This topic is a sensitive one and it’s not something that I normally write about but how to get rid of toxic people is something I’ve struggled with consistently in my life. I really hope my experiences can help you.
This past weekend I drove in the whole COVID-19 situation to visit some of my family members about 3 hours away from where I currently am. I didn’t want to go anywhere and have otherwise stayed at home for the last 3 weeks.
The problem was that one of my family members kept calling me every single day for the past few weeks without fail. I could tell that she was really struggling. She’s an older woman and she lived through some difficult times after WWII in Eastern Europe.
This has made her extremely fearful of governments potentially trying to control the population under the “guise” of excuses – in this case COVID-19. There are quite a few conspiracy theories floating around the internet about COVID-19 at the moment. Are they true? Do they have some element of truth? To be perfectly honest with you – I have got no clue. Unless you are in secret service or some level of government like that, I don’t think it’s possible for us to know exactly what’s going on.
I mean we get all our information from the mainstream media, the internet and friends and family. None of those are going to be 100% reliable information sources. At the same time, however, I do think that panicking about the situation generally makes things worse, no matter what that situation might be.
As I usually do, I went against my better judgement in the face of a family member who was clearly desperately trying to get my attention and drove to see her and others in my family in the same area. Needless to say it was a poor decision.
When I arrived around 4 in the afternoon, everyone was already drinking heavily – something that has always been an issue in my family. Even when one of my family members is a full-fledged dysfunctional alcoholic without a job, a girlfriend or kids and everyone knows it, they drink with him anyways because they don’t want to have to change their own ways to try and help his recovery. I know, I’m getting side-tracked. The point is, I knew it was already going to be bad as soon as I walked in on that situation.
Next thing I know, I’m getting forced into managing yet more money for another family member. Currently I’m managing 5 accounts for various family members. One of my brothers who I was not yet managing anything for heard about the arrangement with the others and wanted “in on it”. I really try not to complain about these things and it’s not like I’m not happy to help out in any way I can but I also only have so much time and mental effort to spend. With the current stock market climate being what it is, it’s far from stress-free to manage even your own money let alone the money of family members who are not necessarily the most rational people.
Getting back to the family member who was really struggling the last few weeks. She’s the one who owns the house that I was at – everyone likes to gather there. She is a classic narcissist. Just like I do my best not to complain, I also do my best not to label people with diagnoses even though I’m in the medical field but in this case I think I’m justified.
She immediately guilt trips me when I get there. She makes snide comments about how I don’t like to spend time with family. How I’m in my shelterd little bubble away from everyone else. How I have all this free time with the closure of non-essential jobs and I’m not spending it with family. How I only look out for myself. How I put the needs of my partner and listen to him more than my own family. How I’ve moved so far away that I won’t be able to look after her as she gets older and she has no one else to depend on…The list goes on and on. Then she continues to say how all of this is “fine” and it’s “natural” for me to live my own life seperate from my family. Except the way that she says it clearly implies that it is the opposite of fine. It implies that if she had done that to her family back in Eastern Europe, it would have been unacceptable.
I always tell myself that I have to go see her and the rest of them. It would be irresponsible not to because they need me. She needs me to take care of her, and make her feel better, especially during this difficult time. The truth is though that she is manipulating me. She is one of those people who feels better by making those around her feel worse. She goes on and on about how horrible her own life is until the whole room is angry, upset or just sad and that eases her own pain.
I’ve long since realized that, so why do I keep going back? Why can’t I cut her out of my life? The same reason you can’t cut the toxic people out of your life:
2) fear of rejection and/or
3) a sense of responsibility.
Toxic people generally are extremely needy. They make you feel like they need you for some reason or another. They are not self-sufficient. They are usually broken in one way or another or make you see them that way so that you feel like it’s your responsibility to fix them.
This brings up feelings of social responsibility and guilt around not meeting that need. Furthermore, they have their moments of making you feel so special because you were there for them when they really needed someone. Those moments are usually only 5-10% of your whole relationship but somehow they make up for all the crap that they’ve put you through.
