Disconnecting from Toxic Family Members

A common goal of my clients at the beginning of every new year is “Disconnecting from Toxic Family Members”.

Here is my advice for them:

TOXIC PEOPLE ARE NOT FIXABLE SO DON’T TRY. The way toxic people act is because of an internal struggle they bear inside of themselves but is taken out on those around them, or their target.

It is not your place to “fix” them, and they often have no idea why they feel the way they do, do the things they do, and hurt the people they hurt. Yet, they continue to do it; this in no way makes what they do justifiable.

There are also those toxic people with personality disorders who understand what their heinous words and actions do to others, but find their behavior defensible. Of course, it never really is, but in their minds they will always find a way to justify the means.

Toxic individuals are aware of the chaos they create around them. Some do so intentionally, others may be good people who do not know how to exist in the world without forcing others (you) to compromise their (your) happiness to their infliction.

Toxic people create drama and live in a world of negativity. They are essentially addicted to the drama – the negativity – the toxicity. When life is calm, it is disorienting so it doesn’t last long. Creating an argument, or turning a tiny issue into a huge verbal battle, is sure to bring their unhappy world and mindset right back. SO, take a hard look and decide for yourself if you can tolerate their behavior for a lifetime – because it will likely never go away… OR if its time to make your own well-being a priority.

This may mean that you distance yourself from this person by spending less time with them, not sharing personal information, or disconnecting entirely – temporarily or permanently.

YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO CREATE A HEALTHY (& HAPPY) LIFE FOR YOURSELF and there will come a time when you say, “enough is enough.” You are a person who deserves to be treated with love and respect. You cannot possibly grow if the sunshine is always being snuffed out by a raging storm.

You will not love yourself or live a positive, flourishing life – a life you absolutely deserve – in the wake of a toxic person who purposefully hurts you and keeps you from true happiness.

TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT YOU ALLOW: these toxic individuals often manipulate, lie, are passive-aggressive, hurtful, or physically abusive, yet continue to act this way because you allow it in your life.

What are you doing to stand up for yourself and to stop the way they treat you? How do you react when they disrespect and hurt you? What is the toxic person’s reaction when you choose to stand up to them? When you confront a toxic person, do not expect it to go smoothly. 

Because they often take your distance as a personal attack, an insult if you will, or rejection, you will often see manipulation at it’s finest. A family member will often play the victim and try to corral other family members against you because they feel you have hurt them. They may use their emotions to influence other family members and isolate you, and they may treat you harshly in return. It is common to expect lies, victim stories with you being the “bad guy”.

Toxic people will often flat out lie about what you have gone through and why you are disconnecting from them. They will usually make up new stories to disarm your interpretation of the truth and will seek to redirect the indictments they feel you are accusing them of. Again, to make them appear to be the victim.

The things the toxic person says, what those around her will say to you and accuse you of may make you feel like the crazy person. Know that the redirection is just another manipulation to make you question the validity of your claims, recollection of your account of events, and even question your own emotions. You may even feel that you are crazy, overreacting, or dramatic.

Do not question yourself. You have every right to stand up for your well-being, for your emotions, and for your sanity. It does not matter if it’s a family member or a friend, you do not have to tolerate toxic behavior when it affects your well being.

NO KIND OF ABUSE IS EVER TOLERABLE. Anyone who physically hurts another is likely breaking the law and there are consequences for their actions. If someone if emotionally manipulating, bullying and abusing you, know that you deserve better and that it’s OK to let go and walk away – whether from your parents, siblings, adult children, or another family member

No amount of love, forgiveness, guilt, grief or prayer will fix a person who is broken and purposefully hurting another (you) because of the rush they get from inflicting chaos and pain. The person you need to save is yourself.

Practicing self-love and self-care every day will feel like a new concept, but over time, you week see and feel it was the right step towards a new and fulfilling life.

The time it takes to heal from walking away from a toxic person may be swift but other times, it can take years and cycles of anger, grief, sadness, relief and finally contentment. The human mind likes to know “why” but trying to find the ‘why’ to the actions of a toxic person is usually a fruitless journey. It is one you will inevitably try to figure out for yourself, but in order to let go, you must be okay in likely never knowing those answers. Don’t give your personal power to trying to figure it out, that only serves to prevent the healing of your “scars”.

They have no justification for the way they are and the things they do and cope with the fact you aren’t like them. Are you prepared to let go – temporarily or permanently – and are you prepared for the fallout from potentially other family members or friends? How do you know when to walk away from family? Are you ready to start letting go of family?

