How to Deal with Toxic Family Members?
It is hardly possible to go through life without being part of a toxic relationship at least for a while. We all have that special person (a partner, a parent, a friend) who makes us feel guilty, inadequate and undeserving of love. Whatever goes wrong is always our fault. We never seem quite capable of living up to their expectations. No matter how hard we try, they are never pleased.
It takes a great deal of courage to break the vicious circle of shame, blame and guilt. Especially, if the abusive person is our parent, brother or partner. First of all it may be quite difficult to acknowledge that their intentions are not as noble as we would like to believe. They are our family after all. They were supposed to love us, not harm us.
So, here is how you can find out if you are part of a toxic relationship that needs to be reconsidered:
They criticise you excessively.
When you are around them, do you feel like you’re never good enough? Toxic people have that special ability to make you feel like a total failure. They humiliate you and undermine your confidence with sneaky comments. They feed your doubts and make you feel small and useless. If that is the case, maybe it’s time to reconsider their place in your life.
You can’t trust them.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to feel emotionally safe around toxic people. You are always alert when they are around, because if you dare to share something vulnerable or painful, it will ultimately be used against you. You know it from experience and you’d rather keep your problems to yourself: discussing them is too risky.
They are deep in denial.
One of the big troubles with toxic family members is not only that they are hurting you, but that they are denying passionately this fact. They are so deep in denial that you may start to question your feelings, your perceptions and your sanity.
It’s always about them.
Toxic people like to play the victim. It’s a working strategy they use in order to keep you around them. They manage to get your attention by always being in need of your emotional support. How you feel or what you want is irrelevant to them.
They try to control you.
One way to do that is through manipulation. The toxic person close to you knows your raw spots and knows how to use them. Control may come along masked as approval or criticism – whatever works best for you. Toxic people love to make others depend on them. It helps them feel powerful and in control.
If you find yourself lost in the toxic kind of relationship with a family member, know that there is always a way out. Here are some steps you can take in order to go through this difficult process:
1. Become aware.
The first step is to notice what is going on. Seeing the dynamics of your relationship, feeling its real impact on you, is crucial part of the healing process.
2. Tolerate the discomfort of loss and separation.
It is inevitably painful to leave the well known circle of shame and humiliation with a loved one. There will be plenty of anger, guilt, sadness and doubt. It is part of the price you pay in the struggle for your own well being.
3. It takes time to heal.
Give yourself time and space to cope the situation. Most toxic relationships are important part of our life because they include people like our parents or partners. Breaking up those bonds inevitably leaves us deeply scarred.
4. Dare to put yourself first.
Living with a toxic person often means putting our needs aside. One of the bravest things we can do is to start taking care of ourselves again.
5. Allow to be loved properly.
Once you regain your confidence and self-esteem, notice those other people in your life who make you feel good about yourself and who treat you with respect. This is the atmosphere which loving families provide. Dare to experience it.