I hope you never come across such a person that would cause you a panic attack…it’s absolutely horrible.

          • Kate says:

            Hi Renee,

            Reading through, to this point what Melissa is saying, I completely understand the Panic Attack situation.

            I live with a friend kind enough to let me stay with her after my husband asked for a divorce a few months ago, and passed away just weeks ago.

            I was broken and traumatized how/why on the sudden split and then to have him call to say he had weeks to live – it has been devastating.

            The woman I live with doesn’t want me talking about it, crosses so many boundaries about who I am on the phone with, as I do speak to other family members about his death and the divorce. She invades privacy by always wanting to know who I have spoken with.

            She is also a recluse leaving the house maybe every two weeks. So I don’t have time alone. As well, she is not just over weight but obese. She watches tv 21 hours a day. Everyday. While my counselor doesn’t want me going back to work because she feels I’m too fragile, I’ve taken a part time job to try to restart my life and be around people who work and try to make a better life for themselves .

            At this point, I’ve been here 8 months. I believe I need to try to find another place to go so I don’t have the constant negative critism of someone with her own additions and problems, which I would never try to couseling as I don’t have a degree in psychology.

            But, I do think there are people that are not only toxic but can be quite damaging – and the only thing you can do is leave.

            In these past few days, when I wake and know I have to be around her, I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack – the doctor has said for now I need to take anti-anxiety medicine not only at night but now in the am too.

            I believe highly sensitive people or those going through distress are more vulnerable to those that realize they can in a sense walk all over you. That is a toxic person and I can’t understand why a broken person should have to look out for them….

            • Renee says:

              “I live with a friend kind enough to let me stay with her” for 8 months?

              You do realize that you have been expecting from your depressed, reclusive, obese friend ” “someone with her own additions and problems” to look after you but then you say “I can’t understand why a broken person should have to look out for them.” Psst, she too is a broken person.

              I’m sure your therapist has advised you appropriately in addition to prescribing anti-anxiety medication.

              Did you ever hear the one about the guy that went to the doctor and said “hey doc, every time I move my arm like this it hurts.” The doctor said “Don’t move your arm that way.”

        • Renee says:

          You can read an excerpt from The Sociopath Next Door on Psychology Today

          Note: the statistic is 4% of the population and that’s high as some estimate it’s about 1%-3%

          BTW – the woman that wrote the book is a psychologist

          • Renee says:

            A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

          • Renee says:

            CORRECTION – I meant to say that the excerpt is from Confessions of a Sociopath for the article from Psychology Today

            The Sociopath Next Door was indeed written by a psychologist, Martha Stout Ph.D.

    • Sandy says:

      Yes I do not believe in drugs. Renee does. Her choice is clear. Renee and others think they can change or cute others.
      Real counsellors teach we can only change or cure ourselves.
      We can set healthy boundaries that work for us
      God bless us always regardless of our religion or creed.

  4. Linda Grad says:

    Amen. There are circumstances that people go through that are not by choice. It just happens or “it is what it is”. For me, I don’t judge people I meet. I am open to anyone at anytime. I will give you a chance to be my friend, unless proven otherwise (meaning your negativity or bad behavior)is something non-negotiable. Everyone has guide lines they live by and their own set of rules that work for them. It’s nice to be a little flexible that way we can learn others ways and maybe adopt a new way of looking or doing something.
    Perfect is boring!

    • Chris says:

      I have enjoyed reading all these comments and Linda you are right on the money!

      • Chris says:

        We all come from different walks of life and its experiences,some good and some bad:)…..I am widowed after 27 years of marriage and lost many other family members. That was 8 years ago and I am still amazed how people react to me if I share this?…My son also suffers from Bi-polar1,A poor prognosis. Through my help and his determination ,he is properly medicated and went to counseling for 5 years. I also get negative reactions to this as well. I am a retired community mental heath provider/health care and I know very well, that people don’t want to listen or lend that ear,so I have taken that role in public:) I have always had many friends in my life,but in the last 2 years I find myself alone? I speak to people I will never see again,and we laugh and share:) I find lonely is difficult,so I have adopted many online friends. Melissa I too have suffered from Panic attacks, one brought on by someone I was Friends with…….I needed to vent ,and thank-you. This is a fantastic Site!

  5. Daneen Akers says:

    Bravo for stepping into a very tricky area and carving out a space for healthy boundaries that still engages. I know some people are going to just throw up their hands on this one because there is an overwhelming wall of messaging out there that we must rid ourselves of “toxic” people, but part of our divisive politics, increasingly isolated families, and wounding is from this idea that we are only about what serves us in this world. I completely get that you need boundaries with some people, and there are times and places where we just have to disengage from some people, but thank you for the nuance and extra level of care you’ve brought to this. This line really resonated with me: “Light is more powerful than darkness. And hurt people need love and light.” I’m thankful for the times in my life when I have been hurt for those who loved me through it.

  6. Ter says:

    I feel the way Melissa does – the therapist. My friends (and I’m finding it harder and harder to say that word) are very open and communicative with me the most in their time of need. I’ve been defined as a best friend to people who have fallen off the face of the earth and I don’t know why. To pick up speed here, my gal pals I have are not dependable, they talk to me when they need me, but they do what they want when they want and leave others out that shouldn’t be pushed out, including me. I’ve made a decision to let it go – let me go – from them. I’m always there for them and just in the last month, a close family friend passed away so sudden and tragic, it took my breath away and not one of my “friends” could even say they were sorry – there was zero acknowledgement. I believe that all of us are generous in our own ways but to keep giving and giving – monetarily, emotionally, happily – whatever it may be, and not feel that in return for so long, well, in my world it’s time to move on to better. I am always open to new friendships – mine seem to diminish after years of being the best friend. I’m looking within myself to see why this happens but I need to give myself the acknowledgement and attention that I give to my gal pals. If I gave half of what I give to them to me, I wouldn’t feel the way I have for way too long. There’s just a time when enough is enough – taking advantage of a heart-centered person such as myself has to stop at some point; I’m not a doormat – I truly am open, loving, fun and always wanting to be there.

    • melissa says:

      Hey Ter, I will say I didn’t really realize it until I made a new friend back in December 2010. I’d been in CA at the time and it was tough making friends. I had plenty who wanted advice, calling me “insight and profound” not “having seen it that way before”.
      Then I met “Elle”. She lived in my neighborhood, wanted to hang out and didn’t have any problems! She actually just wanted to hangout with me, not my advice. It was so refreshing. She would gladly do what I wanted, vs my other friends whom we did what they wanted or didn’t hang out. So it was and still is a very healthy 2-way friendship. She was also the mirror to reflect to me how unhealthy my others were. I slowly cut off ties with my other friends whom were caught off guard when I didn’t want to help them solve their problems. I would throw it back on them and ask them what they were going to do about it in a kind way and then change the topic, ha. Not sure that’s the best way, but it’s all I had at the time. Some got offended now feeling like a burden to me, but they were. I never asked for their help, nor demanded we do what I wanted. I always felt like if I wanted friends I had to do it their way (goes back to my mom). But I slowly learned I could ask for things with Elle. She would even do errands with me and I her just to enjoy one another’s company.
      I wish you the best, and I hope that someone like Elle comes into your life. Unfortunately I moved to NM, so now Elle and I are long distant friends. But I’m so grateful to her and for her.

      • Ter says:

        There will be an Elle out there Melissa – there always is! I’m happy for you and for the friendship you have created and kept with her – very glad for you!!

