Not everyone out there has a truly “dysfunctional family,” but for those who do, it can be a real challenge to deal with the fights, the grudges, and the silent treatment. Fortunately, there are a few steps we can use to deal with dysfunctional family members so that we can maintain our relationships with our loved ones, without getting sucked into the toxicity. This article seeks to help people who want to keep their family relationships alive, but with less drama and stress.
It can be very easy to point the finger at our family members who have hurt us and know how to push our buttons. However, modifying our own behaviors is what will help us deal with dysfunctional family members the best.
The key is to adjust our own actions, without expecting our family members to change. We each have the power to improve any relationship, regardless of how the other person is acting. Believing in your power to transform your relationships is the key to making real progress and alleviating much of the stress of family dysfunction in your life.
You Can Deal With Dysfunctional Family Members By:
1. Centering yourself before interactions:
Before you call or visit a dysfunctional family member, take a few minutes to calm and center yourself. Take some slow, deep breaths or even meditate for a few minutes. Entering into a potentially hostile interaction when you are calm and centered is one of the most effective ways to guarantee the best possible outcome.
2. Keeping the conversation light:
To deal with dysfunctional family members effectively, it’s always a good idea to keep the conversation light and happy. You can’t depend on toxic or negative people to respond to serious problems and issues in a positive, beneficial way, so why bother trying?
Instead, stick to conversation topics that you know both of you can enjoy and be happy discussing. Some may call this “walking on eggshells,” but I look at it more as “letting sleeping dogs lie.”
Contrary to what many people think, “talking about our problems” doesn’t help anything. Positive conversations are generally a much better approach for strained relationships.
3. Abandoning negative conversations:
Does it annoy you when you’re talking to your aunt and she starts to pick on you about not being married yet, or making fun of your job? When this happens, it’s time to put the phone down.
When conversations take a turn for the negative, there’s no sense in taking the bait and getting wound into an argument. Politely tell your aunt “well, look at the time, I really need to get going!” and excuse yourself from the conversation.
Don’t react to comments you don’t want to hear, and you will start to hear less of them. If you refuse to give your family members an audience for their hurtful comments, they will start to speak to you differently in order to keep your attention.
4. Expressing your concerns without accusation:
There will likely be times that your dysfunctional family members do things that are very hurtful, and in times like these you might feel compelled to stand up for yourself. If you feel that a confrontation is necessary, please tread lightly. Hashing things out must be done respectfully, so that the conversation helps to mend the relationship, rather than escalating into an even greater issue.
For example, when we are upset, many of us tend to say things like “Dad, you’re always talking about my weight and trying to embarrass me!” and while this might be true, you have just accused your father of intentionally trying to hurt you, and he will likely take offense to this accusation.
Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” you’re much more likely to hear your dad yell “I’m not trying to embarrass you! It was just a joke, why are you so sensitive!?” Then, instead of a resolution, you have a whole new argument on your hands.
In order to be heard and supported more fully from your family members, it is better to stick to non-accusatory “I feel” statements. For example, “Dad, when you talk about how much weight I’ve gained, I feel hurt and upset.”
By using an “I feel” statement, you express your feelings without accusing your family member of having bad intentions. People are much more likely to respond to an “I feel” statement with compassion and understanding.
5. Resisting the urge to people please:
So often when we are in dysfunctional family relationships, we have been trained into becoming people pleasers, and our dysfunctional family members have learned how to push our buttons to get us to call more, visit more frequently, and provide favors we aren’t particularly interested in providing.
Don’t be afraid to say “no,” when you really don’t want to do something. That “no” you feel is a sign from your intuition telling you that this request is a bad idea, so listen to it!
Many people are hesitant to tell their family members “no” because they are afraid of dealing with the reaction they will get. However, if you can start doing this routinely, you will find that your family members will change how they interact with you. If they know that you are unlikely to respond to manipulation and guilt tactics, they will eventually stop using them on you.
Be strong, and stick to your guns the first few times, and saying “no” will get easier and easier for you.
6. Focusing on your family member’s positive qualities:
This one might seem a bit strange at first, but it’s a fantastic strategy. So often, we notice and complain about our family members’ worst qualities, but this only brings us more of the things we don’t like.
According to the Law of Attraction, you get what you are thinking about, so the more you think and complain about behaviors you don’t like-the more of them you will see! So, to start to turn things around, change how you look at your dysfunctional family members.
