This article on dealing with a toxic family is part two of a series and it assumes that you have read my previous article on toxic families where I outline various ideas that are important to understand if you are dealing with a toxic family. If however, you have read other pages on my site and you are familiar with psychopaths, mind control and pseudopersonalities, then you can read on. I still recommend reading the first part at some stage.
Here I am going to assume that the toxic family members we are dealing with are psychopaths, sociopaths or narcissists.
To come up with a solution, it's necessary to define the problem. Likewise in dealing with a toxic family we have to put a framework in place, we have to establish the conditions within which we are working.
The first thing is that, if we are dealing with personality disorders, the arena in which we are working is different. The way we approach things has to be different. The rules are different. The normal rules of society no longer apply. If you try and deal with toxic relationships as you would with any other relationship, you will lose. It's as simple as that.
So let's look at some of the things we have to keep at the forefront of our minds at all times.
These people are manipulators. Their relationships are based on deceit, coercion and intimidation in order to control others.
They are practiced liars. Unless you have concrete evidence of what they say, you cannot believe a word out of their mouths.
They have no sense of obligation or responsibility. They will break promises at the most inopportune time for you. They will not fulfill their commitments. Their apologies mean nothing. And they are never upset at not paying bills, not returning loans or flaking out on other financial commitments.
You can't negotiate with them. They will promise you the sun, the moon and the stars. And then they will just go and do whatever suits themselves anyway.
They will not change. Giving them more love, energy, time, attention will not get them to change. They can be very convincing when they say they have learnt from their mistakes and that they will change. It's a lie. They won't.
Just because they are family does not mean they love you. These people are incapable of love as normal, healthy, feeling people know it. They can say the words, 'I love you' but their actions are definitely not the actions of a person who loves another.
These people live by a different set of rules. Their rules benefit them.
They have a different set of rules for everyone else. They expect you to live by these rules and they will abuse you when you don't. They will change these rules unexpectedly and without telling you and they expect you to know about the changes. If you don't keep up, they will abuse you.
They are also way more sly, devious, cruel and callous than you could ever be.
These people are not upset by the pain and suffering of others. They can do any amount of damage and it does not bother them.
With these things in mind, lets have a look at what won't work and what will work...
There is much written about how you need to set boundaries, do things to build up your self-esteem, be assertive, stand up to the abuser, tell the toxic person that what they are doing is hurtful and explain how you want to be treated, stay out of the way when you know there is going to be trouble, practice meditation and other ways to be understanding and accepting, take control of your own happiness, accept their limitations, don't take it personally.
If you are reading this, you know that these things don't work. If the people who write these things are actually practicing them, then they are still being abused by their toxic family members.
The fact is that psychopaths know how to make their hurtful comments very personal.
If you set a limit or a boundary they ain't gonna be told what they can or cannot do. They see it as a personal challenge to see how quickly and in how many ways they can tear it asunder. They are so much better at destroying limits and boundaries than your pseudopersonality will ever be at putting them in place.
And you can't avoid them 'now and again'. They will find a way to mess with you. They will send you messages through other people. They will trick others into guilting you into doing things.
As for telling them that what they are doing is hurtful... The reason they do the hurtful things is to hurt you. It's deliberate. They do it on purpose because they already know it hurts you. Telling them why it hurts you will just give them more information about how to make the abuse more personal!
Accepting these people, understanding them and loving them because they are family only sets you up for more abuse.
As for taking control of your own happiness, these people are the experts at control. Every time they see you happy, they do something to destroy the moment. They have such profound control over your life that unless you learn specifically all the ways they are influencing you, you can never hope to be able to take that control back. They have so many strings they can pull and so many buttons they can push you probably are not even aware of half of them!
The only thing that works is to learn about psychopaths, narcissists and mind control. The only way you can hope to stop the abuse is to understand how specifically they are abusing you so that you become impervious to it. Once you can see the manipulation technique, the effect of it decreases considerably.
This is not as easy as it sounds. For example, it does not mean that learning about psychopaths will allow you to live happily with them. The manipulators are going to manipulate. If you spend time with them, they will continue to treat you badly. Being subjected to psychological abuse on a daily basis will take a toll on you, irrespective of how much you know about it.
What happens, though, is that as people learn about psychopaths and mind control, they become very intolerant of abuse and their natural inclination is to move away from the abusers. Understanding how the manipulators put the pseudopersonality in place means that the pseudopersonality disappears. The beliefs that were imposed on you disappear, the behavior patterns disappear, the influences on your decision making disappear. You can now see more clearly the reality of the situation. The dependency on the psychopath disappears. You come to terms with the fact that this person does not love you and is, in fact, doing you a lot of harm, stealing your life away and basically trying to make you something else.
The beliefs that kept you locked into the situation are replaced with others that serve you.
For example, the psychopaths often force ideas on the victims about what 'family' means. Society also has rules about families: You should respect your parents, you should love them, you should love your brothers and sisters, you have to take care of your parents in old age, family is always first.
The psychopath may distort societies rules for their own benefit or they may add their own special ones. Either way, the rules make it difficult for family members to break away from their psychopathic family member.