You feel like you’re worth something when you help them and there is a fear of rejection from them if you ever were to leave.
Lastly, toxic people bring about adrenaline because there is “never a dull moment” and adrenaline is addictive. Really low lows inevitably mean really high highs – the problem is that way of living is not healthy or sustainable in the long run.
After I came home yesterday afternoon, I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t want to do anything except watch crappy TV.
I fought with my partner before bed about something stupid and lost my temper with him. Today, I’ve been continuously in a bad mood as well. Most of my daily routine has been disrupted because of this; I haven’t eaten properly; I’ve continued to fight with my partner; I’ve made some impulsive moves in the stock market that will probably come back to bit me in a few days.
Now that it’s the afternoon, I’ve settled down enough to think about why I’ve been acting so terribly.
The reason is because when I’m around the toxic members of my family – the toxic people in my life – I repress a lot of my own emotions about the situation. I want to be there for them out of guilt even though I don’t agree at all with the way they treat me, the way they treat eachother or the way that they live their lives.
This means that I have to shut down a lot of my emotions while I’m around them.
I’ve tried telling the people in my family what I think and it never ends well. I’ll tell them that we can’t drink around the alcoholic and I get yelled at. I tell them that we shouldn’t focus on family feuds from 20 years ago, I get yelled at. I tell them that they need to be smarter with their money and suddenly I’m managing 6 different accounts rather then them doing any actual work for themselves.
So, over the years, I’ve learned to keep everything to myself. I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t change them. I have not until today realized the impact of continuing to involve them in my life has had on me, however.
The first step to cutting out toxic people from your life is to realize that there is a problem. Check, we’ve done step 1.
The second step is to identify exactly what that problem is. Hopefully, the feelings of 1) guilt, 2) fear of rejection and/or 3) a sense of responsibility resonate with you. For me, I would say that it’s feelings mostly of guilt and a sense of responsibility. I do have fear of rejection as well but I think I’m slowly starting to care less and less about that as they hurt me more.
The last step is to realize on both an emotional and rational level that you deserve to have healthy people in your life. This is the part that I think everyone struggles with the most. It’s really easy to tell a friend that and to mean it.
We want the absolute best for our true friends. Think right now to someone in your life that you love and trust without a doubt. Someone who you only have positive feelings for and you know you can count on.
You obviously want them to only have positive people in their life. You want to be a positive person for them too! Now, try and see yourself in that same light – not so easy is it?
I’m not going to pretend that I have it all figured out – as you’ve read in this post I clearly don’t. I haven’t managed to cut all the toxic people out of my own life.
What I have done though is move 3 hours away from them and I limit contact as much as I can. This has made it more clear than ever before the affect they have on me. The difference in my mood, my behavior to those around me and my outlook on life is hugely apparent when I come back from a trip to see my family. This change in myself is something that I definitely don’t want to see in myself.
When you’re around the toxic people in your life all the time, it’s sometimes hard to see the changes that it makes in you. When you’re not your best self, it’s easier for you to also become toxic to the good people in your life. This breeds a bad cycle.
Obviously, in an ideal world we would be able to see in black and white those people that are not good for us, cut them out of our lives and live fine with ourselves. As COVID-19 has shown us, we are far frrom an ideal world. ***t happens all the time. So what I’ve learned is to do what I can and what I can live with. Right now, I can live with distancing myself and thus minimizing the time I spend.
Today after my weekend with my family, I have also decided to limit phone conversations to only once a week. I can live with that. As time goes on, hopefully I’ll start to understand more and more the benefits of keeping my distance and thus increase that distance.
Maybe, if i’m really lucky certain family members will realize their mistakes and try to change their ways (but that’s probably just wishful thinking).
I would love to hear about your story. If you’re comfortable, please feel free to share the struggles you’ve experienced with toxic people in your life in the comments and how it has affected you.