Instead of noticing that your mom talks down to you and compares you to your brother, reach for more pleasing observations of her. Notice how clean she keeps her house, the nice gifts that she’s brought you or how well she plays with your kids. By focusing on her positive qualities, you will start to see more of the good in your mom, and less of the bad.
Dealing with family dysfunction can be painful at times. In strained relationships with our relatives, we often feel as if we are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one end, we usually don’t want to lose our family members and we’d prefer to keep them in our lives. On the other hand, we don’t want to feel abused or manipulated. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to change how we deal with and react to dysfunction, and this can have a very positive effect on our family relationships.
Please realize that you have the power within yourself to have a good relationship with anyone you want. While it’s generally a good idea to avoid toxic relationships with friends and acquaintances, you do not have to toss your family members out of your life in order to avoid fights, grudges or the silent treatment if you don’t want to. By focusing on the positive, by initiating light and respectful conversations and by refusing to people please, anyone can change the dynamic of a dysfunctional relationship.
So, what do you think? Do you have any dysfunctional family relationships, and if so, are there any other tips that you would add that have worked for you? Please comment below to share your thoughts!
Did you like these tips on how to deal with dysfunctional family members? Find more techniques to improve the quality of your life on my blog or Facebook page! You can also find me on Twitter (@Vibration1111) or Instagram (@andrea.11.11).
Photo by Brendan & Brendan. Some Rights Reserved. This image has been cropped and resized.
Very well done article. Excellent advice but a tiny bit old. As an Elder, it has occurred to me that the “time” has come to sit down and say; “Let’s play an honesty game.” L@@K the other person in the eye and settle the LOVE part by both agreeing that there is LOVE between you also taking their hand. (gently). Then you simply state your mind. Tell them you are not judging. You just want honesty (LOVE) to heal whatever bad feelings exist between you for whatever reason. You will find that “other” person is relieved you initiated this “healing”. Then, (without either party in a judgement mode), contribute and listen and understand and be grateful for the Healing. Gaia is Healing as well as all of us. So much to BE Grateful for.
Much LOVE. and Thank You again for writing an article of such importance!
Hello Weltha! Thank you for your feedback. I agree that honesty is a wonderful thing, when it comes (like you said) from a place of non-judgement. Best wishes to you 🙂
I have read each of your articles which Both have so much truth. I will state my own comment that to me brings both together just depends upon the setting.
Most all humans have some sort of dysfunction . We have many different relationships. I have been living with different family members for a year now and seeing different dynamics. There are degrees of dysfunction. In your closest inner circle are the ones you that you would fight FOR and in the outer circles are the ones you fight WITH. I don’t MEAN fight but I hope you got the jist. The love that flows within this inner circle is the one where it is just too important to keep ANY hurt feelings. If you are mad at each other you both hurt for it! This is where I would follow Welthas advice with the Loving Truth. Work to clear it up, get on and Heal.
There are some that are so stuck in their dysfunction that you have to back off from their lives and rarely see. Then I would use the Andreas techniques and really watch my step and stay very topical.
I have 9 kids, 23 grandkids and a foster mother of over 65 kids. I’ve had my own pre-school, was a teacher of grades k-12, then years at an assisted living center. Relationships teach us the most. They have the most worth.
Thank you both for enlightening me and I have sent this article, Andrea, to my family members that have in laws that drive them nuts. Why not try this work in every relationship – work, friends, etc. ?
Thanks Mary! I appreciate your comment. Yes, these are definitely strategies you could use with any relationship, if you felt it was worth keeping! It can be easier to walk away from toxic friendships and acquaintances, but with relatives we often feel forced to “make it work!” 🙂
I’m so grateful to find your page, I am in the middle of a family crisis that has it’s’ genesis in my childhood abuse. As my father has continually held himself unaccountable, and free from the shame of his actions, he has systematically blamed me for every incident of my acting out, and for being weak because of the coexisting symptoms and disability I experience from my diagnosis (as a result of my abuse, the irony isn’t lost on me), and in doing so, has lowered me in the family hierarchy. To add insult to injury, he has created a dynamic in which other family members scapegoat me.