      • Kari says:

        Hi Melissa and Ter,
        I really liked your comments about being the supportive, validating friend who was always there but then cast aside without so much as a goodbye by those same people you were loyal to. I have had this experience over and over in my friendships to the point where now I am very careful about who I choose as friends. I was always doing what they wanted to do and they would never want to do anything I wanted to do. I had one friend who always wanted to go to old “hair band” concerts (which I could not stand-no offense to those who love them!), so I went to several because she was my friend. But, when i asked her to go somewhere I wanted to go, like out for appetizers she would cop an attitude and back out at the last minute..every time! Our friendship ended because she asked me to go to another concert, at which i told her I couldn’t go because my husband, me, and my kids were going on vacation that weekend. She acted really snotty on the phone and I never heard from her again! She expected me to cancel a family vacation for her!! …and she has a husband and kids too!..I would think she would understand. She sends me a Christmas card every year and I wish she would stop. I would rather she just remain in my past instead of her trying to keep some thread of contact through a card. It feels more like an insult, like she’s saying..”remember me?..I cut you out of my life.” How do you get people to stop sending you stuff to your house?

    • patty p says:

      Hi Ter,just read your post. Do you still live in NM? I live in Albq. I have not been to any friends circles. Do they have one here? Would love to get in contact with you,Patty

      • Ter says:

        Hey Patty –
        Sorry, no, I don’t live in NM… I was actually talking about Melissa and her friend, Elle. I’m in the Philly area… I like your post – it’s very real and you are on the right path – YOUR path – to a happier YOU!!!!

      • melissa says:

        Hi Patty, I’m from Alb. And there is a group out here, but super duper small, like 5 people. I actually joined friendship circles a week or so ago. But here’s my public email: and we can set something up. I actually have another lady, Dawn, from friendship circles who’s interested in meeting, she’s 43. I’m 36. And another friend of mine. Maybe the 4 of us could all get together? Just email me. 🙂

  7. Jill Whalen says:

    Tweeted and shared on Facebook. Really good post that doesn’t just spout the usual women’s magazine drivel we all read elsewhere. Thank you, Shasta, for presenting a different (and I think better) view of this sort of friendship!

  8. elizabeth says:

    I have been thinking a lot about love lately. I have spent a few years now working on self-love by learning to be more loving and compassionate toward myself; it is good for me and it helps me be more loving and compassion toward others. I realized recently that I can work on it in the opposite way; the more I can refrain from judgment and learn to meet other people with love and compassion even when it is hardest for me to do so, the more I will realize that it is ok to do the same for myself (because I am hardest on myself and those patterns are old).

    I think the trouble with those phrases is that it makes everything seem black and white when there is instead lots of grey. Of course there are unhealthy people and situations that you need to remove yourself from. Of course there are times when the best thing you can do for your own health and sanity is to remove yourself from certain situations and people while you feed your own body and spirit. But I also believe that some people and situations come into our lives because we are called to grow and serve – and that we all lose when we turn away from them.

    Plus, I suspect that we’ve all had a period or many periods where we were one of those people we are advised to rid ourselves of.

  9. I agree. I see no point in erasing every single negative person in my life. I’m called to live with compassion and patience, to lead by example, to walk my talk. Erasing people who need help the most, when they most need it, defies everything I believe in my core. It is also not a way I deserve to be treated, so by default not a way I wish to treat anyone else. I have to set boundaries, though, or I end up overwhelmed and am no good to anyone.

    Can’t wait for the chat!

  10. maria says:

    It was a very interesting read. I do agree to a point. There are times in your life where a relationship, or friendship has a time and season. When that season is up, and you feel the drain, I feel it’s time to move on. Maybe it’s temporary, but if you are not appreciated for all you do in a situation or friendship and it’s draining you, it’s time to let go.

  11. Sarah says:

    This is interesting to me. I also have an alcoholic father and come from a very co-dependent family. I am difficult to be friends with, and have been even more difficult the last couple of years while my Dad’s been in and out of rehab, my parents got divorced, and my sister used me as a punching bag to vent all of her frustrations with my parents. Having watched several “inner circle” friends just up and walk out of my life during that time, I suspect I am the negative person who these people have decided they don’t want in their lives. So having been on that end of it, it’s incredibly baffling and indescribably hurtful to have someone decide they can’t handle you anymore and just leave.

    On the other hand, being related to so many toxic people, I also understand the temptation to just cut those people off, plain and simple. When you can’t do it, you can’t do it, and you have to protect yourself and the relationships in your life that are more important. For me, I had to choose between continuing to have a codependent and totally unhealthy relationship with my Dad and having a healthy, functional marriage with an amazing man. And I chose my marriage.

    So I guess my point is that I don’t know what the answer is, but I can see both sides of the coin. But goooolllllllly does it hurt to be abandoned by members of your inner circle during the time when you need them the most.

  12. wildeggplant says:

    There’s a difference between NEGATIVE people and TOXIC people. Apples and oranges. You can keep negative people in your life for various reasons, but toxic people are best kept away so they don’t poison your life and your other relationships.

    • melissa says:

      Good point…..something for me to think about 🙂

    • Julie says:

      I really like this point. And I wanted to let you know thank you for sharing. I have been struggling today really bad, I needed to hear something like this.

      • Julie says:

        I really like this point. And I wanted to let you know thank you for sharing. I have been struggling today really bad, I needed to hear something like this.

  13. rosemar;y says:

    thanks for this blog. Seems this is what I’ve been dealing with for a while…while I try to set boundaries with self centered people, I try to tolerate them at the same time…I will not shut a needy person out and will try to help the hurting….HOWEVER….if I find there is malice, contempt or pain emanating from any relationship…I will communicate this to them and ask if for changes…if that fails I will say good bye and let them know again, why. It seems to be tough times these days and I would rather try to care than hurt. But it’s a heavy job when it’s a family member…cutting them out is easy for the short term but not the long…it’s so much better to try to communicate, offer change and ask for it as well.

  14. Greta says:

    This blog is very timely for me, both because I just joined this group and because I’m dealing with this very issue right now. I have a family member, who I believe has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). (Actually, both my own therapist and a close friend who is a clinical psychologist each independently reached that conclusion after hearing the details of several incidents.) Much of the literature on BPD talks about the concept of “chosen” relationships versus “unchosen.” The literature defines “unchosen” as those relationships involving legitimate obligations, such as parent/child. “Chosen” relationships are defined as pretty much any relationship between adults. The literature makes the argument that, in “chosen” relationships, loved ones of BPs must determine what they can tolerate, set limits, stand firm, and then walk away if those limits can’t be respected.

    My issue is that the two terms aren’t so easily defined. While this particular family member is an adult and thus the relationship is “chosen,” BPs as a group are driven by an intense fear of abandonment. If I abandon her simply because she’s negative or hard to deal with, I’m only feeding her pathology. It is not my job to save her, especially when she doesn’t believe she needs help. So, the issue for me is letting go of the responsibility for her pain without letting go of HER. At this point, she is doing what BPs do — she has decided to abandon me so I never have the chance to do that do her. She has written me off, forbidden the rest of her family and friends to communicate with me, and has decided I don’t exist. So, my chore right now is to let go of the present but ensure that I am here in the future, if she decides to reach out once again. All of this sounds fairly cut-and-dried in writing, but it’s been very hard on me. However, I have recently come to learn that when others need healing, it’s often a time for us to work on ourselves, too. So, I’m using this experience to work on my “care-taker” compulsion and my own ability to let go in a way that’s healthy for both of us.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Greta– thank you SOOO much for writing in! What a gift you have offered to the conversation… I love the invitation to “determine what they can tolerate, set limits, stand firm, and then walk away if those limits can’t be respected.” Those are super good and healthy steps… I so often feel we go from tolerate to walk away without much done in between. Too many of us put up with something for as long as we can and then simply are too hurt/mad to restore anything by that point so we ostracize them instead. Thank you for sharing those steps.

