Do you have a family member that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth?
Does being around insufferable Aunt Sheila leave you feeling emotionally drained?
Are you tired of being the bigger person because that’s just how “so and so” is?
Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions then you’ve come to the right place.
Step 1 – Grow up with a toxic family
Step 2 – Move out and start a new family
I couldn’t help but pepper in a bit of dark humour. On a more serious note I do hope this piece offers some comfort if you are burdened with a dysfunctional family.
What toxic family members may look like?
You know that gripping fear you get when you receive a phone call from that one family member because you know whatever it is will turn into a colossal argument that will leave you miserable for at least a month? I am pleased to report you are not the only one.
- They believe they are above reproach – Toxic family members believe rules don’t apply to them and they can say whatever they want to you regardless of how vicious or unkind it could be.
- Inability/failure to apologize – They are always right and you are always well, not.
- Constant thirst for drama – They thrive off sowing conflict between family members.
- Serial gas lighters – They make you feel bad about feeling bad in other words you should not take offense when they say anything offensive. They believe the hurtful things they say, “build character”.
Speaking of things that are detrimental to your mental well-being, take my family for example:
“If I never see her again, I will be overjoyed, she is a filthy pig, it is a possibility that she is bewitched, she is a completely useless individual who will amount to nothing”.
This is an extract from an email I received from my uncle, after I resigned from the “family business”. Following this incident, I was told that he said all these things out of love. So that’s how we are justifying name calling and bullying these days. I guess I can’t call it emotional abuse because we share blood. I mean he did get me a pair of socks last Christmas so he is incapable of being a toxic human being.
I am in no way trying to throw shade at my relative but this is just to show how some families like mine are guilty of enabling problematic behaviour and dubbing it all sorts of nonsensical things like care and love.
Do you know where the danger is?
If you don’t heal from scars emanating from your family you end up becoming just like them. Worst case scenario you carry the hurt like daggers in your heart slowly chipping away at your happiness.
How to choose your mental health over family
Unfortunately, there’s no amount of therapy in the world that could change a toxic family member. However, you can ensure whatever they do ricochets off you.
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self confidence.” – Robert Frost
- Create boundaries – put your needs above theirs. It is your right to protect your peace.
- Limit contact – They can’t hurt you if they do not have access to you.
- Do not engage – This is probably the hardest thing to do as it requires a lot of restraint but with enough practice you can learn to tune out all the vile things said to you.
- Create a solid support system – Blood is supposedly thicker than water but sometimes it isn’t, lean on your friend groups, get a puppy, whatever is it that brings you an inkling of refuge, do it
- Evaluate their value in your life – if it calls for it, cut them off completely especially if they are violent or threaten your life
“A toxic person is the product of a toxic environment themselves” – there is nothing wrong with you, how they feel about you is not a reflection of who you are.
If you or a friend are in this predicament You are not alone and I’m sorry you do not feel safe around people you’d expect to have your back. You can create your own tribe that isn’t connected to you by blood. Do not let them see you sweat You do not have to deal with their venomous personalities despite the amount of times you are reminded of your blood ties. They can still be your brother or your cousin from the curb. You do not need permission from anyone to put yourself first.