I am in a real estate partnership with siblings, and hadn’t yet understood the multi-generational aspect of/or the extent of the dysfunction until I started living in such close proximity to them. Actually, the real insults seemed to start when I became a mother. Familiarity and constant contact with my siblings has renewed the dysfunction in a way that is now causing severe isolating depression and triggered a reaction I now understand is CPTSD (Complicated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
As the scapegoat of the family, I have been treated with a lack of respect and boundary issues that defy reason. Not only from my siblings, but the phenomenon has permeated the relationships with their spouses and to some degree, my nieces and nephews. I see a growing problem of re-victimization, and yet they themselves don’t quite understand why I’m sensitive about it, or that it exists as a problem at all. They have dismissed or ignored my disclosure of my severe abuse , or are so themselves enmeshed in the dysfunction that they don’t see their behavior as injurious, and my abuse as serious and/or believable.
While I assertively stand my ground, there are constant assaults to my dignity and violations of my boundaries that cause me to constantly question my self perception. I don’t want to lose my family, but I’m in danger of losing myself. (I am under a Dr.’s care). Not sure how to apply the formula, and feel like there are two choices: 1. to expose my father through my mother’s admission of the harm, and how I came to be self destructive and out of control as a teenager and young adult, or, 2. leave all the toxic harmful relationships and begin a chapter that doesn’t include any of these relationships.
My mother’s disclosure could have collateral consequences to my father’s health, or to her health given their age. And to add even more complication to my choices, if I leave my family, and become estranged, this could harm my mother’s health seriously (not sure about dad, he may be hoping for this), who for all intents and purposes, has been supportive, but unsure what is best for the family as a whole. Both of my parents were subjected to unimaginable abuses as children themselves, only my mother has sought treatment to overcome some of her unprocessed anger and dysfunction. I know where my abuse began, but offer the latitude needed to understand these issues were not cultivated in my parents, but are multi-generational patterns of dysfunction.
My youngest sibling feels somehow I need to be monitored for every choice I make, and one brother even wants personal disclosure from my doctor as to the extent of my “insanity”, which is not being questioned anywhere but within the dysfunction of my family (I’m tempted to let my doctor explain a few things to him, but I don’t want to submit to this kind of intrusion into my boundaries).
My husband and doctor are the only safety I have from being wrongfully committed for a 5150 as my family operates under the delusion that I’m mentally flawed and don’t deserve the right to assert myself, be angry or even carry my full rights under the law as a general business partner owed a fiduciary obligation.
I fully admit and own my dysfunction, but trying to convince them that they themselves may carry similar dysfunction is beyond their understanding. The only reality they exist in, is one that lifts them beyond culpability, and realizes their picture perfect idea of themselves. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I don’t have energy or enough resources left to assert myself in healthy ways, yet, I don’t know how to live without my dysfunctional family. I just want to be able to live with dignity, and experience fewer symptoms associated with my CPTSD, and without constant invasion of my boundaries. Mary
Thanks for sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about your struggle. I hope you find the information you need in order to transform these negative experiences into positive lessons that inspire you and help you reach for your dreams <3
Have a beautiful day,
Very true and good insights… thanks for this article!!
– Meghana Pawar
Thank you Meghana! Much appreciated <3
I think this is a well written, thoughtful article, but I think it is also completely unhelpful. In my family, there is no hand holding, no civil conversations, no “I feel” talks. It just doesn’t happen. When people search for “How to deal with dysfunctional families”, they are probably desperate and feeling helpless, as in my case. Your article comes up first, on google at least, and is naturally an article that gets looked at first by many people. Truly desperate people are not going to be helped by your article. Sorry. A person desperate enough that they have to look to the internet for answers, and cannot talk to a person for advice would likely have tried “centering themselves”. I think you are a great writer and probably have a great family, but you would be better served writing about other things.
Well, thank you for your kind words about my writing skills…they are appreciated!
Believe it or not, I actually do see where you are coming from. I’ve dealt with a lot in this department, although you probably wouldn’t gather that from the tone of the article. I know it’s painful, and I know this advice can seem overly optimistic in the midst of severe family angst.
Trust me, I understand what it feels like to look out into the world and see a sea of shining happy families and feel totally alone. There was a point in my life where seeing happy families actually made me very angry and resentful.
