We don’t get to pick our family; we are just born into one. Like all people we meet, there are some that just don’t jive with us. When it comes to strangers, we can at least choose who we allow into our lives and who we do not. When it comes to family, well, it can be vastly more complex.
I want to focus on strategies in dealing with difficult, troublesome family members in the exact moments they are “tornadoing” through your life. <- Yes, I made the word tornado into a verb and you should do it too!
If you are a regular visitor on my blog, then you know I am a practitioner of Buddhism. I started to get serious about Buddhist teachings when, a few years ago, I realized something about myself: I used to always allow difficult people and their actions control my reactions and emotions. How can any of us live that way? How can we allow anyone’s behaviors and perspectives directly affect our own emotions and reactions? That is just crazy.
On top of that, when we allow other’s actions determine our own reactions, this leads to tons of other problems: built up resentment, not knowing how to forgive people, always being stressed out, obsessing over what happened and what that person said, and on and on. What a waste of time! And energy. And peace.
We all have those difficult people who happen to be family. Most of the time, those difficult people are all very similar: toxic to everyone, selfish, manipulative, dramatic, conniving, inherent liars, deniers of their toxic actions, annoying, and the list goes on. Do you have one in your life? When you think of them, does your heart beat faster, does your skin crawl, do you feel angry?
You’re not alone.
Even I have to manage difficult family members. I have tried many methods from yelling, screaming, fighting, trying to articulate in logical ways, but those never seem to work.
Here are 5 strategies in managing/surviving difficult family members:
Note: these strategies will not at all change the other person’s behavior, instead you must use your intelligence to change your perspective and continue to lead with your morals always at heart. You will still experience discomfort and feelings of anger or irritation. These strategies will help to bring you peace and teach you to let go of the other person’s shit. (Because it’s never about you, it’s truly about the difficult person having depths of their own issues they need to work through.)
1. Do not take it personal: I have said it before, and I will always say it again. It’s not personal. Ever. Even when you think and feel like it’s personal, it’s not. I know what you’re thinking. When someone brings my children into it, it’s personal. When some talks about my mama, it’s personal. It’s actually not. People who struggle and suffer from narcissism or egoism, will say and do anything in their power to try and make you feel the same way they feel. They suffer so hard that they have no idea what to do. So, they attack, verbally or physically. Just remind yourself of this. It’s never personal. They are dealing with something far beyond you.
2. Always have compassion: This is the hardest one out of the five. It’s easy to be compassionate to someone you truly love and respect. But the biggest challenge, and it’s one I have learned through Buddhist practice, is to have compassion for those who anger us, those who betray us, and those who hurt us. The next time a difficult family member hurts you or causes harm, take some time alone to meditate on having compassion for them because they are deeply troubled, but they too deserve happiness and peace.
3. Every jab does not deserve retaliation: Toxic people will always throw jabs of all caliber because that’s the only thing they are good at in life. They are better at it than me and you. You will never win their fight. I am not saying to allow difficult family to walk all over you but choose your battles wisely. It’s just not worth your time, your energy, or your peace.
4. Draw boundaries and stick to them: So far, the first three strategies benefit both you and the toxic person. However, you still need to have solid boundaries and stick to them no matter what. You can still be compassionate towards someone but have strong boundaries in place.
5. Continue to shoot for the stars: Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in a toxic person’s mess. Those of us who are true to ourselves and true to others cannot really make sense of such complex toxicity but do not ever allow this to dominate your mind, energy, and heart. Always stay true to who you are. Continue to build your hobbies and skills. Continue to hang out mostly with positive people and intelligent people. Be the best you.
You are not alone. Everyone has that difficult, toxic family member or members. Just remember, you have the power to take any opportunity, even the negative ones, and control how you choose to use that opportunity. You can step into challenging situations and use them to build your character, strengthen your wisdom, and become more emotionally intelligent or you can allow it to tear you down. What do you choose?
Thanks for tuning in,
I am Sterp. I write horror fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup will be in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet in 2020. I am also a painter.
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