59: Thoughts on Kindness and Toxicity

Toxicity cannot be killed with kindness.

— David M.M. Taffet, Why being emotionally intelligent doesn’t mean putting up with BS

I’m alone in Jamestown, NY for a few more weeks. Staying in one more Hampton.

Four years ago today I was in Martinsville, Effingham, and Vandalia, Illinois. I was making the long drive away from my Love, sole passion, and life; hoping to slay my dragons in Painter’s honor.

Nearly, ten days after Painter ended the relationship I still had no plan, skills, or safe place. I was occasionally sleeping in the van and lying awake at night reading Esther Perel’s the State of Affairs.

I was averaging three to four hours of sleep a night. I would wake up a dozen times a night checking my phone hoping Painter would text or call or write.

I had no understanding of the toxic and misleading salt Painter’s had vengefully spread on the fields of my life, or of our life. I had no understanding of people’s willingness to bend to the stories of a beautiful woman that understood her power.

I was sending Painter money and practicing giving her space.

I reminded her that I was committed to taking responsibility and making it right. Little did I understand what was happening behind the scenes. As Paddler wrote and told me at the time, “Sean, you burned up a room, Painter is burning down the house.”

Paddler’s analogy was lost on me.

I believed everything that went wrong was my fault and my burden to address. It took months to understand Painter didn’t want it addressed. She simply wanted me to continue to send her money, disappear, and not ask questions.

It was nearly a year before I understood the extent of Painter’s triangulating and grooming of friends and strangers. Even then, only years later, have I come to appreciate the insight of Paddler’s warning. It is only now that I understand the damage of letting Painter’s toxic reaction and entitlement go unchallenged.

As I said elsewhere, for years I believed patience, kindness, and compassion would eventually create an environment where Painter and I would sit down and discuss what happened, and how. I carried an idiot compassion.

I believed we would eventually discuss the end of the relationship and how to divide up joint property and assets. As David M.M. Taffet describes in, Why Being Emotionally Intelligent Doesn’t Mean Putting Up with BS, I idealistically believed giving Painter space and being nice, would “incentivize better behavior.” What I failed to recognize is that “toxic individuals are immune” to compassion and empathy and treat those qualities and skills as a weakness to be leveraged.

In more than one relationship, I have clung “to the delusional hope that with just the right amount of carefully executed kindness, the hostage taker will see the light, come to the learning, and become a good team player.”

As Taffet adds, “This is pure fantasy.” The behavior is also manipulative.

I carry an unskillful and habitual default response to conflict and messy personalities that sometimes blinds me to who Painter is when she is emotionally charged, or when I am.

Even four years later, out of my guilt, remorse, or love, I will excuse her behavior in favor of nuance’s comfort. “We are all more than one thing,” I will tell myself.

However, knowing this is true doesn’t change the fact she is dangerous and unsafe.

It doesn’t change the fact when charged she acts petty and vindictive. As a result, she reacts in dangerous, unpredictable, and unskillful ways. She imagines behaviors that never happened to justify her behaviors. It doesn’t change the fact that the men and women around her enable her toxicity and act her Hero in an effort to save and protect her from her discomfort…just as I once did for her. In the process, we all treat her like a child.

Painter is unsafe and dangerous for me because I struggle to see her for what she does. I sometimes forget how skillful — and willing — she is at getting other people to carry her water. On more than one occasion I end up burned.

I will continue practicing not making that mistake with Painter again.

I certainly won’t make that mistake with her monkeys.

Works Cited

Muses, Sean. “20: A Love Letter to Betrayers – Court.” Love Letters to a Healing Heart, 25 Mar. 2021, cadconfessional.com/2021/03/25/20-love-letters-to-betrayers-court/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

—. “24: Getting It Right.” Love Letters to a Healing Heart, 9 Feb. 2021, cadconfessional.com/2021/02/08/24-getting-it-right/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

—. “47: Broken Knights and Other Fishy Tales.” Love Letters to a Healing Heart, 24 Mar. 2018, cadconfessional.com/2018/03/24/broken-knights-and-other-fishy-things/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

Taffet, David M. M. “Why Being Emotionally Intelligent Doesn’t Mean Putting up with BS.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 5 Dec. 2021, www.fastcompany.com/90701142/why-being-emotionally-intelligent-doesnt-mean-putting-up-with-bs. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

“TU133: Holding Your Own 1: Messy but Secure Relating.” Therapist Uncensored, Therapist Uncensored, 26 Oct. 2020, therapistuncensored.com/episodes/holding-your-own1-messy-but-secure-relating/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021. Holding Your Own with Challenging Personalities – staying secure in relationship with those high in narcissistic, borderline or anti-social traits.