Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, offers suggestions on how to handle toxic family and friends. Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
If you’ve landed here at LoveFraud, chances are that you’re reeling from the pain and disruption of a toxic relationship or upbringing. Or both.
Sociopaths and the fallout of abusive relationships can cause a ripple effect that’s more like a tidal wave that trashes your life in too many ways to count. And it can go on for many years. Once your self-esteem and self-worth have taken a beating, your choices are adversely affected, as are your connections with people in your life. You might feel like a big ol’ magnet for misery and if you do, you’re definitely not alone.
But here’s the good news: You do have the power to change it. You don’t have to put up with relationships that are not serving you well, no matter what relationships those might be. Alcoholic son, drug-addicted sister, controlling and critical “best friend”…you do not have to subject yourself to these kinds of dysfunctional connections. I’m not saying it’s easy to walk away. But it can be done.
When you’ve done your very best to change a situation that is destructive, when you’ve done your best to compromise, to be assertive, to mind your boundaries, to be respectful, to honour yourself and the other person but still there is that nagging, clinging, toxic sludge that does its best to infect your heart and soul, sometimes the only thing you can do is walk away.
You can never change other people. Your presence in their lives may present the opportunity for them to decide to change themselves one way or the other, but it is not up to you and it is not within your control. You probably wouldn’t appreciate other people trying to make you change, so it’s only fair – to them and to you – that you don’t try to change them either. You’ll only add to the problems, create more resentment for them and more frustration for you, and still the original issues are not being addressed.
Besides, trying to change others is being disrespectful of their right to making their own choices and learning their life lessons, and it is definitely not minding boundaries.
What About When They’re Family?
Unfortunately, there are times when the people with whom we are having mutually ongoing anger and silences are family members. What do you do then? Aren’t you supposed to keep trying? Children, parents, siblings, other relatives, aren’t we supposed to forgive and forget?
Well, generally, yes. But there are situations where there’s the addendum “…and don’t go back for more.” This applies even if we’re talking about family. Sometimes especially if we’re talking about family, because sadly, they are often the people with whom we have the most painful experiences. I like to believe (or I suppose, I choose to believe) that this is because we’re meant to learn the most from them. After all, we’ve ended up in with them in our lives, which allows us at least many years to interact with them and learn valuable lessons, heal karmic issues and so on.
Sometimes, however, those people do not choose to learn. They stay stuck and miserable, refusing to progress or move forward. They cling to the past, hell-bent on ruining every present moment and all the future ones that are currently fragile and pristine and are headed for a good dragging-through-the-mud of the past.
If you allow those people to have an influence in your life, those potentially beautiful future moments will be ruined the very second they fall unwittingly into your consciousness. One after another, they’ll flicker past like the frames in a film, so fast you can’t see each one, but those precious moments will be sullied with every hateful, angry, self-pitying, indignant thought you have, thanks to sociopaths treating you badly and dumping their toxic waste into your life.
It doesn’t matter if what they did to you was really rotten and your feelings are justified. The very fact that you are exposed to that kind of experience will not do you any good. In fact, it will only do you harm, and you will have handed these people total control over your happiness. In some cases, they’d probably love that. Is that what you really want?
I didn’t think so…
Those toxic people in your life can continue to cling and hate and hurt all they want but you do not have to participate. You do not have to allow their choices to ruin one more moment of your life. You don’t have to be in relationships with them, even if they’re family. Sometimes all you can do is take out the knife, cut off the gangrenous limb and begin to heal.
Isn’t That Pretty Drastic?
I’m reminded of the story of Aron Ralston, a young man who was hiking in a remote part of Utah when he got stuck in a canyon. Spoiler alert: Close to death after 127 hours, he had to cut off his arm, which was trapped by a boulder. It was his only chance to live. (Film trailer for “127 hours” here)
Family or not, dearly loved ones or not, you do not have to allow anyone to hold you by the ankles and keep you stuck firmly in a past that they refuse to leave behind. It’s like watching the same film over and over again for days, weeks, months, years – decades! Just because someone else demands it, you do not have to live your life on rewind, play, rewind, play, rewind, play, never getting to put in a new film that lets you move away from that place where you’re just as trapped as Aron Ralson was.
So here’s how to handle toxic family and friends. You are allowed to leave them behind if you must. Yes, that’s a sad thing. But just because you’re related to people doesn’t mean you have to have relationships with them – not if those relationships are destructive and hurtful, despite your best efforts.
That, of course, is an important qualifier. I am not advocating having a hissy fit and just storming off into the sunset, determined never to speak to your family again. Been there, done that, and it’s not nice and not right either. But when you’ve worked at trying to improve the relationships, when you’ve tried your best, when you’ve honoured and respected yourself and the other people, when you see that there is nothing else you can do but you are still being subjected to the pain, it is okay to walk away.
If you have to do it, do it with love in your heart. Leave it as tidy as you can by offering your apologies (even just in your own mind if that’s appropriate), and send loving and healing thoughts to those people. It may not help them but it will help you, and because you cannot and should not take responsibility for other people’s issues, this must be your only concern.
What other people do to you affects their karma, their lives and their happiness. What you do in return affects yours.
Cutting them off is just as difficult as it was for Aron to cut off his arm. But sometimes it’s the only way to save your life in every way.
Another version of this article was originally published at LibertyForrest.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.