Soul Suckers: On Toxic Family Relationships

Written by Angela Atkinson

Back in September of last year, I wrote a post about how to identify toxic family relationships, and at the end of that post, I promised to come back and explain how to deal with the situation. When I wrote that, I assumed I would have figured it out by the time I wrote that post.

But It Was Personal

What I didn’t mention in that post was that I was dealing with a toxic family situation of my own which had culminated into an event of painful betrayal that affected me on an emotional level so deep that I was physically ill for weeks afterward.

It wasn’t with anyone in my household, thankfully, but it did involve a couple of extended family members I had been very close to at one time. One of them had been toxic for many years, but because of the nature of the relationship, I had continuously “turned the other cheek.” I tried and tried to make it work and I now realize that I developed a shockingly codependent relationship that I couldn’t even recognize while immersed in it.

The other family member involved had been a ghost in my life for the previous 15 or so years, only showing up on rare holidays and special occasions, and the act of betrayal on this person’s part shook me to the core because it was completely unexpected.

How I Handled My Toxic Family Situation

So, as I often do when I experience challenges in life, I wrote through it. If you’re familiar with my work, you know I’m not a poet and I don’t do flowery (very often) so I did what I do–I did some research and wrote a logical, fairly informative article on how to identify toxic family members. Though I wanted to share with my readers how to handle such a situation, I stopped there because, at that point, I had only identified my toxic family members–I didn’t actually know how to deal with them.

In the last few months, I have had a lot of realizations. I have connected the dots, so to speak, of my own experiences. I have come to understand those toxic relationships on a whole new level, and in fact, after many hours of reflection and emotion, I have managed to forgive the people involved–at least within myself. I needed to do that for the sake of my own sanity.

What’s Happening Now With the Toxic Relationships

As for the relationships with my toxic family members, you might be surprised to know that I haven’t repaired them. Considering the events that took place, I don’t know that those relationships can be repaired at this point, and I don’t think it would be healthy for me to try.

But what I do know is that now that I am not dealing with these people on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have to try so hard to see the positive side of things. The weight of the relationships has been taken off my chest, and I can breathe. There is a new lightness in and around me that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. In some ways, I can be grateful for the situation, because in dealing with it, I found a level of strength within myself that I never knew was there.

What’s Happening Now With Me

It would be easy for me to sit around and feel sorry for myself and to cry over the things that happened, but I choose to hold my head up and keep smiling. I prefer to live in the present moment instead. I don’t want to focus on the negative and the past–I want to live in the now and look expectantly to the future.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m enjoying my relationships with my kids and husband and some extended family members. I’m following my passion, rocking my career and exploring the new-found freedom that comes with healing–and generally all is well in my world. These days, I’ve decided, I’m writing my own ticket.

I’m Still “Human”

Don’t get me wrong, I still have feelings of sadness about the situation and the lost relationships. I have those moments of self-pity when I wish things could have been different, just like probably anyone who has dealt with a toxic family member or situation.

Staying Positive is the Key

If I sit around worrying about what happened and constantly rehashing the events in my mind, I draw more of that type of negativity toward myself. On the same note, if I focus on feeling love and gratitude for the wonderful people, things and events in my life–guess what? More of that comes my way.

So when those feelings of sadness or depression or self-pity creep up, I intentionally change my mind and focus instead on all of the awesomeness in my life.

If you’re in a similar situation, you should try intentionally focusing on the positive too–and on changing your mind if the negative thoughts do creep in. It might feel forced at first–but once you get the hang of it, it comes naturally. And the more you focus on what’s good and right in your world, the more power you give to those things. The less you think about the things you don’t want in your life, the less of those things you’ll draw toward yourself.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take happy and positive over negative and soul-sucking any day.

Have you ever dealt with a toxic family relationship? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this sensitive subject. Please tell me in the comments.

Image Credit: PixelPlacebo/Flikr

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  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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