I write my blog from the perspective of the Law of Attraction, which has had a tremendous on how I view family relationships and has had a positive impact in my personal life. If you care to learn more about it, feel free to let me know and I’d happily forward some articles and information on the topic. If not, no worries, and I wish you well. I know family dysfunction creates a tremendous amount of pain, and it is my wish that you find relief from that however you can:)
Hello, My names akiera. I’m having a hard time with my family. My mom and her parents are deceased, and I live with my aunt. Mainly the problem is, my Aunt she sometimes spends more time with my sister than me, like they talk about going on trips together, and they do it right in front of me and don’t involve me in it. Yes, im hurt but I cant say that to my aunt because I don’t know what her reaction would be. I really could use some advice please.
Your situation is specific to your beliefs, and while I can’t exactly say which of your beliefs are at play here, I can tell you that
with all things, the trick is to identify what’s bothering you about the situation, and then ask yourself “why does this really bother me?”
I wrote this in a response email to a client with a similar question a few minutes ago and I think it has relevancy to your question so I will share it with you as well….
“Here is an example personal life I’d like to share with you, so that you can see how this is done:
Last night, some of my family came by to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My mother-in-law pulled me aside to complain about my husband (her son). She often does this, and it’s always been something I’ve found to be rather offensive. She often complains about other people, and as this is not how I operate, I find it very distasteful.
I’ve found over the years that I tend to be surrounded by more and more positive people, but there are few people who are in my family who have retained their hostility and I haven’t really explored why this is.
So I found myself getting angrier, and angrier about the situation. I didn’t say anything or argue about it, I just felt the anger well up inside of me and it ruined my evening.
Now when I have a severe emotional reaction like this (where I either get very angry or very sad), I know that there must be a limiting belief I am carrying that has just been reflected by something that has happened. I am the creator of my reality, after all, so if something so distasteful happens in my life, there is some kind of projection I am emitting that is creating my displeasure.
So, I asked myself “why does this bother me? why would my mother-in-law’s behavior have the power to make me so angry and upset?”
I thought about it for a minute, and then realize that the reason I was upset was not because she was being rude, but rather it was because I didn’t stand up for my husband. I avoided the conversation, instead of telling her directly that I am not interested in gossip. I wasn’t really angry at her, I was angry at myself for keeping quiet.
This is something I know to be true, because I know that I would like to be the kind of person who speaks her truth at all times, but I have developed a belief that I need to avoid conflict. However, if I felt free enough to speak my truth, I wouldn’t feel manipulated or imprisoned by her behavior. It wouldn’t bother me, because I wouldn’t worry about being honest with her about my truth.
I know now that the reason some of my family members do this is because I have been believing that my job in my family is to keep the peace, regardless of how I feel. This does not feel good because I want to be honest with my family, and trust them with my authentic self. They might not like to hear it, but I want to live my truth-regardless of the consequences.
Now that I know this is the case, it is now my mission to practice speaking my truth little by little in my extended family, and allow this new behavior to take root and flourish with the LOA. I know it will take some practice, but now that I know this belief is causing distress in my reality, it will be much easier for me to speak my truth-because I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I can transform this belief, it will lead to an improvement in my relationships with these family members.
Now, I am not sure if this story helps you, but I felt called to share it, so perhaps it will. This is how I identify my limiting beliefs, and maybe it will be helpful to you 🙂 ”
So Akiera, this is how I identify beliefs that create negative situations…try it out with your situation and see if you can identify the underlying belief. Then, use that information to adjust your focus and your responses to situations like these moving forward.
O Welthandel, all my borderline girlfriend would do if I grabbed her hand would be to start yelling my hands had not been washed in the last 10 minutes an how often she had told me not to touch her, stomp off to her room and lock the door.
Thanks for commenting Louis. Best wishes to you and your gf 🙂
Thank you so much for these tips!! I can’t wait to try them and see if it helps ease the tension in my family. It is getting very bad, very upsetting to the point that I just want to say goodbye and let them figure things out on there own ( since I’m the peace keeper between them all). Thank you again and I will report back with hopefully positive outcomes. ????
