How to get over toxic family members

Families are made up of imperfect people. [Istockphoto]

You may not be certain but deep down you know something is wrong with your family. This difficult realisation is one that many people are not ready to face, leave alone own up to, which is quite understandable.

You assume everyone grew up with similar dynamics and whatever you went through is normal when in essence it is not.

If you came from a family where you experienced violence, abuse, neglect or other forms of problems that affected you negatively, the truth is, you have a toxic family.

But before you accuse your mother of being absent or telling your father off for abusing alcohol, you need to understand what happened.

Families are made up of imperfect people. And if you dig deeper, you will discover that your mother went through something similar or almost the same growing up. Hurting people, hurt people. This, however, does not excuse their bad behaviour.

Once you identify who does what, and the impact that has had on your wellbeing, you need to set boundaries as an adult.

Let them know that certain behaviours are unacceptable and let them know what you will not tolerate. Be firm but kind.

If you have something to say, express your feelings using the simplest words possible to avoid misunderstandings. If they happen to interrupt, criticise or insult you, that may be a good time to take your leave before the situation escalates.

You may not be able to deal with the complexities of the abuse and seeking professional help should be the next best step to take. You will find yourself in a position where you feel shame, guilt, resentment or even deep hate for that particular family member.

At times, you may hold your peace for fear of confrontation. Talking to a counsellor will help validate your emotions, identify the root cause of the toxic behaviour and help you on the path towards healing and forgiveness.

This is not an easy journey. You must learn how to be there for yourself after a bad encounter with them.

Take some time out and do something you enjoy. If things get heated, you may have to make the difficult decision of completely cutting them off or putting a safe distance between the two of you.