It is easy to cut ties with toxic people but do you deal with it when it comes to a toxic family situation? Often, you don’t come across many options to choose. Of course, you can scream, cry and even react the same way they did, but how will that help your situation? As someone who grew up with a toxic parent, I can vouch on the frustration that grows gradually over the years; however, I choose to better and not bitter. It is easy to act according to their action; the control they imposed on you and all the constant taunting that comes with it is nothing but mentally exhausting. Before we dive further into this topic, I want to explain further on the term “toxic family member”.
How to know if you are dealing with a toxic family member? Every family has their conflict and constant argument, which is expected since it is a dynamic filled with people of different personalities. However, if being at home brings out the worst in you, your family is threading toxic nature. Some might deal with a toxic family member, some deal with multiple toxic family members, and everyone in your family could be toxic in the worst-case scenario. One of the red flags is when they compare you to someone else; it could be your siblings, cousins and even neighbours. You are your person, and you can choose to do what makes you happy; they should support your decisions rather than condescending. One of the other red flags is when they keep picking at your faults even if it is the tiniest one, over and over again for no good reason.
If you are already familiar with this, then read further as I share three major things I did while dealing with a toxic family situation. I have not cut the cord entirely yet slowly removing the knots and take back my power.
Become Independent And Self-Sufficient.
Move out of that place. You will not thrive in an area that keeps pushing you down because no matter how much you try, the outcome will only be bare minimum due to the lack of motivation. We need unconditional love and support to move further, and the toxic environment is nowhere close to being helpful.
If you are studying, give your best because this is your golden ticket to your freedom. Once you have graduated, you can apply for jobs out of your city or within your city, based on your convenience but start planning for your moving out plan. Save enough resources, find a place and move out. It will not be an easy route; it wasn’t easy for me either, but everything else will be more comfortable when you have accomplished this part.
If you have parents that do not respect your boundaries, they will use money as a weapon to target on you as they are still providing it. To break free from their control, you will need to take away what allows them to do so, and once you have moved out, they will lose a significant amount of power because you are now self-sufficient. You will eventually understand how space can do wonders, and yes, freedom brings in the sense of being responsible for taking care of yourself, but with freedom, you also get a chance to start anew.
Find Support Elsewhere.
The last person you want to approach when you are going through a hard time is your toxic parents. They are the same parent(s) that judge you on the tiniest mistake hence expecting them to be empathy is equivalent to daydreaming. The truth hurts, but you will need to accept it for you to grow as a person.
Outsource your support system, and it can be a partner, friends, counsellor and even co-workers that you trust and can lean on in times when you need it. Your body releases oxytocin for a reason; it releases a chemical that allows you to seek help from people you trust when you are at your breaking point, hence always having someone you can call to help you out is advisable.
You might have unapproachable parents, but that doesn’t mean you will not be able to confide with someone out of your family line. Blood is indeed thicker than water, but at times, friends can be more like family than your family itself.
Recognize The Trait That Makes You An Easy Target.
A personal evaluation is required to understand the traits that make you an easy target. Is it because you seem to be timid in their eyes? Or that your inability to speak up for yourself? Most toxic family members target those who accept the abuse without arguing or speaking out for themselves.
What gives more power to the abuser than their victim, allowing it to happen? I am not victim-blaming here, but I am stating the common traits that toxic parents look for while targeting their “favourite” child to taunt.
Once you have figured this out, you might work on this on your own gradually or seek help from a therapist. Once you reserved this trait and learned how to stand for yourself, you ask for the respect that you deserve from the very beginning. Once you know how to stand on the ground firmly, you are taking your power back, and they might not want to mess with you again. And even if they continue doing that, it will not bother you as much as it did because you know you are the better person.
Don’t Believe The Intermittent Reinforcement.
Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals, a method that has been determined to yield the greatest effort from the subject. The subject does not receive a reward each time they perform a desired behavior or according to any regular schedule but at seemingly random intervals.
It is a technique that often toxic family member, especially the parents, to confuse you. You will often find yourself confused with their reactions, I mean they have been mean to you in the past, but suddenly, they are nice to you. This action might make you believe that they have changed or trying their best to make it up to you, and when you are comfortable, their old self returns.
I have experienced this many times and started imagining that things will change. I will have a better relationship with my mother but always left heartbroken when she returns to her normal taunting behaviour. However, I stopped hoping for this to happen because I know it is impossible. I began to understand that there is no consistency in a toxic parent, and I don’t want to ride along with the emotional roller coaster with her.
You can be an optimistic person like I am, but sometimes you will need to understand that there will be an underlying reason for someone who has treated you bad to show a sign of change suddenly. Look for the explanation and understand it before jumping into a conclusion. I am not saying that people cannot change, but I know that it will be difficult for someone who is so used to their behaviour, change overnight.
Keep Minimum Communication.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to have as little communication as possible. You don’t have to avoid them, but if you can stay away to prevent unwanted conflict, do it. You think being in the same room as that person but not talking can reduce the drama, but it is not always the case. You can control your action, but you will not be able to control theirs. Going in the same direction, you cannot promise that you can stop yourself from reacting to their action.
If this person is trying to contact you via text and call, you can always ignore it; yet I had experienced another thing when I moved out. My mother was no longer able to taunt me face to face, so she started sending me messages via WhatsApp, text messages, and continuously calling me beyond frustrating. In the beginning, I was still in fear of her hence I used to reply her messages and answer her phone calls, but quickly realize she was only doing this because my mother began to realize that she is slowly losing control over me. From my end, I knew I had to block her for some time because I didn’t want to stay in the same mind space as I once did while living under the same roof.
The whole taunting stopped, and my mother got off my back. However, every time I return home for a holiday, she would start all over again, but I remind myself that I have my own space now and choose to go back anytime I feel uncomfortable. And I did exactly that.
Forgive but don’t forget.
Last but not least, forgive them but don’t forget what they have done to you. As someone who endured physical and verbal abuse for most of my life; it is difficult to forgive the person that put you through the hard times that you don’t deserve in the first place. But, you will need to forgive them for what they did, not for them but your peace of mind.
Forgiving doesn’t come easy, and letting it go happens gradually. You don’t have to carry this burden anymore, and gracious will lift it off your shoulder. However, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. You remember what they did, and you will always be aware of what they are capable of doing but at the same time, you dwelling in what happened.
Doing any of the suggested actions doesn’t make you the bad child but just another adult trying to stay away from all the toxicity derived from your very own family. You are doing it for your good and personal growth.
You are not alone in this journey. Many children grew up in similar homes and looking for answers to deal with this situation. Searching for their freedom and start a life where they are allowed to be themselves and more importantly, being genuinely happy. You are more than all of it; All the experiences, and all the bad memories. Your upbringing doesn’t imply who you are as an adult and how you will be in your future family.