      As for you, my heart goes out to you and I find myself just so impressed by your beautiful heart. What maturity to be willing to stay available in the future. Wow. I’m so sorry that you are going through this, it sounds ever so painful and confusing. I’m thrilled you have invited others to help navigate this with you. Good for you for using this time and space for you. When I was going through my divorce I remember not knowing if I was supposed to be trying to stay open to him changing his mind or if I was supposed to be trying to get over him… I finally decided, like you, that I had to get as healthy as possible, either way, and worry less about what he’d one day choose, and more about being my best self so that either for him or for someone else (and most definitely for my own sake!) that I’d be the healthiest person either way.

      Courage and hugs to you. Thank you for sharing!

  15. RZ says:

    Shasta, I think this blog post is rather naive in the suggestion that we should always be open to interaction with others, which at times can be downright dangerous to our own psyches. I just finished reading a book, The Sociopath Next Door. I was stunned to learn that one in 25 people can be diagnosed as a sociopath! Think of that — one in 25! These are people who do not have a conscience and are incapable of loving ANYONE. Their one goal is winning the game, which is to say, they have to be the winner and the people, with whom they worm their way into relationships, have to be the losers. They are all about manipulating people and having power over them. The scary thing is that they hide in plain sight. Most of them are not serial killers or pathological dictators. We work with them, they are our neighbors, they are in our social circles, they are our family members. Many people, in fact, consider them to be very charming. And they usually are not recognized until their damage to others has been accomplished. There is NO KNOWN TREATMENT for these folks, and psychologists would advise us to do whatever we need to, to steer clear of these people. Although they may APPEAR to be hurting, they really are not — they have no emotional attachment to others. But they are intelligent and can figure out how to fake having emotional attachments.

    I hope that I do not come off here sounding like some kind of psychopath myself. I believe that most of us have our “negative” periods and we should have compassion for others going through rough patches. The point I want to make here is that not everyone, who appears to be hurting, actually is, and that there are, indeed, toxic people out there who should be avoided. Their feelings will not be hurt. They have no feelings.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      RZ_- I definitely believe that boundaries are necessary and that there are situations and people to be avoided. I know I didn’t have room to give all the caveats, but I’m certainly not advocating putting ourselves in harm’s way. Thanks for your comment that gives me opportunity to clarify that better! (And 1 in 25 certainly is higher than I would have ever guessed! 🙁 )

    • melissa says:

      Good point. Although I believe in showing unconditional love to all, sometimes it’s just not meant to be….and I’m figuring that out. Sounds like a good book, I’ll have to add it to my list. 🙂

    • Daneen Akers says:

      That number seems astonishing, and I’d be very curious to know how that author defined “sociopath” and how that number was arrived at. I’m not a number person, but my sister teaches AP stats, and she has shown me over the years that numbers and stats need to be carefully examined as there are assumptions and caveats you need to know to understand where certain numbers come from.

      Anytime I find myself talking about “these folks” or even imagine there are entire chunks of humanity that have no feelings, I pause. I usually find that I am othering an entire demographic, usually to avoid engaging in places and relationships that are just hard. That doesn’t mean healthy boundaries aren’t needed, but I think extreme caution should be used before assuming much of what you took out of that book applies to many people in our lives.

  16. Helen says:

    I usually never comment on these blogs, but I felt it necessary to respond to this post, because it sounds as if something is wrong with me (and anyone who has avoided a needy person before) if I don’t allow some needy person in my life, when in reality I just don’t want to sometimes. I think it is important to not treat everything in our lives as a self-improvement project and to think that allowing troubled, needy people in our lives somehow makes us a better or stronger or healthier person. Please don’t analyze everything to death.

    We are only human and are only normal to be attracted to or avoid certain people. Why is it wrong to avoid needy or toxic people (eg. drama queens, basket cases, drug users, thieves, mean, rude or perpetually angry or depressed people, etc.)? We also have a finite amount of time, love, and help that we can offer to others. And should be selective about who we give to, so we don’t drain ourselves. There are many ways I serve this world, including volunteering for causes I believe in. But it is not necessary to allow every needy person in my life in order to serve the world.

    I do agree that we should help whenever we can and that avoiding every negative or needy person in our lives is unrealistic. Plus, everyone is needy and negative sometimes, right? I just meant that there isn’t anything wrong with me or you if we want to avoid or cut out certain negative people sometimes. It doesn’t mean that they have no value, but just that we choose not to share ourselves with them at that moment or anymore, and that is TOTALLY FINE.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Helen– SO sorry if I gave the impression that we need to let all people with un-healthy behaviors into our lives! On the contrary, my greater point was that we don’t have to call them our friends… rather by recognizing that they can’t give to us, we can decide if we have extra love and energy in our lives to stay in theirs. I whole-heartedly support the way you are living your life, giving in the ways you are, and making the choices that you are for your own life. My passion comes more from watching how many women are walking away from relationships where it’s often more of a mis-understanding than the extreme situations you are listing. It’s not wrong at all to be selective and am a huge fan of communicating healthy boundaries and limiting our involvement with people. I think we’re saying more the same thing than not, albeit I may not have said it well if that’s not what you heard after reading it. Thanks for clarifying!

  17. work in progress says:

    Shasta, my other favorite thing to read (other than your blog entries of course!) is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz. I feel like those four ideas marry perfectly with everything you say:

    1. Speak with integrity (say only what you mean, don’t use your words against yourself or others)
    2. Don’t take anything personally (this one is HUGE for me. It’s so easy to be offended by a quick email response or no response to a phone call or email, etc).
    3. Don’t make assumptions (find the courage to ask for what you want, communicate clearly)
    4. Always do your best, not more, and not less (avoid regret and self judgement)

    I definitely am working on these daily, especially not taking things personally and not making assumptions. Every day poses new challenges with friends and family, so the more healthy affirmations I have to draw from, the easier it’s becoming to rise above some of the small things that used to cause rifts in my relationships.

    I think a lot of times, “toxic friendships” are made with people struggling with internal issues that have nothing to do with you. If you can remove yourself from the equation and realize that it’s really not about you at all, you can become more empathetic to the situation.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Great contribution to the conversation! Thank you for adding those agreements– love them!

    • Daneen Akers says:

      Wow–those are great.

    • Suzanna says:

      I loved your comment, lots of food for thought! Years ago my mother-in-law, when I was complaining about a friendship…told me ‘Nothing is personal’..and to be honest, I just could not understand, it felt so personal…
      So now 20 years later, I recognize exactly what she meant…navigating through this world, we are all doing and making so many large and small choices of action based on many things that even if a person is believing their action is based on you, it really is all about them and their collection of thoughts and experiences…so truly it is not personal…
      Understanding that is so freeing….so if you encounter a person who seems to dislike you, it has nothing to do with you..all we can be concerned with is what to we do and our choices about the oppurtunies we are given to exercise love, mercy, and compassion.

