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  • Nick

Are you a Victim of your family?

I am not talking about the obvious and far too numerous examples where physical violence has been noticeable to anyone who cares to look at a family, but the less discernible and equally destructive behaviours to a person – in that your relationship with you family is toxic.

Toxic is a strong and difficult word to use when describing family members as we are all supposed to have a ‘Disney’ family, kind, calm and supportive but suggesting the opposite implies a Machiavellian or nasty element and nobodies’ family has truly evil people in them, right? Well true, but the way some people treat their ‘nearest and dearest’ means it is almost impossible to not think something nefarious is happening.

With years of experience dealing with toxic family relationships I have helped clients with many different abuses, one example is a client who is still scared of their own father even as an successful middle-aged women or another example of being shamed in front of friends into not questioning a partner or ignoring every suggestion a person has, no matter how small and doing the exact opposite – these sound almost impossible to believe or empathise with but hearing how someone puts up with this kind of thing only comes with time.

If you want to see if the way you are being treated is ‘normal’ then just type into google (and don’t ask me why this number is significant) ‘17 ways I am being manipulated’ and if you recognise some of these in the people around you then maybe it is time to talk. The way a family member can use subtle and controlling behaviours is remarkable and can take years, decades even to cement and get the change to the person’s behaviours.

The examples of controlling behaviours are numerous and can seem insignificant and so subtle that you start to question your own sanity, but built up over time they have an extreme effect – it becomes normal and therefore you don’t question the person and their behaviour, you just start to question yourself. You obviously notice that other people don’t live like you and have the ‘ideal’, but you just keep taking it as it becomes your norm.

Another good way of checking if something is wrong is to ask yourself, if you saw a friend’s new partner treating them how you are being treated would you tell them to dump them and run away? if so then maybe we need to talk?

If your ‘normal’ is far from normal, but maybe you can’t see it, that is when you change your behaviour and start to second guess what the other person is going to do, so you don’t provoke them. That if you just work that little be harder or love a little bit deeper, you will be safe and they won’t destroy you (physically and/or mentally).

Over the years I have seen many clients who go through this kind of torture, and I truly believe that their self-worth is damaged and they start to question their own judgement of even the most basic of ideas, their (so called) happiness is wholly dependent on the needs of the person controlling them.

It all sounds depressing and hopeless but that is where the hard work begins. To have a place to talk through what you are going through, to have a place where you can get a sense of who you are without judgement or pressure and to help slowly clear away the fog and find out who you are as a person.

Nearly all people want to be better and do better but for some of us it is so well hidden and controlled by years of abuse and trauma that almost seems impossible to believe. Uncovering that inner voice and their true selves is the key to removing the power of toxic behaviour and be free to be yourself.

The old adage of ‘sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you’, is of course true but has no meaning when you have had years of abuse which undermine and corrode who you are. To be aware of their behaviour and not react instinctively sounds easy but it means you have choices as to what you do next, and it is the way to stop the abuse and give you back the power.

It doesn’t mean that you will break up your family, but it means you will have a choice of how you react and what you are willing accept, you will stop being a victim and start to live your true life. I wonder what that would feel like for you?

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