Will you be able to continue to remind yourself that YOU are valuable when you are cycling through the stages of letting go? When you feel like giving in and picking up (or answering) your phone, can you be strong enough to know that the journey is long and hard, and each time you want to give in, it WILL get easier?

The way you feel is important and, if this is the journey you choose to take and in all the loneliness and heartbreak of it, know that you are not alone – there is support. More importantly, there are so many people like you who have chosen to be incredibly brave and embark on the path of their own happiness, just like you.

TOP 7 REASONS PEOPLE TERMINATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS:

1). When the relationship is based in any kind of abuse, mentally, physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally. When the relationship is based in manipulation, overt or covert, you can be sure you are being used and abused. When you are living in constant anxiety never knowing or being able to predict how any engagement is going to turn out, it is time to love yourself enough to let go.

2). When the only contact you have with them is negative. The contact you have with them serves to bring you down, put you down and/or make you feel you are not good enough, or you haven’t done enough for them.

3). When the relationship creates so much stress that it affects the important areas of your life at work, home or both. When your emotions are totally caught up in defending yourself and wanting to explain yourself, and the chaos of your relationships with these people is all you talk about, it is time to let go.

4). If you find yourself trying to right the wrong’s (gossip they told about you), and you are constantly being ostracized to the point you lose sleep over it, you have been poisoned with their toxicity. Gossip only serves one family member, the one telling it. Yet you can be left feeling defenseless against the false beliefs about yourself. There is usually a ring leader gathering the troops for the assault and because they are joined together, you begin to wonder whether it is you who has or is the problem.

5). When the relationship is completely all about the other person and there is no real reason why the other person cannot make any effort toward the health and maintenance of the relationship with you. One sided relationships are set up for your failure. When you realize there is never going to be an “enough” place for you to reach in the relationship, you need to let go and start to focus on your own healing. Remember you should never be more invested in someone’s life than they are.

6). When and whether the relationship is only about borrowing, or needing money.

7). When crazy-making, no-win games dominate the relationship (ie: silent treatment, blame-games, no-win arguments that spin around on you), there is no point in continuing in this battle. Verbal warfare is never the place you will convince them of anything and these kinds of verbal interactions are set up to be their way or the highway.

One CLASSIC sign of a conversation or piece of advice going nowhere is when your well-intended help is met with “Yeah, but…”. 

10 SIGNS YOU HAVE A TOXIC FAMILY MEMBER:

1). You Feel Sad And Down Around Them

2). You Feel Angry Around Them

3). You Don’t Want To Go See Them

4). You Find Yourself Having To Take Care Of Them

5). You Feel Drained Around Them

6). You Feel Numb Around Them

7). You Can’t Say Anything Right Around Them

8). You Feel Forced To Be Around Them

9). You Feel Unlike Yourself Around Them

10). You Feel Like They Control The Relationship

Unlike healthy relationships, which have highs and lows, and struggles now and then, a toxic relationship is poison to the people involved. The excuse of “being blood” or “being family” is no excuse. Families should be safe havens for the people within them, a shelter of love, hope, support, and affection in a vast world.

** BENEFITS OF LOW OR NO CONTACT? **

Aside from no longer putting yourself in the path of constant maltreatment, you will likely enjoy:

~~ A sense of peace (all the jitters of constantly expecting an emotional ambush will be gone.)
~~ A sense of empowerment (for the first time, you may be protecting yourself.)
~~ A sense of being a real grown-up (no longer having your life dictated by anyone else (ie: toxic parents)
~~ Freedom (to make your own choices)
~~ Holidays you can enjoy (without the drama, the demands, the painful interactions)
~~ A sense of being more authentically “you”
~~ A better use of time (in doing what you want)
~~ Growing more comfortable in your skin
~~ Discovering new facets of your personality which were buried under the toxicity.
~~ New fulfilling relationships with emotionally healthy people
~~ Joy in being untethered (emotionally)
~~ A voice that speaks the truth
~~ A voice that says what you don’t like, what you do, what hurts you, what gives you joy—all without fear of repercussions
~~ A better view of the world (and less feeling like the world is going to ambush you with its demands, pains, and abuse)

Some of these benefits will come immediately from putting a halt to the toxic relationships while other benefits, such as finding one’s voice and living without a notion of guilt, may take time and even therapy…

People who come out of deeply toxic relationships often have a form of PTSD, so the movement from feeling run over and emotionally exhausted to feeling happy can take time, patience, and support. Be sure not to rush it and to nuture yourself.

BOTTOM LINE? Choose You. Choose Happiness and Peace. Choose Your Emotional Well-Being.