  18. Katja Svendsen says:

    Shasta, I loved what you had to say and I couldn’t agree more and I try and struggle with how to bring more love and happiness TO people. But there is a point in my life when I have to walk away. For example, I have a “friend” who is hurting so much it pains me to see her pain. She’s angry, scared, and lashes out at me. She has said some pretty nasty stuff and unfortunately I let her do it. I think back to those incidents and I was pretty needy myself. I had just had a child, I was new to the area, but yet my friend could only see her pain and agony. I wished I could do something. I also wished I had a friend whom could be with me to listen to me and pal around with me. I believe that in order to serve and love, sometimes one needs to get love in return. This might sound selfish, but I can’t seem to operate or give my love away for very long if all I get back in negativity. I wish with all my heart I could give, give and give some more like Mother Teresa, or Jesus, or Gandhi. But I do know that even Jesus had to retreat by himself in order to get “filled up.” Anyway, I may be rambling, but it was great to read what you wrote, thank you. Katja

  19. DJ says:

    I’ve had to walk away from friendships with a couple of negative, hurting people once I realized that they enjoyed being in their quagmire. My presence wasn’t healing them. They didn’t want my light or help — as a matter of fact, anytime I was shining, they felt it was their place to dim my light.

    They weren’t family or coworkers, so I chose to walk away from them rather than let them drag me into their muck. I am still friendly when I see them around town or at school, but I make no efforts to spend time with them and, honestly, sometimes walk the other way when I see them coming.

    I didn’t like the person I became after I was around them.

  20. Susie says:

    I liked your article and I could certainly see myself I it. Usually a positive person. Going thru a separation/divorce and my closest friends said I needed professional help because I was still talking about my husband and had moments when I no longer wanted to be here just 4 months later. I told them did not agree and there really wasn’t anything they could do to help me. The two of them left my home and then weeks later when I tried to get together with the ladies (all 4) they were too busy or did not take my calls. It has been a year now since I have had any dealings with any of them. I feel like my negativity pushed them away. I don’t think I could have hurt them that way. This is an example of people being there for one another in there times of need. True Christian friends they were not. I liked your article. I have a friend that has depression issues and has for the 20 years that we have known each other. I am there for her and she is there for me. That is what friends are for.

  21. Pingback: Is “Get Rid of Negative People in My Life” Good Advice? | Shasta's … | Love Advice

  22. Renee says:

    Addicts and alcoholics along with the mentally ill and family members really shouldn’t be included in this conversation. It’s an entirely different ball game.

    • Suzanna says:

      Renee, completely agree if the person’s problems require hospitalization than dealing with them on a friendship level is not exactly doable…
      I wish we could all agree, we are refering to the ladies that you initally liked, wanted to be friends or the women you bump into in your normal routine- people you end up getting to know…because on a personal level you discover the realness and humanity which can be complicated…but oh so beautiful! It is that and our ability to accessorize that seperates us from the animals!;-) Sorry it was just to easy to quote Steel Magnolias!!

  23. Julie says:

    Thank you for this post, as this is something that I have been struggling with for years. Yes, I have heard over and over again – ‘surround yourself with positive people, remove the negative’, and yes, I’ve tried to do that. But like many of the comments here – what if the negative is NOT someone that I can remove? What if, at times, it’s me? I completely agree 1000% – remove the toxic – and toxic is different to everyone. Toxic to you may mean, an relationship with an addict, but toxic to me may mean someone that ‘claims’ to be my BFF, but is using me and taking advantage of my friendship. A few years back I decided to end a relationship with someone that I felt was ‘toxic’ to me. My Dad had just passed away and I was beginning to see things from a different point of view. I’ve also had moments that I felt guilty about that decision, because ultimately I believe that we should help each other and lift each other up. But I’ve learned in my lifetime that sometimes you have to make hard choices and stick with them and sometimes you are better for it. Thank you Shasta – great post.

  24. Sharon says:

    This is a great post, Shasta. Just reading the comments reveals the truth in what you’re saying. All the commenters who have been abandoned, let down, drained by people are experiencing the other side of their own advice! In other words, when the commenters were the needy ones, *their* friends got rid of *their* negativity. We all have to be there for someone else sometimes. Your advice helped me invest more time energy and love into all the people in my inner circles…because we have lots of great times just being in each other’s lives. But sometimes I need them and sometimes they need me.

  25. Donna says:

    Great thoughts, Shasta. You have a great perspective about imperfections in all.

  26. Carol says:

    Shasta, thanks for another great blog post and addressing a topic that is important. Here’s how I see it… A full life involves a series of happy, sad, joyful, and challenging events, all of which contribute to who we are and what we were put on earth to learn. Personally, I want friends that are capable of a full range of emotions, including the ones that are not always comfortable to be around. Why? Because, none of us are perfect. I have days where I am tired, bt*chy, sick, whiny, and selfish. However, I also have days where I am happy, caring, generous, funny, and really smart. I am a real, living, breathing, full-spectrum person, and I am attracted to other full-spectrum people. They are REAL and not fake. Real friends are there for each other through the ups & downs of life.

    That said, some of us may have a tendency towards co-dependency. Be aware of that, and setup healthy boundaries where appropriate.

    One more thing to consider before casting aside those less than perfect friends. Negativity can be a classic sign of clinical depression; a serious, full body disease (not something that can necessarily be willed away with positive thoughts). Unfortunately, medications do not successfully treat all diseases including clinical depression. Ask yourself, what kind of friend would abandon you when they learned you had cancer, MS, diabetes, obesity, mental illness, or some other major health challenge? Do you only want “life is perfect” friends? Thoughts??

    • Julie says:

      No I don’t want a friend who will abandon me when they find out I have a major health challenge. I would accept someone with a major health challenge, and I would hope the same in return. No one is perfect and everyone should be more accepting. We all have good and bad days. I personally believe in giving everyone a chance. I had a really good friend who passed away and she told me the only thing that would break up our friendship is if I committed a heinous crime or hurt someone in her family. I need to remind myself of this when I don’t want to be around someone or friends with someone.

      • Julie says:

        No I don’t want a friend who will abandon me when they find out I have a major health challenge. I would accept someone with a major health challenge, and I would hope the same in return. No one is perfect and everyone should be more accepting. We all have good and bad days. I personally believe in giving everyone a chance. I had a really good friend who passed away and she told me the only thing that would break up our friendship is if I committed a heinous crime or hurt someone in her family. I need to remind myself of this when I don’t want to be around someone or friends with someone.

  27. Katie says:

    As someone who has had significant life challenges and tends to be a more serious and introspective person, this article really spoke to me. I have had people distance themselves or cut me out of their life. With most of these people it was clear that their own life issues were being triggered and they had not yet found a way to deal with these issues in a healthy manner.

    I have found that in relationships where I am able to express myself openly, where I can express my challenges and feelings, I am able to move on and spend more time focusing on positive things with them. However, when I am shut down or dismissed I feel more helpless and defeated.

    The culture of our current society does not value altruism or discussing unpleasant realities. We live in a culture of coping by denial which includes a lot of positive platitudes. Avoiding unpleasantness just builds more unpleasantness. We need to get to a place of balancing positive and negative to be a healthy society.

    Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided is a great book about this phenomenon.

    • Carol says:

      Right on, Katie!

    • a work in progress says:

      Katie, If you’re also interested in this topic regarding Children, Aaron cooper Ph.D. wrote a great book. It’s about the idea that adults make children feel like any emotion other than happiness is wrong. I highly recommend it; you’ll think twice the next time you tell someone “I just want you to be happy”. I’m even a little hesitant about singing “if you’re happy and you know it…” with my kiddo.