Difficult, but not impossible. Many people do, of course, break away. They leave parents or a sibling and have nothing more to do with them. But these people often have internal conflicts over it. Part of them knows they had to get away for the sake of their own sanity but a part of them also feels guilty about not having a relationship with their family, because 'that's what you are supposed to do'.
When these people learn about psychopathy and narcissism and the implications, including the possibility of managing the situation with different rules, that internal conflict is resolved. The person can decide what 'family' means for them instead of having to accept the narcissist's definition of it. They often come to realize that their psychopathic father, for example, was not behaving like a dad or a father. The relationship with him was not a father/son or father/daughter relationship. It was something else entirely. Then, and only then, can the victim be clear about what was actually going on, about the reality of their situation.
When the person decides for themselves what kind of relationship it really was, then they have other options.
For example, realizing that the relationship with the toxic family member was based on oppression or sexual domination or whatever, then the person can decide how to deal with such a thing. The rules governing how to deal with a father no longer apply, for example, because this person may have been a biological father but at no time did he act like one. He acted like an abusive bully so it's now fair to treat him as such.
The son can see that this person never loved him, never cared for his well being and now he can deal with that instead of having to manage the jumble of ideas that used to be present in his head. He can now decide, for example, that he owes his abuser nothing. There is no obligation to take care of this abuser when he is older. That just would not make sense. There is no obligation to communicate with the abuser about anything, or indeed, to have the abuser in his life. Again, that would be nonsensical from this clearer vantage point.
While education is fundamental, there are other things to keep in mind.
Stopping the abuse is very important, too. That usually means separating from the abuser in one way or another. I know that in families it's not easy. But lots of people do it, and you can, too. Being continually subjected to abuse means that the victim's recovery is hampered. When a woman has to have contact with her abusive ex-husband because of the children, for example, it takes her longer to recover than if there is no contact at all.
Going no contact is very difficult initially, especially if the pseudopersonality is very strong. This is because of the dependency of the pseudopersonality on the abuser. You can read more about this idea in this article about abusive husbands. Sometimes people have to study to get rid of the pseudopersonality in order to reduce the dependency before they can even consider separating from the abuser. Sometimes a victim needs to just get out and pick up the pieces later. Situations where there is physical or sexual abuse, or there is a risk of being killed, often require the victim to leave quickly even though the drive to be with the abuser can be very strong.
This dependency also explains why battered wives go back to their husbands. They feel so bad when they more away that the only way to alleviate the psychological pain and torment is to return to him.
In terms of dealing with a toxic family, it is obvious the amount of contact is very significant because any contact allows for further abuse. Some people choose to have limited contact with the toxic family member. It could be one hour a week, one hour a month or even a couple of hours once a year during some holiday. The important thing here is that the ex victim decides themselves what they are going to do.
However, while the pseudopersonality is in place making one's 'own' decision is practically impossible. The victim is still heavily influenced by the abuser and all the obligations of society are still in play (you should have a relationship with your family).
The situation changes once the pseudopersonality is gone and the person understands societies rules and decides whether to use them or not. Then they are free of obligation and 'duty'. When they decide from this position, then they are truly making their own decision and whatever they decide, it's much easier for them to cope. That is to say, it's easy to tolerate an hour a month with an abusive family member if you are deliberately choosing it than if you are dragging yourself along because you feel you have to go but inside you are screaming that you really don't want to.
Another important factor is that getting rest and relaxation is vital, especially if you have to stay in the abusive environment. Sleep deprivation means that a person is unable to resist mentally and it makes a person very vulnerable to being manipulated.
And even when you leave the abusive situation, you are going to need rest. Toxic environments are high stress situations. You will need to take it easy for some time. Initially when you get away, it feels like a relief. Soon afterwards, the pseudopersonality begins to cause problems because you are away from the abuser. It takes a lot of energy and effort to deal with these things, too.
You are going to need help in dealing with a toxic family. Going it alone is very, very difficult. Get help from friends and other family members if you can. If anyone has already left your family and has little or no contact, they obviously have recognized what was going on. Even if your relationship with them is not good, it's often worth approaching them and discussing what is going on.
First of all, the fact that your relationship with them is not good is not surprising. The estranged member can see what the toxic person is like so the toxic person may have isolated them, for example by running a smear campaign, so that this person cannot expose the abuser. Secondly, the estranged person may be able to help you see more clearly what is going on in the same way that an ex-cult member can be a very valuable source of information to a member that is just working their way out of the cult.
Don't be afraid to lean on friends at this time. Whether it's a place to stay, money, a shoulder to cry on, take it. You need it and that's what real friends are for. You can pay them back later.
Professional help... what can I say? You know that living in such an environment can be horrible beyond words. You don't understand half of what was going on and less about what was actually done to you. Reading these articles you can begin to see how profound the damage is when there are psychopaths and narcissists involved. Having an expert to help you navigate this territory is worth the investment. They will help you to sort things out in a way that you could never do on your own. If you want to know more you can always contact me here.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?