Thanks for your positive feedback Peace Keeper. Best wishes to you and your family, and remember to put your own sanity and health as first priority always:) XO
I am writing in response to Mary’s post dated 12/7/2015. First I would love to thank you for your honesty and disclosure (in detail) of your experiences with your family. Your comments were a mirror image of what I have dealt with throughout my childhood and far into my adulthood. I have chosen to have no further contact with my family for my own well being. This process included help from a psychologist, who’s diagnosis was PTSD due to childhood abuse. This diagnosis and treatment has been within the past year. I no longer need the assistance of outside help, but have had a difficult time processing the fact that I no longer have a family. It is very difficult accepting the truth about the reality of what was. I am now busy replacing all of the negative emotions with positive ones and getting on with my life. Life is very short. I just wish that I had the courage and wisdom to make this decision sooner. Reading about your reality has helped me see that others are going through or have gone through the same experiences. I do hope that if you are suffering from sleepless nights (night terrors), the constant feelings of self doubt and lack of self care due to what you are enduring, that you will be strong enough to seek help and learn to see the light that IS at the end of this very dark tunnel. You are worth it!!!! Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for sharing your heartfelt response and kindness Sue. Much appreciated. XO
I’m one of those searching the Internet desperately for help with family dysfunction. I truly enjoyed your article and agree that changing how you behave toward the toxic person is the only thing you can control.
My situation is with a close family member that has caused me an immense amount of emotional pain and sorrow over many years. I know exactly what to do at this point in my life with people that bring me down. But…..I cannot walk away too far from this person because she has a child that needs me in his life.
I will not go into any detail….I would just start ranting, raving, ruminating, whining, complaining, judging, and gossiping about her. I don’t want to go there…it is too draining.
When you have to stick around a very toxic person to make sure their child is ok……..it can be torture. This kid I am talking about is a beautiful, special soul that has absolutely nobody else looking out for him except for me.
So, I have to ‘tip toe’ around the family member a bit in order to be close enough to keep an eye on the boy. He is a teenager now and I can almost see a light at the end of the tunnel….the day will come when I can relate directly to him and stay as far away from his mother as I possibly can.
These toxic people have a way of making you feel so guilty, angry, confused, sad, and hopeless. I feel tortured with emotional pain at times. I am trying so very, very hard to be close to God and to ask for His help.
Thanks for writing this article and sharing with us your wisdom and experience.
Hi RSM:) Thanks for sharing your story. It is good that this child is a teenager…if I were in your shoes I would try to focus on that fact as much as possible (i.e., “he’s old enough now that I can reach out to him independent of this other family member.”). Perhaps checking in with him using technology would be a good move (Skype, email, FaceTime, social media, etc.). This way you can continue to nurture this relationship with this child one-on-one. If you are able to meet privately with him for lunch or something like that it might also be to your advantage.
Keep caring about others, but remember to care about yourself as well. As they say, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
I understand what you are trying to say. The Law of Attraction deals with Hermetic Laws. It’s not just some book called the Secret, which makes everything out to be all sunshine. When people throw around this word it gets over used and trite and then useless.
While the intentions are good, I also agree with anonymous that this article is not helpful. My entire family is dysfunctional. No one will talk to my mother or father anymore. My mother suffers from NPD, but won’t get help. I’ve been slandered and used in their weirdo games.
Let me try and say “I feel” to my father….That won’t go over well at all. They interpret it the same…as an accusation.
I think in many, many cases when dealing with alcoholics and people with borderline personality disorders, it’s a good idea to disconnect completely. All my mother’s sisters and brothers have done so and my father’s brother.
If you are in a truly heinous situation, then the nice little words and short conversations will never work. These are the people who raised you. They are always looking for a fight, so no matter what little harmless thing you might say they will twist it. They know who to push the buttons and want to.
I have recorded the conversations between my mother and me and analyzed the text messages from my brother. In many, many cases of dysfunction, there really isn’t any help other than distance.
Even when my mother talks to my daughter (once every 6 months) she plants horrible negative seeds.
Laura, thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I understand that you disagree, but I respect your perspective. Wish you all the best with your family. Be well 🙂
Hi I just want to be honest with you. I followed advice like this my whole life. It didn’t work. Truth isn’t just about perspective and perception. If some one says something that seems negative to me I want to ask who what where why when and use critical thinkung and complex thought and seek truth together and find meaning. Narcissists block connection and stonewall. Real love tries to understand the perosn and have real genuine love. If the perosn isn’t in reality it tells you that you can’t be that close to them. Reality isn’t just about perception. These mystical eastern beliefs and occult beliefs have been around for thousands of years. They didn’t work in the middle ages when the Muslims destroyed Europe and they were also rampant in nazi Germany. The bible warns against these beliefs repeatedly and history has shown that to be correct through trial and error. These principles are described in their essence in the oldest story about Satan. It is ego mihi deus. There is a cruelty and lack of empathy in stonewalling and the politically correct sounding language as in “I respect your viewpoint or perspective and I wish you all the best” which in reality blocks conscious contact and is rigid and closed minded. These beliefs are anti social in that the language is generalizations, cognitive distortions, logical fallacies, politics, psychological warfare, and self deception. When a person protests what they are reading here maybe it’s good to ask more questions. With an open mind. It’s good to seek truth and find meaning together and try to resolve conflicts and what I am seeing here is the magical thinking of the adult child.