  28. patty p says:

    What timing,ive been in recovery from an addiction. Ive also had co dependent relationships. Ive been thinking alot lately about the relationships in my life and at a point of just letting them go. I dont feel Im being selfish but just seeing who people really are when you need to count on them the most,rock bottom. I had my sister live with me for over 2 years while she got on her feet,during that time,I allowed her to suck me dry. Now that im in recovery,its still about her. Sadly,she has managed to destroy all other relationships. Im all she has left. She doesnt get it and continues to blame others for her life. I no longer can continue or do I want my children around someone like this. Because of her behavor,it got me in recovery;realizing I dont want to end up like her. Some people are in your lives for a reason;others for a season

  29. melissa says:

    I do find it interesting that in this whole thread no one has really mentioned “culture” as being a factor. I grew up in Alb, NM, and after being away for 18 years living on both coasts and then moving back here a year ago the way we communicate and make friends I’ve found to be very different. Living in NY, friends take a long time and people don’t share intimate details of their lives right away, but do eventually and they are very real ones including both good and bad experiences. Living in CA, people always share only good, nothing is every wrong and sharing any intimate details is a no no. Now back in NM after both those places New Mexicans tend to be oversharers. You will know someones’ past, all the good and bad dirty details of this, their present, and what they hope to be doing in ten years in just one lunch date. It’s a bit overwhelming. But some people here have no filter and have no idea how much and what to share and sometimes come across as very needy or damaged in an unhealthy way. Just thought I’d share that observation.

  30. Bethany says:

    I feel that, as this message in this post is elaborated on and refined, a key point to hone in on will be the individual’s will to heal. As Shasta rightly pointed out, we have all been in a negative place from time to time. The difference between the temporarily negative and the chronically negative person is the will to improve. In my observation, some people readily accept council and encouragement from others, and these are the people one will do well to spend time with! These are people one can hope to aid in growth, which, when mirrored back, turns into a renewed source of positive energy! There are others, the chronically negative, however, who will not let themselves be helped. They truly are just a black hole for one’s efforts. These, I think, are the people to whom these dubious quotes may be referring. Though, I agree that they are a bit too glib and require refinement.

  31. Kathy Lombardo says:

    Girl…..I feel “put in my place”, in a GOOD way! Thank you for this; what a dust storm you have stirred!!! It is amazing to me how when something that is unspoken finally is spoken, how many people actually have something to say on it!
    Personally….I am one of those Fb posting people you spoke about in your blog….I cringe now to feel you cringe but…….I do get it and see how I came to be that way…..
    I have traditionally lived in black and white and avoided gray like the plague because black and white is SO much easier and less messy but… is gray most of the time!! It is easier for me to cut someone off and out rather than to dig deep and find within me a different way!! It is a high level skill to be able to do that and has taken me to this point in my life to be able to.
    I also see that often to move more into the middle (gray), I have had to go all the way over to the “other side” and work my way to middle. So as a recovering co-dependent and caretaker, I have seen myself go over to the opposite extreme to un- tether myself from those roles, but your blog was a wonderful reminder that I don’t HAVE to do that!! I can make conscious choices that do not include black or white or opposites.
    A lot of this for me has been a journey of discovery of self-love and self-acceptance and self-care. The stronger my own self is, the less I “need” to live in black and white or any extreme and the more I can make conscious loving choices for myself and about the people with whom I interact with in my life.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Kathy– Oh I love this comment! Thank you for articulating so very well the process… the nuance between all-or-nothing, for recognizing that the call to love others is actually very messy and often in gray, and for championing self-love as the root at which we must start. Your testimony is beautiful and will inspire many others!

      • Kathy Lombardo says:

        Mwah!!! This has been the roots and branches of my journey these past 15 months; of which I am grateful you have been a contributor to!!!

  32. Gill says:

    I feel when I am given attention, love, I pass this on to the others around me. And when that love was withdrawn from me, I become the need for support and care.
    It’s taken me 6 months to try to get over a breakup, going through all the emotions alone, feeling I’ve let people around me down is soul destroying. During this time, a best friend of mine had to let me go because she just couldn’t take it anymore. This has waken me. As much as I want my ex back, I feel dragging my friendship down is a even greater a loss in my life. I felt out of my depth. Finding this blog is a real blessing. thank you Shasta.
    As previous post pointed, for now, I really need to love myself and take care of myself, I hope one day, I am able to become a giver and caring for the others who is in the situation I was.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      What a beautiful intention to have Gill! Even now… I believe you can love others well as I’ve noticed that those who have been in pain have strong levels of empathy which lessens judgment and anger, allowing us to let people be where they are… which really is the point of mature love. Hugs to you as you keep healing and loving!

      • Kathy Lombardo says:

        “Let people be where they are”!!!!! I love that and that has been a VERY hard won lesson for me!!! Does that mean I am finally a “big girl”?? Lol!! I think I finally am almost there……..

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  34. Susan says:

    Hi! I have loved reading everyones blogs and opinions, Shasta, great job! I see a lot of points and respect and love hearing them all. I really think doing blogs help people make their own personal choices for themselves by seeing different sides. I am a licensed counselor, and with being so I think it’s great you guys do this! 🙂

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Susan– what a great comment to leave. That is super thoughtful of you to affirm and validate our process. It does help all of us to participate in a discussion and share what often goes unchallenged, un-thought of, or unsaid. Chime in any time– we’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions too! 🙂

  35. Suzanna says:

    Shasta- one of my favorite friends! (I have been blessed by your posts for many years now!) This was just such an honest post. It seems to be that the terms ‘needy, toxic, unhealthy, ect..’ are thrown around so casually today. Normally women use those labels to rationalize their own behavior, for treating another person in a dismissive or abrupt manner. Aside from drug addicts and the mentally ill, I have heard ladies once close friends as horrible negative me this is just saying she hurt me, so she must be toxic Once a person is labeled ‘crazy’, everything they say or do is held under that shadow. To me the bottom line is..healthy people have crazy days, strong people have weak moments, and postive people have negative thoughts…occassionally!
    In my own personal experience, the women I am most critical of, usually make me feel about about something I already feel lacking in..they touch on my insecurities. I am not proud of that.

    So I like to think of myself in friendship terms, if you will let me use a completely silly analogy, as a firm wooden chair…not a soft comfy sofa..if you sit on me I will not conform to your problems or become what your need to be comfortable…but I will offer you a good stable seat…
    I teach HS ENGL, I love the literary devices!!!ol!

    • Renee says:

      Suzanna – Oh how refreshing to hear from someone that gets it ! Thanks to you and to Kathy L. for being aware and honest about your insecurities. I’m right there with you. To take a line from the 12 steps, “when you point the finger at someone, there are THREE pointing back at you.”

      It’s called projective identification. We get rid of the unwanted feelings (projection) and identify them as belonging to someone else (identification).

      NOTE: I do not endorse 12 step recovery programs but they’ve got some good one-liners.

  36. Pingback: A Friend With Unhealthy Behaviors: It Doesn’t Have to Be All-or-Nothing | Shasta's Friendship Blog

  37. bottom dweller says:

    Hi I have read most of these posts one thing that i have not heard mentioned what “toxic” people
    do is that self fulfilling prophecy that constantly projected on you,so they have to fulfill this picture in their mind so they can beat you to it?In my marriage I was constantly being accused of financial
    infidelity I pretty much ignored it until I noticed that was going broke, and the IRS came knocking
    with a audit, at this time I discovered she had been cleaning me out for years,of course she also divorced me, in the divorce, no money was discover by the lawyers in the divorce so I had to let it go, after the divorce,found out there was a boyfriend that has found himself to be a rich man,while I lost my home,and am currently homeless and jobless,its strange when your in a marriage you start identifying with the accuser and then become their victim.I am sure that also became “toxic”
    you know stockholm syndrome, psychopathic can be very dangerous to your own concept of reality,in my ex wives case very attractive and charming, like some one mentioned in a previous post.

