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Essential Oils to Help Navigate Toxic People

By Jodi Cohen

After Max died, I had to clean the house of toxic people (including a formerly close friend) who I recognized were not only not rooting for me, but actively undermining me during a particularly challenging time.  

One of my colleagues once described their gratitude practice as finding someone whose life sucked more than yours and being grateful that you aren’t them.  For the record, I don’t share that opinion.  I root for everyone.  But that viewpoint helped me understand why certain individuals seemed to kick me when I was down.  If I was their avatar of someone whose life sucked more than theirs, it makes sense that when I was having a good day or things were going well for me, they might want to undermine me in order to keep me down so that they could continue to feel better about their own life.  

For example, when I was having a good day or a good week, this one friend would literally show up uninvited and immediately catastrophize and invent farfetched scenarios that she would encourage me to worry about.  It was exhausting and unsustainable, so I cut ties.  

Like many toxic people, she continues to ignore my boundaries and recently attempted to manipulate and triangulate with my daughter, prompting me to revisit and share essential oils that I continue to find helpful for navigating toxic people.

Toxic people often display toxic traits – including being competitive, judgmental self-serving, manipulative, emotionally abusive, and lacking in empathy – that cause conflict, stress, difficulty, unpleasantness along with emotional or physical health consequences. 

A toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life.  Common behaviors of toxic people include constant criticism, undermining, gaslighting, passive-aggressive behavior, and a need for power and control. Interestingly, when and if you attempt to call this behavior to their attention, a toxic person often flips the script, avoiding any responsibility for their actions and instead cast themselves as the victim and criticize or blame you as unappreciative or unkind.

Toxic people can be emotionally exhausting and physically draining.  For me, it was really painful to realize that the people that were supposed to be your biggest cheerleaders, were actually attempting to undermine and root against you.  Here are some warning signs to watch out for if you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person:

Judgmental and Critical:  Toxic people look at the world through a very rigid lens of negative and self-serving opinions which tend to lack empathy, compassion or support.

Need to be Right: Toxic people struggle to admit when they’re wrong, possibly because recognizing that they made a mistake or hurt another person is too threatening to their ego.  Instead, they often justify their behavior, deny your perspective or project their weakness or shame onto you.

Lack of accountability:  Toxic people always prioritize their sense of self above all else. They’ll never own up to their mistakes or take responsibility for their actions, so they will often deflect blame or diminish any concerns.

Always the Victim:  Since they can’t be wrong, toxic people will often default to being the wronged party.  When challenged, toxic people experience the challenge as an accusation or attack, and may shift into a self-pitying, woe-is-me attitude to generate sympathy or attention, and let them off the hook.

Leave you feeling drained and diminished: After spending time with toxic people, you may feel vaguely “icky” with less physical and mental energy — as if you’ve been contaminated by their negative presence or comments.  This was a big clue for me.  Whenever I am in the presence of a toxic person, I notice that I cannot wait to leave and that my energy and optimism dip dramatically in their presence as if their negativity directly impacts my energy and mood. 

Competitive: underlying feeling of competitiveness, if a friend or lover isn’t able to celebrate you – and your successes shut it down or get defensive and blame you.

Disrespect Boundaries: Toxic people struggle to honor your limits and may instead challenge, negotiate, and violate your boundaries in order to maintain their access.

MORE ON BOUNDARIES HERE: Boundaries and Peer Pressure

Manipulative or Controlling:  Toxic people often use guilt and shame to manipulate or control.  They may insult or undermine you to slow or sabotage your progress.  They may exploit your vulnerabilities and emotions to maintain control and the upper hand in the power struggle of your relationship.

One-Sided Relationships:  Toxic relationships often feel a bit parasitic in that they are all take and no give.  Toxic people prioritize their own needs – time, money, energy, attention, affection, convenience – and offer very little. 

Very Negative:  Toxic people see the world through a negative lens.  They frequently complain, never share your joy and often yuck your yum or downplay your successes!