What truly helped me was books by pia mellody, open dialogue therapy and Milan family systems therapy, John bradshaw, m Scott peck, understsnding anti social groups as in the Lucifer effect, and reading the sociopath next door and confessions of a sociopath. Also cult deprogramming. If sineone says something negative to ke I want to hold them and understand them. If it is agression as in bullying or covert relational agression I want to being things out into the open and deal with reality, and people are allowed to think and feel and speak negative things to me. They dont have to pretend to be perfect happy people. . I think it’s shaming to treat people like they are never supposed to see hear think feel or speak anything negative. I want to share perceptions thoughts and feelings and feel mutually seen felt and heard and I think that is when we have genuine love and connection. Including humility and forgiveness. Flawed and loved anyway. That is salvation. That is what feeds the soul. People who pretend to be perfect always end up scapegoating and projecting and sometimes go psychotic like the Nazis. There is a place for positivity and avoiding rude people I’m not that close to and its not kind to say words like that to people expressing their negative reality. If they are bullying me or agressive it’s ok to say “are you bullying me? And avoid the person without all that nicy nice talk. Which sounds phony. Sometimes I really feel like Holden caulfield. Can’t you see how phony this stuff is?
Love is truth. Love is trust. Joy and peace lie in the direction of REALITY. Not pretense.
Imagine raising children this way! I was watching super nanny. Imagine super nanny teaching children that’s just your perception we think differently have a nice day and no negative talk. It’s all too general. We love with words and lots of specifics. Complex thought. Insight. Children are traumatized by this line of thinking and you need to be able to find out what they are believing and help them not jsut tell them it’s magic only think good thoughts all the time. It’s too extreme here. Cognitive therapy and family systems therapy and trauma therapy is what actually helps people. This type of reasoning is a bit see no evil hear no evil speak no evil. The reality is that there is evil. There are lies. There is right and wrong in life. And gray areas and complexities. Unfortunately this thinking is immature and primitive.
This way of relating with others is about maladaptive coping mechanisms and is too simplistic. It is about logical fallacies and people of the lie. There is a place for being positive and focused and some denial and sublimation in order to function but hopefully it’s not a person’s strict religion. People are sad angry guilty and afraid sometimes and what are they believing. What is the reality? What problem needs to be solved? What are these feelings telling us about our reality that we may need to see and change? This seems more like hyper religious suppression and repression. We love with words. We love in truth.
It’s nice to be able to resolve issues not sweep them under the rug to fester. You’re replies to these people sound close minded. Nicy nice.
We aren’t islands that create our entire reality. Other people have free will and there are predators in the world. Confusion and abuse. Instead of speaking my own selfish truth why not talk to my mother in law the next day about her concerns or with my husband all together and get to the bottom of things? How about our truth instead of just my truth? If my mother in law comes to me for help I want to be there for her and seek truth and find meaning. If she is playing games try transactional analysis. Bring it out into the open. People who have trouble handling their emotion are afraid of that kind of intimacy. Hey mom let’s the three of us discuss this tomorrow or if you have a problem with your son you should talk to him about it not me. I dont feel close to each other gossiping about him. Is this just gossip or is it a legitimate concern? Whats really going on? Who is bullying who? What needs to be resolved?
Karyln I hear your frustration, and believe it or not, I do understand as I do not come from a “magical childhood.” Like many people I have endured suffering far beyond what you would ever figure from my image and my words.
From where I stand, it appears to me that you do not believe you are the creator of your reality. So we have rather opposite points of view. As such, we could probably argue about these issues forever, but that does not interest me because I want to give you my compassion rather than my criticism. This is why I choose to be nice.
I believe you are doing the best with what you’ve got. I believe you know better than anyone else what the best course of action is for you. My efforts here on this website are only to mirror that belief of mine back to you. It’s up to you to decide if you “buy into” what I’m putting out there. Regardless of your decision, I hope you find the answers you are looking for <3
Thanks for this thoughtful article.. Will be trying these tactics in the future. Sorry this isn’t much of a response, but I wanted to say your work is greatly appreciated.