  38. I’ve been reading through these posts and…I think there is something very important to keep in mind…it is true that we can not change others, only ourselves; however, when we, actually, do the work of changing ourselves…what we do, in the process, is set an example and “lead” others to their own transformations. In this way…we are, in essence, helping to change others. This, I believe is what Shasta is getting at in this article…and in her responses to everyone. I know, for myself, in my life right now…it’s not as simple as walking away from someone who is negative or “bringing me down”. I have just recently ended a relationship; however, I am now rebuilding my life…and, as such, I find myself surrounded, once again, by people who are in great need of change. I am in no position to simply walk away from these people…but…I have learned from my previous experiences and relationships on how to set boundaries; with that being said, I’ve made some good friends…and these are still people with some pretty big issues. I admit, it’s really difficult for me to continue to progress as these individuals (not realizing on a conscious level) continuously pull me “back”…BUT…I am doing it…I am moving forward…I am making great strides within myself and my life…and slowly…ever sooo slowly…I see these new friends around me begin to do the same for themselves.

    Once you truly change yourself…you truly help to change those around you. This is why we are constantly put into difficult situations…life and people are not perfect or ideal…but that’s the “challenge”…to keep living and growing regardless of the “imperfection” of it all!! That’s pretty much “reality”…and the “lesson”….for all of us.

  39. Shasta i am saving your blog. I did a search online of the exact thing i am struggling with and your blog was the only article i could find that “got it”. After reading your article i can better see why i felt so crummy about how i actually did shun and cut out one of the moms at my grandson’s school. I am not going to reach out – i think it is for the best we don’t hang out. I am raising my grandsons, and i have to be very careful of kids with behavior problems and parents who are not able to control their child because i take my responsibility for my grandsons very seriously. I hated out play dates. I hated hearing about how she was “shunned” at her church, becuase i was brainstorming how i could do just that. I also hated hearing about her mental illness, especially when her drama was eerily similar to our own daughter’s – hence the reason i am raising my grandsons. The straw that broke the camels back was when she (in an effort to be nice) told me she would love to meet my daughter. I didn’t want that to happen because it would be double drama. I wished i never had reached out to her, I prayed about it but God’s plan was for me to not have a solution yet. I regretted inviting her son to vacation Bible school and how he was a bad influence on my grandsons. Its been difficult but i pray for her because she has had a rough life. Maybe someday, if my daughter gets her act together, and it is for certain that i will not be the one raising my grandsons, i will reach out somehow but not bring my grandson along. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for expalining why we cannot divorce ourselved from people we are going to see in our schools and community. In most cases, it may just be un-Christian because even in my case, it still does not feel right the way i have cut off communication with someone who did not add value to my life.

    • Chris says:

      Wow……So you are one of these people that want to continue the Stigma of people who suffer with Mental illness?…..Would you react the same with someone who has Cancer?…..It is Cancer of the Brain and is not curable ,yet treatable…..And many are responsible and get the help they need,if others open the Door…..I could go on but I will not….Retired Mental Health care provider…..CM

    • Renee says:

      Did you not read the disclaimer at the beginning of Shasta’s post? “Please note: This post isn’t intended to speak about the cases that include mental disorders”

      You missed the entire point of Shasta’s post but I’m a little less offended by your post knowing you “feel bad” and you hope she is able to find a better friend.

      I really feel for your daughter and hope when she “get’s her act together” she doesn’t get rid of the negative people in her life.


      • Kati says:

        Hi Renee,
        I realize my response is a year later but I could not help but notice how judgemental you are to someone who is clearly struggling with a relationship. I dont think you work with or spend time with people who suffer from mental illness, otherwise you would know how difficult it is to deal with them. This post clearly states she is caring for her grandsons, meaning she must be mentally PRESENT for their best care. I have a mentally ill relative who refuses to get the help she needs so therefore everyone is held accountable and guilt-tripped into co-dependency. Erasing stigma of mental illness involves getting them the care they need and having them take accountability for having the illness. If there were the same amount of mental health clinics as there are medical clinics, maybe we could see some improvement. Since you are so vocal about shedding the stigma about it, Im assuming you are working on funding for these clinics? Hmmm? I could use some help with my relative, when are you available? Nobody else seems to be. Also, Renee, can you please lobby in Washington for more funding so I can get her into a program? I am assuming you have the time, since you are so adament about shedding the stigma. I have kids, so my extra time is spent caring for them. You see, its not at easy as typing on a keyboard and shaming already over-stressed parents and caregivers about “stigmatizing,” YOU have to actually do something besides judge and shame caregivers. We are already stretched thin. Please, Renee, put your money where your mouth is and open a mental health clinic that does not charge and can get my family member to go!

  40. Oh no not at all Chris! I definitely believe that mental illness is treatable. Sorry, i see that my hastily-typed my post was poorly written. I am afraid our typed words do not show our humanity and feelings as if you and i were talking face to face. I was truly not placing a stigma upon this woman. In fact i continued to do activities with her while i knew of her mental illness. There are too many details that would explain how i tried to help but ultimately she did not/could not respect my boundaries or control her son around my 2 grandchildren i am legally responsible for. I discussed this situation (and the many details there is no room for here) with the boys therapist and the therapist put it more bluntly than i. She said “This woman is not your charity case”. Whoa! So this puts me back to the cutting people out of your life dilemma this forum is about. I am not an unfeeling person and i do feel crummy but i had to make a hard choice in the best interest of the children i am raising at this time. I am not perfect. God knows i could’ve handled this situation better. I pray that she finds better friends than I who can truly give her the support system she needs.

  41. Pingback: Top 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2013 | Shasta's Friendship Blog

  42. Isastar says:

    Hi and wow Shasta perhaps your nickname should be ShastaFierce. This article has opened my eyes. I didn’t realize that I was being harmful by upholding these “good ideals” smh. I am inspired and will definitely allow myself to shine in either direction.

  43. ellie says:

    Thank you, I really needed this. I’m having a hard time continually supporting a family member who is bringing me down in their negativity. And as much as I want to push them away to be happier, they need me and they need me to not give up on them. So thank you for the perspective in a difficult time.

  44. Pingback: We’re giving the wrong advice for “toxic” friendships! | Shasta's Friendship Blog

  45. Beth says:

    Interesting take on getting rid of negative people. You took a compassionate approach but I can see why it may be controversial. I think the idea that we’re meant to be around negative and toxic friends might be controversial because negative and toxic friends can continue to justify their behavior if we stick around. They don’t see it as a problem because we will be there for them to stand by their side no matter what. I’ve set boundaries in the past with little to no luck. Toxic friends only tried to make a move when I was trying to let them go. I don’t think it was even a good move. In fact, I think I hurt their ego badly and they wanted to take revenge by pulling me back into the friendship. And they sure did take revenge. They did pretty awful things. Regardless of the revenge, I had absolutely no compassion for them. I felt a heavy burden lift off my shoulders when I let them go. Maybe I didn’t see value in them. Maybe I did. But what I did know is that I wasn’t becoming who I wanted to become with them around. I was becoming more like them. It was hard not to get influenced by toxic friends. When I set my boundaries, they continued to treat me like a doormat. When I stood my ground, they mocked me. I talked to healthy close friends for an objective opinion and I realized that I didn’t have extra love and energy in me to embrace them. I haven’t regretted my decision for letting go. Not even once. I feel liberated. Maybe in the future, if I come across the same type of friends, I will be a little more compassionate to help them than to drop them like hot potatoes. But for now, this is what works for me.

