Toxic People

by Joyce Faulkner

One of my favorite books is Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. And one of my all-time favorite movies is Hitchcock's 1940 version of Rebecca. It's about a young woman who meets an older man...Max DeWinter...while on holiday. She knows that he is a widower but has no idea about the dynamics of his earlier relationship when she agrees to marry him.

He brings her home to "Manderly" -- a marvelous old English estate on a cliff overlooking the sea. There, she is introduced to Mrs. Danvers --the housekeeper. Mrs Danvers is rigid and standoffish. Later on, the young woman finds out that Mrs. Danvers came to Manderly with Rebecca, the first Mrs. DeWinter...who drowned in the bay near Manderly ...a little more than a year before our heroine became the second Mrs. DeWinter. While Mrs. Danvers is dignified and cool, she seems aggressive ...almost cruel. The young bride is intimidated and afraid of her.

At one point, Mrs. Danvers manipulates the young wife into a situation where she angers her new husband and is publically humiliated. The young woman runs for her room but when she does, she sees Mrs. Danvers -- satisfied by her cruelty--going into the first Mrs. DeWinter's room which overlooks the sea. Hurt and angry, the bride decides to confront Mrs. Danvers.

This is the scene that follows--and it is case study of "Emotional Abuse" and manipulation.

I remembered this scene when as a younger woman, I let myself be manipulated in a similar way. Although I did recognize it and cut all ties with my toxic "friend," it was shocking to realize that such people do exist and take pleasure in their cruelty. She wanted me to doubt myself and others. She wanted me to feel pain. She wanted to see me cry.

With Mrs. Danvers in this movie, it's clear that she took pleasure in "messing" with the young woman's insecurities. In the case of my "friend," I realized years later that she wanted something I had--something that could not actually be stolen. Understanding that made me more sympathetic to her issues -- but not enough to keep her in a position to hurt me again. The experience made me wary of "toxic" people -- those folks who are so hollow inside that the only thing that fills that hole...even if just for a moment...is finding and poking at another person's most tender spots.

Real friends lift you up, not tear you down.

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