Toxic Family Member: 5 Steps to Help You Heal

We cannot always distance ourselves from all the people who drain our strength. You can read here what steps can help in dealing with them in such cases.

A closeness that crushes us, a suffering that hurts us, a behavior that humiliates and hurts us. There are many ways in which people can harm us, especially when they are close to us. Most of the time they do it without meaning it or meaning it. Whether it is our mother who wants to patronize and control us, even though we have long since grown up and have already spoken to her about it several times. Or our father, who doesn’t see that he has a problem and refuses any help. Or our sister who gaslights us and makes us feel guilty just for existing. These and other dynamics often arise in families, even when everyone is doing their best and loving each other.

Sometimes people can then decide to break off a relationship. Sometimes they can find a way to work together on the problems and make a change. And sometimes neither is an option – which presents those involved with the challenge of dealing with the situation.

In a blog post for Psychology Today, therapist Sarah Epstein described five steps that can help you cope with stressful relationships. Some of these can be transferred from the family environment to other social contexts, such as work or circle of friends. After all, we can find ourselves confronted with people everywhere who bother us. And rarely can we completely avoid them, change them or escape them.

Toxic Family Member: 5 Steps to Help You Heal

Mourning the idea that will never become reality

Whether of ourselves, our lives or our relationships, we have expectations, wishes and ideals of how they should be. We want a mother who we can confide in without her judging us, a father who supports us, a sister who stands by us unconditionally. The further reality is from our ideals, the harder it can be to let go of them and face reality. According to Sarah Epstein, it is necessary to allow ourselves to mourn the fantasy that we will never experience. When we grieve, we acknowledge a loss, in this case the loss of the relationship we longed for, which is the prerequisite for accepting things as they are. And react to it.

Adjust your own behavior towards the person

If we have a relationship with a person who doesn’t change, the only way we can improve is by changing. For example, if we are used to always holding back and silently listening to accusations or accusations, we could try contradicting them and explaining our point of view. If we put our wishes aside by default, we could specifically express them at the next opportunity. We don’t have to keep playing the role that others have put us in and in which they want to see us and keep us. It’s hard to break the patterns you’ve learned and do something different. But it is possible. And sometimes it can mean more than we realize.

Trust your own perception

Certainly our perspective and interpretation never reflect reality. But it has a justification. When we feel like we are treated like a doll by our mother or humiliated by our brother, we are not imagining these feelings. We don’t exaggerate, we’re not overly sensitive people. There are or were triggers. We can trust ourselves and our feelings. This does not mean that we have to think that our perception is the only correct and possible one, but it is a correct and possible one.

Join forces with other family members

A family member who burdens us does not have to be a reason for us to withdraw from the entire family unit. On the contrary, according to Lisa Epstein, it can be particularly helpful to develop relationships with other people in the family, people who may even share and know our problems with that person. At first glance, directing ourselves and our energies towards other family members doesn’t necessarily improve our difficult relationship. However, it can give us strength and – despite individual sore points – strengthen our sense of family.

Relying on relationships outside the family

Our family is usually not our only social community that can give us support. Whether it’s a circle of friends, a book club, a choir or a church group, if we can’t develop in our family, don’t feel accepted and loved, according to Lisa Epstein, it’s even more important that we maintain other networks. That we develop relationships with people who give us the chance and help us break out of the role our family has assigned us. We can’t choose where our roots lie. But we can at least have a little influence on how we grow.

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