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Personal insights into toxic dynamics

Now that I'm writing the series on toxic behaviour in the workplace and am looking into the topic in more depth, I've been able to gain further personal insights once again. I would like to share them with you here so that I can perhaps provide some impetus and raise awareness of the mechanisms. They are truly perfidious, especially if you are not yet fully committed to mindfulness and self-connectedness.

I not only fell into a trap for others, but also for myself once again. Unfortunately, I was completely unaware that I had long since found myself in a drama triangle, the victim-perpetrator game, and so it happened as it had to. There was a huge explosion, after which I felt relieved on the one hand, but also incredibly confused, inferior and small again on the other.

What makes it so difficult to have healthy relationships?

It's not necessarily toxic behaviour, but rather destructive patterns and interactions that make a relationship difficult. Labelling or focusing on the word toxic only blames the other person and shifts the power energies. But it doesn't really solve anything.

On the contrary - these dynamics can be played out until the end of time, causing even more hurt and increasing the suffering. The stress level rises immeasurably and the reaction patterns drain so much valuable energy that mindfulness and clarity simply dwindle more and more.

However, if the injuries and wounds are too great, if they are repeatedly activated by the behaviour of others, if despair increases because one encounters toxic behaviour, if one does not feel seen, heard or perceived, respected and honoured, then the insecurity becomes so great that the old patterns are immediately activated. The system is on full alert and signals - retreat! Back to the familiar realms and thus the supposed security that we have built for ourselves in the past. Today, however, this repertoire only contains destructive patterns that cause us to experience the same things over and over again.

So what is happening?

On closer analysis and reflection, the following happened:

I saw my highest values and needs trampled on by different people in my closest environment because I had invited them there in the deep hope and with the probably false expectation that we could have a healthy and adult relationship (partnership as well as friendship) with each other.

So my stress pattern is basically FAWN - the submission mode, which causes me to want to please the people in my life, to put myself on the back burner and to always be concerned about making things right for everyone else. This obviously feels wonderful and it is rarely questioned, but "one" gladly accepts it. However, after a while, especially if my needs are not respected or recognised in any way, my system starts to collapse.

Especially now that I've finally managed to point out my values and feelings more often. Perhaps not yet with the volume and vehemence that seems necessary, but at least I have noticed a positive development over the past few months. Unfortunately, nobody really seems to be interested. On the contrary, after further hints and insinuations, I tend to be punished with gaslighting - i.e. the denial and distortion of the facts as well as devaluation and final judgement. Most of the time, everyone around me agrees on this. Interesting. Especially when there is clear and irrevocable evidence that confirms that my memory and my perception do work.

Typical sequence of stress reactions

If my system then goes into overdrive because I feel powerless, desperate and angry, I first go into flight mode, then fight mode and finally freeze mode. Unfortunately, these all end up being destructive reaction patterns that do nothing to resolve the conflict and yet always work in the same way. It's as if I'm trapped in a microcosm with only four possible behaviours. In the end, of course, this feeling increases my hopelessness many times over.


Flight mode forces me to retreat - I no longer take part, no longer reply to messages and secretly hope that the other person will notice and finally show interest in me, question me, pay attention and come towards me a little. This is usually paired with passive-aggressive behaviour because I'm cold, snippy and reserved when I make contact - completely contrary to my usual way of communicating.


Fight mode comes into play when the other person starts to heap accusations, reproaches and allegations on me because they realise that I'm behaving differently, that their comfort is slowly disappearing and they get angry that I'm not speaking up. That's when I usually burst my bubble, because I felt I had repeatedly said what was wrong or assumed that the other person was aware of his different behaviour towards me and others and that he was also acting consciously. How can it be that everyone else is always more important, their opinions count more and they are always taken into consideration, whereas my needs go unheard, unseen and unheeded? It's a mystery that still hasn't quite made sense to me.

It also plunges me straight into self-doubt - have I not seen something, am I acting unfairly, is my perception really correct? Unbelievable... The other person immediately gets the "right" position and I go straight into freeze mode without any detours.


