The Gift of Self-Care – THE CRITICAL DIALOGUE – LIFE AT WORK
Did you know that a majority of domestic abuse is of the psychological type?
The mainstream seems to be mostly obsessed with calling out the physical abuse, which is easy to identify and communicate and helps increase the TRPs. It is also the one which the vast majority of drama and thrill seeking audience wants to see and talk about.
Unfortunately, the one type of abuse which often doesn’t get reported and is also the cause of great trauma leading to depression and suicidal tendencies is the one to do with psychological abuse. Especially in a ‘toxic family space’.
It all starts with parents who lack the basic empathy and selfless nature that loving parenting requires. They have no problem meeting their own needs before their child’s needs and also justify their actions. The effects of such domestic abuse lasts in the minds of the adult long after he/she has left home.
Such parents in the later part of their life complain that their child doesn’t have an authentic relationship with them anymore. Children of such parents have a life full of resentment about the relationship. These are the parents who pit one sibling against the other, just so that they maintain a strangle hold of control in the relationship. Unfortunately, the same continues even when their children have grown up to be adults.
If you are in a family which has huge turmoil among siblings and close relatives then you are a victim of such toxic family. I know it may be hard for you to imagine that a parent can sabotage relationships of their children. It does happen and is happening all the time around us. It’s just that it is not reported or victims of such abuse do not find it appropriate to talk about it much.
Victims are made to believe in the idea of presenting a ‘façade’ of a well-knit family to the outside world no matter how turbulent it is for them inside.
I’ve seen some families use the ‘Us Vs. Them’ philosophy to make the victim believe that they have their best interests in mind. In fact I have come across parents who have completely isolated their children from relatives and friends by using this technique. Just so that they remain in control of their lives.
Parents in toxic families continually feed the minds of the child and later the adult child about the ways in which the world has conspired against their family and how they have been at the forefront in keeping their children from harm’s way.
Toxic families present a façade of niceness which is used to mask the inner abusive environment. So much so that it will be hard for people in the community to even believe any story which is contrary to the well crafted image they put up. The problems also lies in the fact that it is so difficult for the child to complain against his/her parents. You will notice that the social framework is such that it is always the parent who is seen as the victim especially when they are pitted against their own children.
How do you then identify whether you are a victim of a toxic family environment?
There are several ways in which toxic families operate and the environment frequently throws up the following indicators;
- Constant pressure to please – if you find yourselves under constant pressure to please and appear nice in front of your parents, siblings and relatives.
- Silent treatment – if you find yourself as a victim of silent treatment from any of the family members and especially so from your parents then you are definitely in an environment where you are being subjected to psychological abuse. The problem is that it is hard to identify, as abusers who use such behaviors increase or decrease the frequency in a way that you will be confused whether they are really wanting some ‘quiet time’ or they are manipulating you using this technique.
- ‘Us Vs. Them’ discussions – if you find yourself part of discussions which involve the use of ‘us vs. them’ technique then you might find yourself over a period of time isolated from the rest of the world and in complete surrender to the people who use it to their advantage. I have personally seen this technique being used more by parents in order to keep complete control of their children long after they have turned to be ‘adult-children’.
- Excessive gossip – if you find that most of your family discussions involve talking about relatives and siblings who are not present then most definitely you are not in a healthy environment. The worst is that any complaint against such behavior is brushed off by the perpetrators as the complainant being ‘too touchy’ or ‘sensitive’. The abusers even justify stating that the people in question wouldn’t have minded it as they know the abusers didn’t mean any real harm.
- Divide and conquer – many abusers in families use this technique to victimize people. Simple acts like keeping a distance from the victim in group situations, making them sit slightly away, calling for a group photograph by leaving out one targeted member of the family, giving compliments or gifts to all except one targeted member and that too in front of the whole group are some examples. Even parents in toxic families pit one sibling against the other to maintain control. They act as the arbitration authority. If you find yourselves frequently going back to your parents complaining about your siblings behavior then more than the said sibling, the parent is actually the abuser.
- Isolation – if you find yourself or any other in the family being isolated from family groups and clubs then surely you are a victim of a toxic environment. You will find that you are not being included in important decisions regarding family matters, you are left out of some family vacations or trips. The worst is that any attempt on your part to raise this issue with such a toxic family will be considered as being insecure, touchy and disagreeable.
I know you might already be saying that all these are common and prevalent in small amounts in all families and around the world. You may also want to rationalize this toxic family environment by saying things like “it’s human to have a little bit of friction, conflict and difference when in families and groups”.
And that for me is the problem. It is difficult to identify psychological abuse in families.
Healing from toxic families is a slow journey because you have to rewire your deeply held beliefs.
Recovery though is absolutely possible and starts with acceptance.