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  • Writer's pictureTing-yi Huang

30 Red Flags of Toxic People

Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People by Jackson MacKenzie

In the last blog entry, we borrowed the wisdom from psychologist Dr. Lindsay Gibson in spotting emotionally mature people. In this book, we are going to take a look at 30 red flag signs of toxic people proposed by Jackson MacKenzie in his book Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People.

Before we go there, we might wonder why it is so important to identify emotionally mature people and toxic people. We go through our life journeys with some friendships and intimate relationships. Some of them work out and some don't. We could all be in a social or intimate relationship without a clear understanding of what consists of a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. Sometimes, we just feel "things are off," but we do not know why. Our live is so precious that we would want to devote our attention and energy to people that we value and also value us. Hence, it is very important to have a basic understanding of traits of emotionally mature and toxic people in helping us to create a healthy and supportive community around us.

It is commonly believed that true friends and true partner are the ones that would offer a hand when we are in challenging times. This alone does not complete the full picture. True friendships and partner are also the ones that would continue cheering for us when we are doing well in life. Why? Because everyone could feel good about themselves when offering a hand to someone in need of help, but not everyone could feel happy for their friends who are doing so well in life. The ability to continue being supportive and happy with friend's accomplishment, particularly when the person is not doing so well, is a true testimony of the person's integrity. This book talks about pointers on watching out for "emotional vultures," the toxic people who pray on people in need of help to fulfill their own ego. As much as we want to believe that people are generally kind, it is imperative to stay realistic about the existence of the emotional vultures. By educating ourselves about healthy and unhealthy traits of people around us, we are taking responsibility for creating a healthy surrounding for ourselves. Our mind, body, and spirit will blossom when our immediate surrounding is filled with emotionally healthy people.

So onto 30 red flags of toxic people:

1) Gaslighting and crazy-making

2) Cannot put themselves in your shoes, or anyone else's, for that matter

3) The ultimate hypocrite

4) Pathological lying and excuses

5) Focuses on your mistakes and ignores their own

6) You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man or woman

7) Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention

8) Accuses you for feeling emotions that they are intentionally provoking

9) You find yourself playing detective

10) You are the only one who sees their true colors

11) You fear that any fight could be your last

12) Slowly and steadily erodes your boundaries

13) They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem

14) They expect you to read their mind

15) You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you

16) An unusual number of "crazy" people in their past

17) Provokes jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence

18) Idealization, love-bombing, and flattery

19) Compares you to everyone else in their life

20) The qualities they once claimed to admire about you suddenly become glaring faults

21) Cracks in their mask

22) Easily bored

23) Triangulation

24) Covert abuse

25) Pity plays and sympathy stories

26) The mean and sweet cycle

27) This person becomes your entire life

28) Arrogance

29) Backstabbing gossip that changes on a whim

30) Your feelings...Your natural love and compassion has transformed into overwhelming panic and anxiety

Please see Jackson MacKenzie's book for a complete explanation of each of the thirty red flags. I personally like this book because it is very validating. It informs and normalizes the experiences and feelings that survivors of emotional abuse. If you suspect that you might be in a toxic relationship but feel clueless toward what you are dealing with and desparate to find clarity, please go to Jackson MacKenzie's website psychopathfree.com to take the quiz designed to help you to identify whether you are in a toxic relationship.


Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People. Jackson MacKenzie. (2015). New York: Berkley Books. (pp1-10).

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