This puts the icing on the cake. At a certain point, I don't know what else I could add to the whole thing. From my point of view, everything has been said, any more words would only fuel the potential for conflict, throw me into deeper spirals of justification and make me feel even smaller and less worthy. And nobody understands my position anyway. If I then have 2 or more people in front of me, the case is over faster than I can look. No pause, no distance, no truce will help.

The relationships are then destroyed, broken and irreparably ended.

It's a shame, because all I really wanted was to be seen as I see others, to take an interest in them, to listen to them and simply be there. Because I want this kind of treatment and attention for myself so much. Instead, I end up alone again.

And here comes another realisation. If I am confronted with behaviour that I perceive as toxic, I also react toxically in return. The perpetrator then becomes a victim and I go from victim to perpetrator. A very perfidious and hopeless game. I try to convince the other person of my point of view and the rightness of my behaviour from my own perspective and am met with even more resistance and headwinds.

None of this makes any sense. Especially as I recently had the experience that after a few weeks, exactly my point of view, attitude and quintessence was reflected back to me as the other person's very own wisdom. I almost had to laugh and am grateful to the universe - because I have understood: There is absolutely no longer any reason to doubt my wisdom, clarity, self-awareness and connectedness in the slightest.

The others just need a little more time to recognise these connections for themselves.

So I practise patience and wait until this happens. In the meantime, I don't allow myself to be boxed in, devalued or put down as long as they don't know what they are actually complaining about. I can only sense their feelings of fear and their immense resistance to looking at their own issues. But honestly - that's really not my problem! I do sympathise though, because I've been there too and it felt really stupid. The courage and strength to jump and face my deepest abysses didn't suddenly appear overnight, but I worked hard and slowly.

I am all the more proud of that today.

So where is the way out?

The point behind all these behaviours is always not to want to look at our own part and to know that the question of guilt has been clarified for unconscious people. Conscious people know that it's not about guilt, but as someone who has already understood and clarified a lot of things, try discussing this with someone who is fully in their headspace and every sentence and thought that comes up is thoroughly unconscious. Then so many triggers are used, all waiting for further processing, that it's no wonder they are overwhelmed.

And we haven't yet talked about the deficits that each of us brings with us, how deep our own wounds sometimes go and how violently the imbalance that results from toxic behaviour affects us. Because in the end, it's all about the power imbalance. The other person can only take the power that I allow them to exercise.

Communication and Compassion are the key

In the end, it's all about communication again - clear, neutral and wise. It's about naming your own feelings without emotion, describing how you really feel and, if the hoped-for understanding doesn't materialise, sticking to your guns and withdrawing from the relationship. Because only with mutual understanding for each other is clarification possible at all. The benevolent will and the desire to allow the relationship to develop to a new level must be present on all sides. And it's not about convincing the other person to push through your point of view, but about understanding what the other person needs, how they really feel, in order to then open up and present your own point of view.

You must, you would have, ... if you had acted differently, ... always, never, everything, nothing ... are definitely the wrong approach! Not looking at the other person, continuing to show no interest in them, remaining silent and disregarding them are just signs that it really is time to leave.

My quintessence from the incidents in the past:

My feelings are right! I and my needs are important! I can and do stand up for myself! I am worth cultivating good and healthy relationships!

Immature and unconscious people have no place in my environment. Accusations, reproaches and accusations without opening up a little about the issue, looking at your part and then finding a good solution together are behaviours that I no longer tolerate in my life.

I have learnt an incredible amount and I am very grateful that I had to go through these experiences again so intensively.

Thank you for reading!



Coaching offers ideal support here to either take the first steps in conflict management and analysing one's own reaction structures or to directly implement new skills that enable and empower all those involved to learn to deal well and confidently with corresponding situations in relationships. Another option is to act as a mediator or observer and outline a neutral picture of the prevailing relationship patterns in the department or company and use this to provide insights and recommendations for action to the decision-makers.

Trusting that the best possible solution will be allowed to develop and be implemented.


Coaching can provide you with targeted support in overcoming upcoming challenges at every stage - internally in the team or as a leader in the company. Let's work out together how I can provide you in your individual situation with optimal support and customised assistance.

Contact me to take your next steps

Nicole Dildei Coaching

+49 157 58 267 427

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