Gossip:  Toxic people often do not keep your confidences confidential.  They may diminish you behind your back or share things with others that you assumed they would keep in the vault. 

Angry or Aggressive: You may feel like you are walking on eggshells with a toxic person who uses force, intimidation, or hostility to assert dominance or control over you.  Aggressive or angry behavior can manifest physically, verbally, or emotionally. It involves lashing out, threatening, or causing harm.

Competitive:  Toxic people have a heightened level of self-interest, and a need to showcase their own greatness to receive affirmation.  They may throw you under the bus, sabotage or diminish you, or discredit you in front of others in order to reposition you further down in the social rank, they feel better about themselves in comparison.

Triangulate:  Toxic people may surround themselves with enablers or triangulate and bring a third person into your conversation or relationship in order to manipulate you and remain in control.  For example, they may use “flying monkeys” to check in on you and micro-manage you.

High Maintenance:  Toxic people tend to prioritize their needs and ignore your needs.  To this point, they always seem to need something from you, be it constant phone calls, texts, or showing up at your door.  They tend to use all the oxygen in the room and often are not as supportive of you in return.

High Drama: Toxic people thrive in dramatic situations. They inflame emotions and create conflict. They love stirring the pot to see what happens. 

While you cannot change other people, you engage in supportive measures to help you value yourself and surround yourself with people who truly value you.  

Essential oils can be powerful tools to help you work through your own feelings and emotions that may come up when dealing with toxic people, including anger, frustration, self-doubt, or any of the negativity that you may unintentionally pick up from negative people.  

Essential oils are a great tool to help you stay in integrity and reduce the toxic impact of toxic people.  This has to do with the fact that your sense of smell links directly to the emotional control center of your brain known as the amygdala, where emotions and emotional memories are stored.  This means inhaling essential oils can support healthy emotional responses even when interacting with the most toxic of people.

Your sense of smell is the only one of your five senses that is directly linked to this unconscious area of your brain, known as your limbic lobe, making the sense of smell and the tool of essential oils the most direct path to healing emotions like blame, shame, and guilt.

Essential oils inhaled through the nasal passageways enable immediate access to the regions of the brain that house these intense emotions like anger and rage so we can integrate and release them. The word “emotion” can be translated as “energy in motion.” Emotion is the experience of energy moving through our bodies. This emotional energy actually works at a higher speed than thought and essential oils can help us clear the energetic residue of blame so it doesn’t remain in our thought patterns, negatively impacting your energy field or your health.

My go-to essential oils for helping to diffuse the toxicity of toxic people are:

  1. Parasympathetic to Control Your Reaction to the Toxicity

Other people’s toxic traits are often a reflection their own struggles and insecurities, and do not have anything to do with you. You cannot control anyone else’s toxic behavior.  You can only control your own actions, self-esteem, and mental health. 

When you are triggered by toxic people, it turns on your body’s dangerous “fight or flight” response and activates your sympathetic nervous system which makes it hard to think clearly.

Your sympathetic nervous system prioritizes survival and literally stops all resources that are being used for anything that is non-essential for survival – including your mental problem-solving abilities – as not to overwhelm you with options and compromise your ability to hyper-focus and fight or flee from danger.

When your sympathetic nervous system is active, you release stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that narrow your focus and dampen creativity and problem-solving potential to keep you on high alert and ready for intense physical activity. 

Your parasympathetic nervous system does the opposite – helping you feel safe and turn on your ability to think rationally, reason and problem-solve.

The parasympathetic state helps you feel safe which allows you to activate the neural connections necessary for healthy cognitive and emotion regulation. When you are able to shift out of the high alert state into a mental and emotional space of safety, your mind can relax, allowing you to calm your emotional state, expand your focus, and calm reactivity so you can clearly discern the costs and benefits of your relationship with toxic people.

