How to Deal with Toxic Parents & Family Members
Have you experienced toxic relationships, either with parents, friends, or in relationships? Ever wondered exactly what characterizes a toxic person? Or, wished you knew how to get out of that situation, so you could experience a healthy, happy life?
If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place.
This week, we’re talking with Dr. Sherrie Campbell; a licensed psychologist, nationally recognized expert, and inspiring author. She is also a child of toxic parents.
This week, we’ll find out:
The difference between toxic and non-toxic people, and how to tell them apart
The lifelong effect that toxic relationships have on you
And how to start building back your confidence in the aftermath
When Sherrie Was Growing Up, She Thought She Was Crazy...
… she just couldn’t figure out why she was crazy. She knew everything was blamed on her, but she couldn’t pinpoint what she had done.
Throughout her childhood, Sherrie felt guilty, confused, obligated, surpressed, and wrong.
She would read literature about toxic and disfunctional families – and that information would validate a lot of what she was going through – but there was still no way out.
The research would tell her “you became this kind of person because of this,” and she’d think, “okay, super, but that doesn’t really solve my problem.”
The older she got, the clearer it became. She moved away, and began to heal. Then, she had her own child, and things became even more clear. She realized she had no choice. In order to be truly happy, she would have to cut ties.
And today, she is so glad she did.
But Wait… Just What Is a Toxic Person?
Let’s face it, we all have flaws. And yet, the characteristics of a toxic person are distinctly different from those of a healthy person.
A healthy person with a toxic trait will acknowledge that the trait exists, will feel bad if that trait comes out, and has the humility to own it and apologize.
A toxic person does not believe they have flaws, will never apologize, and always blames others for their faults.
Sherrie uses the word toxic to cover these major personality disorders:
All of these personality disorders have one thing in common: selfishness. They also all minimize the feelings of others, invalidate, rewrite history, insist they’re never wrong, and never apologize.
Toxic people thrive on two things:
They don’t care if that attention comes from you loving them, pleasing them, trying to make them happy, or if you’re berating them for their flagrant behavior – as long as all your thoughts are focused on them, they’re happy.
Most importantly, toxicisity is not fixable or changeable. And toxic people don’t manipulate only a select group of people. They manipulate everbody, every day.
Dosing on Hope, and Other Patterns...
In a toxic relationship, kindness is used for compliance.
In fact, toxic people use kindness to dope you up on hope. Toxic people know how to push you to your very lowest, and then they turn around, and they give you kindness to pull you back in.
At that point, you’re so low that the dose of hope lifts you way up. This abusive cycle keeps you stuck in the system, which is exactly what toxic people want.
They want you to feel stuck.
How do you who it’s the right time to cut off a toxic relationship?
The truth is, you will never know that it’s the right time. The toxic person in your life will never give you closure. You will always feel guilty, and you will always feel like it’s your fault.
That means the deciding has to come from you.
Frequently, victims get to a point where there is no other choice; and that all depends on our personal tolerance for pain. Sometimes, people work unconsciously towards that ending point for months or even years.
While it’s tempting to keep ties, remember that low contact and cordial contact tend to turn to drama too.
Still dependent on your family member? There are still strategies to make your life healthier...
If you’re under eighteen years old, and are financially dependent on a toxic parent, there are still steps you can take to minimize the impact that toxic parent has on your life.
Among the most natural things we do to cope in a toxic relationship?
When we’re pleasing because we need to cope, our mind and body know that we’re pleasing out of necessity and fear.
One of the most powerful changes you can make – right now?
Instead of pleasing a toxic parent out of necessity, choose to please as a strategy.
When you act because of a strategy, you don’t give your power away. You’re using the same coping skills, but you do it with awareness, instead of self-preservation.
How to deal with the challenge of cutting ties
Cutting ties with any toxic person is hard.
It’s hard enough separating from a toxic romantic partner, but cutting ties with toxic family can be completely terrifying.
And that’s not only because it’s frightening to be adrift in the world without family ties. But also, because toxic people will engage in something called separation abuse; a manipulative cycle of behavior where they continue to make themselves seem like the victim.
The toxic person will manipulate you when you are at your most vulnerable.
What do you do with separation abuse?
Simply don’t respond. Responding will increase the toxic person’s desire to get in touch with you. While, if you continue to ignore them, they will be forced to seek attention somewhere else.
All you have to do is to stop giving them the two things they want: attention and emotional reaction.
Remember, it’s not your responsibility to forgive.
Have you ever heard someone tell you that it’s your responsibility to forgive? Or that, by forgiving, you will liberate yourself?
Forgiveness can be tricky.
The myths of forgiveness turn us into a bad person for not forgiving something unforgiveable… for not forgiving a person who doesn’t want that forgiveness anyway.
Forgiveness is an act of mercy that we give to someone else because they’re sorry.
If that person isn’t sorry? Then forgiveness isn’t something we should give them.
Instead of forgiveness, let’s focus on acceptance.
While forgiveness is something you give to someone else, acceptance is something you do for yourself.
Accepting gives you power. You can accept that things are the way they are, and that the situation will not change. Then, you can take steps to remove yourself from the situation.
While accepting can – at first – be more painful than forgiving; we actually suffer the most when we can’t accept the reality the way it is.
Accepting can stop your suffering.
The dangers of continuing to stay in a toxic relationship
While leaving a toxic relationship can be a major hurdle, the dangers of staying in a relationship with a toxic person are perilous.
The stress system is on hyper alert, and you live in constant fight or flight state
Diseases like chronic fatigue, heart attacks, and depression are common
You suffer the complete loss of yourself, and of your driving purpose and passion
By staying in a toxic relationship, you have your life and your wealth and your health robbed from you.
What actions can you can take right now?
While toxic relationships are so hard to leave, leaving is actually the most powerful, life changing, transformative thing you can do today.
You have the right to be loved, you have a purpose, and you’re not alone.
You can also take these helpful steps:
See a highly-qualified therapist consistently
Get informed by reading books, finding experts, and conducting research
Clean house, and get rid of toxic friends
Redefine self love, engage in self care, and stay centered on you
Journal, journal, journal – each and every day
Connect, talk about it, find a purpose, and tell your story
And remember, there’s nothing better for your brain chemistry than exercise
As you heal, you will start to attract better, healthier people. And as you heal, so will your choices.
And so will the love you choose to keep.
Once you turn the light on to awareness, your life will transform more effortlessly than you might think, and you can love yourself the way you want. You are free, and liberation is a beautiful, beautiful process.