  46. Pingback: Is “Get Rid of Negative People in My Life” Good Advice? - Books and Laughters

  47. Goldberry says:

    I’ve gone through a difficult few years and slowly realized how some people are able to stay through it and others don’t have the strength. Now I’m more selective about my friends, but I’ve also reached a point where I am tired of leaning on others and want to be the strong one who can offer warmth and love to pretty much everyone. At the same time, I don’t expect to be friends with a lot of people. I save discussions of my challenges for people whom I already know care enough to stick around, and even then I sometimes would just rather talk about them than me.

    Like Shasta said, if you can ride it out, some people may be needy right now but actually have a lot to offer. They could be there for you when the tables turn.

  48. Bobby says:

    YES!!!! I’m so glad I found this article, I absolutely agree. I’ve always felt uneasy about the advise to cut negative people from your life too. Your article really blew me away actually, it was like every paragraph my soul was shouting YES!!! As though I hadn’t heard these truths spoken in such a long time I had almost forgotten them. Thanks so much for writing this. I’m going to save this and remember it forever.

  49. JLawson says:

    I don’t know if you check these comments anymore but I think your post is spot on. Quotes like “People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick wisely.” and others bother me. People have problems–even ‘positive’ people have problems. We can’t be positive and happy all the time, nor is that realistic. Shit happens and some days we need someone to lean on.

    Succumbing to the idea that other people’s negativity will adversely affect you, takes away your own power. No, you choose in each moment how to react, how you are affected, or how you respond to the situation.

    Anyhow, I appreciate your refreshing take.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Oh thank you for taking the time to join the conversation– you word it well! Agreed! 🙂

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Huge thanks for being another voice in this world reminding ourselves and others just how much light we have and how we get to pick our responses…. honored to have you find my blog and to engage in conversation with us! I’ve been meaning for a while to write about this “always be happy” mentality and how harmful I feel it is… seeing your post reminds me I need to still put that thoughts into words for an upcoming post! Thank you!

      • JLawson says:

        Hey, thanks for writing the blog. I shared this post on Facebook and got a lot of interesting discussion on the topic. In the end, we all agreed that we wouldn’t abandon people who are hurting or are in pain, but that it would be unwise to stay in a relationship where one inflicts emotional or physical pain upon us.

        I am interested in reading your take on the “always be happy” part of the new age movement. I’ve thought about it a lot. Despite the fact that I DO believe our thoughts and expectations have an effect on our experience of reality, I still feel, perhaps like you, that the avoidance of pain does more harm than good.

        Do let me know when your post is up. I hope you have a wonderful day.

        • ShastaGFC says:

          Way to generate conversation! The world needs a few more disrupters! Especially those who are doing it with hopes of increasing love and connection! Indeed avoiding pain is so damaging and the pressure to feel happy all the time is leaving a lot of people feeling like there is something wrong with them. I think peace, acceptance, even joy… are more realistic “feelings” to try to sustain. If you’re not subscribed to my blog– I welcome you in the conversation whenever you’re interested and have time!

          • JLawson says:

            Haha! I think that may be what we are, Shasta–disruptors. 🙂

            I agree with everything you said regarding the pressure to be happy all of the time. I also think that feelings of discontent or pain are not things that should be ignored or covered up, but can be used as a springboard to improve one’s life; however, there comes a point where one has to stop wallowing in self pity or complaining endlessly of how terrible life is, and take steps to improve conditions.

            I’d rather not subscribe to receive email notifications of new posts–it’s nothing personal. Do you happen to have a blog “feed” url?

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  51. Michael says:

    Dear Shasta, How do you know my calling? “To serve others is what we’re called to do in this world– your calling centers around it.”

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Michael–every person I’ve ever met who articulates a calling is always answering how they want to make a contribution to this world or how they believe they can make a difference. I believe we all have strengths and gifts that are designed to bless others in some ways.

      • Michael says:

        It would be more accurate is you said, “To serve others is MY calling.” It’s presumptuous to tell me what is my calling.

  52. Jo says:

    I just want to say thank you. I googled “what if you chose not to abandon negative friends” and found your article. Your words have reached me at a crucial time. Please keep writing 🙂

  53. Lin says:

    There are two sides to that coin. I had a friend for years that continued to drain me
    every time I was around her. We shared a mutual friend so I hardly ever saw my
    other friend that was a joy to be around without the other
    one being there. I sensed that it was not
    good to be around her, as she was toxic and to this day, I still feel the same way when
    I run into her in a store or somewhere. But this particular “friend” has the same affect
    on everyone she comes in contact with, not just me. I don’t dislike her to the point that
    I can’t be around her for a conversation. But anything beyond that is a different story.
    I’ve also had friends that came to me when they were hurting because they knew I
    would listen to them and pray with them and for them. But when I went through one
    of the hardest emotional times of my life, one friend in particular acted like I was
    whining and should just get over it. Where were they when I was the one that needed
    a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear? I say, listen to God and ask Him to show
    you who to be in close friendship with and who you should love from a distance.
    I feel like I’ve wasted time on unfruitful relationships, time I won’t get back. One or two
    really good true friends are better than a roomful of shallow friendships. I do agree
    that we should be willing to minister to hurting people and show them the way to
    a relationship with Jesus Christ. But when we are talking about christians who have
    been saved for 35 years and still haven’t changed or are still doing the same things
    they did as new christians, that’s where I draw the line. Some people don’t want to
    change. I do thank God for my wonderful family and my true friends.

  54. dkazama says:

    Hi, very interesting article and great site! Surrounding yourself with positive people and removing any negativity is incredibly important.

    My best friend and I have recently set up a website in an attempt to offer advice and support in regards to friendship.

    Please take a look and feel free to make any suggestions or comments:

    All the best and continue the great work!

  55. ZARA says:

    Hi , I don’t completely agree with this post cause there are TOXIC ” friends ” who would LOVE to secretly destroy us. I love my so called ” beloved ones ” but unfortunately I have to ditch them out of my life cause all I ever had is LOSS in my life , especially time loss and FEELING their TOXIC energies !!! yes I am an Empath but I have to be VERY ALERT in my life , I sound very selfish but this is LIFE ,Throughout my life I have been USED and THROWN away like DIRT by my so called beloved ones.They ONLY need me and then after my help they THROW me just like that , then the next time they come to me as If I am nothing just happened but when I need HELP they are NOT there for me and they just neglect me or tell me NOT to tell my problems with them ( that was very cruel cause I was VERY suicidal and helpless at that time , they never showed any compassion or comfort towards me ). Since I am a polite and kind hearted woman I don’t act rude even if they hurt me .. I just calm down that’s it .. but this time I am sweeping away all of my TOXIC relationships FOREVER . I am being VERY practical here . If I say any good news the so called beloved ones get jealous ..I can literally FEEL TOXIC energies being send on me ! .. I am a person who LOVES to bring and share positive light , energies and LOVE to everyone but those who suppresses me with negative energies and dystopian wishes , I would LOVE to dump them for eternity , this seems very harsh but it’s the truth ( of course I have forgiven ALL of them 101 % .) but life is NOT meant to be wasted but to be experience rich lessons and to be enjoyed by the right kinds of people <3 .We ALL have a very short life and we must live it right ! <3… I know many won't agree with me but I am telling the truth !.

    • Cisco says:

      Shasta thank you for this post. I googled “I hate when people say they hate negative people” and it lead me here.

      I do realize that I’m a negative person but it’s only after many years of Living with a paranoid schizophrenic father that i got those qualities from him. How do I know this? Because when I was younger I was very positive , I w as introverted yet outgoing enough and i loved life and everything about it. I helped people going through tough times and was generally well liked.