Applying Parasympathetic® behind your earlobe on your mastoid bone helps you drop into the “rest and digest” parasympathetic state, alerting your body and your amygdala that the danger has passed so it can stop over reacting.  You can also smell Parasympathetic®Research shows that increasing blood flow to the prefrontal cortex can ensure attention and problem solving.

2. Small Intestine Support™ for Healthy Boundaries

You do not need to accommodate toxic people, or as my friend Naomi likes to say, “you do not need to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm”.  You can instead set boundaries with someone can reduce the impact of their behavior on you. 

Boundaries are the invisible lines and gates you have up to inform people what you are willing to do and not willing to do.  Healthy boundaries are the limits you establish around yourself to protect your time, emotions, body, and mental health from the unhealthy, draining, or manipulative or damaging behavior of others.

These boundaries help define what you are willing to say “yes” to and what you decide to say “no” to. They give you a sense of agency and sovereignty over your decisions.

Vibrant Blue Oils Emotion Balance Small Intestine Support™ helps provide clarity around your values and needs which can help you create clear boundaries. The clearer you are about your identity and your needs, the easier it is to honor your own needs and convey to people how they are allowed to treat you.

On the physical level, your small intestine plays a critical role in the digestion process, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients while preventing harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the body.  On an emotional level, your small intestine plays a similarly discerning role with emotions, helping to understand experiences and determine healthy and appropriate relationships and boundaries.

It is also an area where we can hold deep childhood scars of rejection, abandonment or abuse; negative thoughts fueled by feelings of lack of self-worth, low self‐esteem, loneliness, neglect and anxieties about survival and success with can interfere with our ability to identify and support healthy boundaries.

Small Intestine Support™ blend supports the healthy functioning of the small intestine as it sorts and transforms food, feelings and ideas into useful ingredients for the body/mind.  It also helps correct imbalances where you are overly in tune with other’s criticism, feelings or opinions at the expense of your own.

Small Intestine Support™ can be smelled or applied around the ears.  You can start on the bottom of the ear at the earlobes and gentle massage upward along the exterior of the ear, hitting many of the major reflexology points.  This article and chart show specific points on the ears for specific issues.

3. Heart™ and Liver Support™ to help you Regulate Anger and Open Your Heart 

If someone treats you poorly, reacting with anger, aggression, or annoyance may worsen the situation. Instead, practicing self-care by releasing your anger and opening your heart can help you better respond to toxic people. 

The more in touch you are with your heart and what you desire and do not desire, the easier it is to be clear on what you will allow and  will not allow into your life.

The Heart™ blend was formulated to balance the heart to support, integrate and reset all the systems of the body, including mental clarity, physical health and emotional balance. The heart is our body’s reset button.  By applying the Vibrant Blue Oils Heart™ blend over the heart, it helps return the heart to balance, and strengthen our ability to recognize what the heart needs and desires.

Anger that we don’t process and release can get stored in your liver, according to Chinese medicine. 

Liver Support™ helps support the release of anger, including frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, being critical of yourself or others, control issues, an inability to express your feelings, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, not being recognized or appreciated.

Formulated to help move through and release anger and negative emotions attached to traumatic experiences from the cells of the liver to promote optimal healing.  The oils in this blend assist the body to recognize, work through and release the anger, fear, or frustration caused by traumatic experiences so they don’t overwhelm you.

It allows you to gently let go of negative emotions, including repressed anger, which can create stuck energy and impede an organ’s ability to heal.

Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths, then slowly exhaling while intentionally releasing the anger.  It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion.  You will know that the essential oil for blame is working when you stop smelling it.

You can also topically apply 2- 3 drops of Liver Support™ over your liver (right side of the body under the breast) to help work through and release your anger.  You can also apply it around the ankles as this is often an area where we hold resistance to moving forward in life and block the ability to receive joy and pleasure.  Start at the back of the ankle and apply under the ankle bone around to the front and back under the other ankle bone, all while allowing yourself to release your anger.  For more tips on detoxify emotions.

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.