Toxic Families is a subject upon which I am an expert and that is a sad fact. It doesn't have anything to do with time spent sloughing through psychology or sociology courses or spent learning to be a life counselor. My particular expertise is highlighted by multiple examples in my own life.
This is the time of the year when having a toxic family hurts more than most any other. Even the most balanced family can have spats or falling outs but a toxic one takes even the smallest slight to the extreme.
How can you deal with your toxic family at this time of year? Either you must allow yourself to be mistreated and just deal with it or you must stop enabling those who constantly deride you and put them out of your life. Once you take away the toxic person's power over you, your life can once again seek its balance. Sounds easy doesn't it? Well, it isn't.
First of all you have to learn to recognize the toxic person and his/her actions. You will have to analyze the motivations behind each action and decide whether or not you have the strength to deal with it on multiple occasions. If you find that you are targeted by more than one family member you will have to decide if being around this group of people is good for your mental health. No doubt you would like to discuss the problems you face with someone who will understand your side but is that really possible? Is there a person that will be open to hearing and LISTENING to your side of the equation?
Many toxic families have been built over decades and cannot even exist without at least one target. When I reference this I usually preface it by stating that the largest instances of toxic family relationships is usually found within old Southern families. Families of the old South have always been closed when it comes to family interactions and relationships.
Children of the South learn at an early age that family secrets are to be kept inside and never allowed to see the light of day in the outside world. They are often taught that the adults (think ELDERS of the TRIBE)know the TRUTH about everything and that they should blindly believe every word that comes from the adults' mouths. This can lead to a web of lies that is so convoluted that it is impossible to find the real truth of any story. In the South it is not only impolite to "air one's dirty laundry in public" but it is a "hanging offense". The penalty for divulging a family secret is not hanging, of course, but instead is ostracism from the family unit. Many times, the young people who refuse to blindly follow their family elders are the target of family gossip and lies just so that they will be discredited to other family members as well as anyone in the public who might hear the story and believe it. This type of indoctrination is more common that you would think in this enlightened age. It is a punishment that has a permanent effect on the target and has even been found to cause a type of PTSD that causes medical and mental problems.
Is there a family member (or multiple family members) who consistently tells lies about you or another family member? Does he/she make up stories about you or the other person that denigrates that person, makes him/her appear to be a liar, cheat, uncaring person? The lies told by the toxic member usually have a basis that no one else suspects and it has little or nothing to do with the target.
The best thing you can do is to eliminate this person from your life. If you still feel some loyalty to your family and want to spend time with them over the holidays, you will have to close your ears to the insults and keep your lips closed from refrains. Just remember that these are the people who have tried to destroy you for their own reasons. The main person who began the lies is the one you have to stay totally away from but if there are others who have believed the lies and perpetrated them then they should be eliminated from your life,also. It is difficult but for your own mental health you have to do this if you cannot shield your self mentally from the lies. Do not allow toxic relationships to alter the way you deal with life.
Replace the toxic people in your life with people who have only your best interests at heart. Do not allow their words to cause you pain. Remember that you are NOT the person you have been made out to be. YOU know the truth. Live it and let the others have to live with what has been done.
Make a list of why you feel you need the toxic person or people in your life. What purpose do they serve? Write down how the person makes your life better. How does the person make it worse. Is there anything you can do to change the person's strategy and treatment of you?
Decide if you really have a need to prove to other people that the toxic person is lying about you or do you just feel the need to prove to yourself that you are NOT like the person says.
Susan Vereen is a freelance writer and life coach with a Christian counseling background. She deals with toxic family relationships.