      When I turned twenty I noticed that my father’s negativity wasn’t part of his paranoid schizophrenia, as I don’t think everyone with this disorder is negative. I do think he used his diagnosis to treat others like crap. when I was young I would ask him to teach me how to fix cars but then he would go ballistic start cursing at me and then tell me to go home. He did this many times for years. And he did this for anything even literally when changing a light bulb. Eventually I quit trying. To top it off even though I reached out to him to teach me things that boys learn from their fathers, he began to call me a faggot for not trying to do these “manly” things with him anymore. (He’s macho).

      I’ve also gone through some other things in my life, I was raped when I was seven by my mother’s godson. I’ve had to battle depression and mental illness and unfortunately because of my problems I became way too dependant on my mother.

      It’s good to make the distinction that when you’re older you can choose your friends, but I couldn’t choose my father so I had to live with this negativity for years. What’s baffling is that my mother is extremely positive and taught me to be positive but after years I shifted towards negativity.

      Anyway when I’m negative I’m negative about myself. I actually help lift others up when their down, but I I’ve lost my way original.positive self.. It’s become harder because I’m unemployed and still live with my parents and lost all my friends.

      What I will say about negative people is that some come from circumstances they couldn’t control ,whether it be genetics, environment or both. I came from both but it’s unfortunate that even though I helped many family members and friends through hard times when I was doing good, no one is around to help me. I’ve actually heard people say you’re too negative and then disappear.

      I guess now after reading your post and some of the comments it’s actually good these people left. If you can’t be there for someone through the tough times then you’re not a good friend in my opinion. But boy is it hard for me to be positive , it’s so hard that I don’t try to make friends anymore or talk to family members. I just don’t want to burden them.

      I must say that negativity is very hard to change and I’m trying to get back to being positive but I admit I wish I had positive people around so that it could rub off on me. So for everyone here who runs for the hills when you meet a negative person if you have it in you please just listen. And yes be positive around them! I know no one wants to be a therapist to a friend, but back when there were no therapists folks only had their friends to talk about the ups and downs of life.

      Again not everyone that’s negative was always negative and some are negative only about themselves and their lives. I certainly don’t want to bring anyone down so now I just keep to.myself.

      Thank you Shasta for writing about this topic. I wish everyone had friends as understanding and compassionate as you.

      • Cisco says:

        Shasta, I do hope that in your post you weren’t lumping people with mental illness with those trying to willfully hurt others. Some people hurt others not because they have a mental illness but for other reasons. Anyways thanks again.

        • ShastaGFC says:

          Not at all! Thanks for the clarification! Mental illness (broad range!!!) rarely is willful, but sometimes cannot be controlled and treated with reason due to certain limitations or different capacities for understanding and reasoning. We all have much to learn and practice in our compassion and non0judgment of everyone, especially those with any mental illness. Thank you!

  56. natasha yates says:

    I think these quotes are meant to be interpreted in the sense that those we choose to ‘surround’ ourselves with means those we include in our inner circle and whos behaviour has a negative effect on us rather than people who are simply negative in themselves. It is the impact a person makes upon us and in our lives that would warrant taking on the advice of the various quotes regarding such people. To help someone is positive but only if your own needs or rights are compramised by that or their behaviour. This woyld be regarded as negative unhealthy enabling etc; in which case look after yourself and disyance yourself from them.

  57. natasha yates says:

    I think these quotes are meant to be interpreted in the sense that those we choose to ‘surround’ ourselves with means those we include in our inner circle and whos behaviour has a negative or positive effect on us rather than people who are simply negative or positive in themselves. It is the negative impact a person/’s behaviour makes upon us and in our lives that would warrant taking on the advice of the various quotes regarding such people. To help someone is positive but only if your own needs or rights are not compramised by doing so. This would be regarded as negative unhealthy enabling relationships etc; in which case look after yourself and distance/ shield yourself from this type of damaging interaction.

  58. I liked it! I think you are truly right and hit the nail on the head. I know I have been one of those people someone had to get rid of as i was going through a tough time and all I could ever seem to contribute was negative. I know that all I needed was a smile or a good laugh. I needed a lighter scene to change the energy. I plan on sharing this and look forward to hearing what else you have to say! Thanks!

  59. Latricia says:

    I agree. Toxic people tear you down but positive build you up. Holding grudges will ultimately destroy you. The key to freedom is letting go of past trauma.

  60. Diane says:

    Yes being around negative people can be a downer. But how will they ever be uplifted if everyone turns their backs on them? That will just make them even more negative.

  61. erin says:

    crap! over analyzed and mean-be a friend or do not be one. The “negative energy” people are better off without you.

  62. Vicky says:

    What a read!! I am an older woman, I believe you first have to learn to love yourself before you can giv to someone else you can only give what you have in you!!

  63. As someone who has experienced mental health problems for over half of my life, I can say it is also be maybe a little irresponsible to go shouting these obtuse/broad statements as “fact” without any caveats or deeper meaning involved.

    I agree with part of the statements – and I think this is really their intention at heart – in that we must all look after ourselves and I would certainly never want anyone to martyr themselves for me, nor would I want to martyr myself for them.

    But at the same time, when we are in pain, we also often feel guilty or ashamed of that pain. I think this is true of many people. I think I start to self-judge myself as the “toxic friend” – the person who is “bringing people down” by being in pain in the first place (how dare I?!).

    Obviously this intensifies the pain. In this situation, I normally just remind myself that I do not exist for other people’s entertainment and if they are offended by my suffering then they are welcome to leave. It would only make things worse for me – and them – if they stayed around. On the other hand, I have found that because of my experiences with mental health problems and these prevailing “facts” I have a very hard time trusting people not to criticise or judge me if I suffer. For this reason, I find it very difficult to actually tell people how I feel, and I find I keep my relationships on a kind of “conditional” basis: always ready to drop them if they become too painful. Perhaps this is the other kind of so-called “toxic friend” that I’m talking about? The person who will judge or criticise if they notice you are in pain and therefore are not contributing enough to their lives.

    We all have responsibility for our own shit at the end of the day and I would never say that wasn’t true. I don’t think I have ever relied on anyone to “fix me” (nor would I want that). But I have unfortunately been through quite significant breakdowns and have in turn received a torrent of complaints about me being “too morose” or “not getting over it quickly enough”. One friend emailed me to say she didn’t want to see me again until I got better. I didn’t reply. I mean, come on people, if it bothers you that much just walk away. I don’t need to hear about how much I’m letting you down.

    • Vicky says:

      I think instead of copping a plea put on your big girl panties step into life let people who love you help and most of all stop feeling sorry for yourself and learn to love you!! very important to get through life healthy you can do it…

      • anon says:

        Well that’s patronising. I’m not sure what I said that would make you suggest that I “grow up” (the big girl panties thing) or that you think I am feeling sorry for myself. It’s also a vacuous and unhelpful statement to suggest that someone “learn to love themselves”. It takes a lot of time to do that and I’ll do it at my own pace thanks.

        Seriously – this shit is exactly what I mean.

        • anon says:

          I should probably also add that the point of my first post was that people who are already self critical see all the memes about ‘negative people’ and put themselves in that camp, so self criticise again, when actually they are probably the people those memes are aimed at (they are the most likely to overextend themselves for others). So the message does not work/get through.

          Perhaps the message those posts intend to give should really be about ‘do you overextend yourself?’ It would be a more helpful message, I think, because that’s what they mean, rather than ‘everybody hates unhappy people. Eurgh! Aren’t they disgusting!’ I don’t think anyone really thinks that, I think it’s how people who are unhappy assume others feel, though. That was convoluted…