Ethan, thank you. Your words are very appreciated! XO
Do you recommend that people maintain family relationships when sexual abuse/incest or drug addiction are the issues? We are currently struggling with this as my husband and I both come from dysfunctional families and aren’t certain how or if we should maintain Amy kind of relationship with them. Having children makes this a difficult topic for us to come to terms with especially around the holidays. Any suggestions
Good question, Michelle. Well, the way I see it it depends on your situation and how you feel about it. I would ask myself: “what feels better?”
The bottom line is that what helps you create harmony in your life is your ability to feel good in the present moment as frequently as possible. Whatever actions you need to take to feel good about where you are I would take them. That might mean taking a pass on a family get-together, it might mean taking a break for an extended period or it may mean simply keeping interactions brief.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is determine what feels best to you. If it feels best to you that is the best decision you can make. It’s impossible for you to know how others will be influenced by your decision, so I would simply evaluate the situation by my own intuition, and then follow through with my decision knowing I made the best decision I could for me.
Whichever decision feels right in the present moment, take that route. You may choose a different route later on, but now just pick what feels right in the present moment.
Respectfully, your article is from my point of view, oversimplified, and I agree with a previous commentator, not helpful for many of those suffering from the effects of multigenerational patterns. I have tried many of these approaches using mindfulness and setting boundaries with love. But it has still continued to be quite difficult and toxic. Life is hard. It just is. The Buddhists say that life is suffering- because it is.
I personally have found that detaching from the family for periods of time may be very helpful for healing and staying in a position of “observation.” The detachment also helps you to not get drawn into patterned behaviour which is powerfully entrenched. A person does not have to prove they are not “insane” by getting statements from doctors- that would be part of the toxic dynamic by which the family will try to hold you captive. Just detach and “be”. Be who you are and commit to your healing. I love my family- but I keep them at a very safe distance and I always observe. I have learned to love ME- not narcissistically but with compassion and forgiveness. Then you can forgive and love them – without guilt- from a distance. when they say hurtful things then- detach and learn to say- “that’s interesting, please pass the salt.”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Judy. Sometimes the ideas I present resonate negatively with people, and I understand and accept that.
And yes, I agree that sometimes it is best to love from a distance <3
Hi Andrea, thank you for the article. I think that people who are looking for information on the internet are expressly looking for answers to the dysfunction. However, your article titled: 6 Easy Ways to Deal With Dysfunctional Family Members – I think is misleading… it should have included the most important element… that is based on the Law of Attraction. Had I read that part on the title, I would have known what kind of information to expect.
Your article would help people who are not necessarily dealing with toxic people or dysfunction… in order for you to “change” a dysfunctional interaction BOTH parties would have to change the dancing or the game of dysfunction.
Sometimes any person not engaged still can end up hurt by simply dealing with a dysfunctional loved one. If you ask the reader to take control of his part and ask him or her to stop moving to the rhythm of dysfunction, so to speak, then that person will be stepped on if he remains close to the (dancers) dysfunctional person/s. See for you have only told the person to stop or change the tune… but have not given the person the means to remove him/herself from the dysfunction or “dance floor” where it all happens.
Even when you “speak the truth” and don’t “engage”… the dysfunction will not cease because it never started with you, so it won’t end just because you stop. You will still be subject to the other person’s comments, criticism, abuse or whatever else.
Children who are born in very dysfunctional families know this… abuse starts very early and it has nothing to do with them… they aren’t engaging… they aren’t removing themselves… they just ‘be’, but yet this does nothing to stop the dysfunction they are subjected to and endure.
We as adults when armed with the right tools can take the steps necessary to remove ourselves from people we don’t control. I have always stood up for myself, and “spoken the truth”…but yet that has not stopped the dysfunction I was born into. Reason, and truth have no place in dysfunction (otherwise it wouldn’t be dysfunction).
In my case, after years of hitting my head against the wall in futile arguments, fights, getting hurt… the most helpful was finding a psychologist whom for years taught me how to heal and taught me how to identify and learn to remove myself from dysfunctional interactions and relationships. I learnt that I can’t change others, and how they decide to act (no matter how sweet or how stern I acted with them… you won’t change their ways), but I could only remove myself from the dance floor, so to speak, to stop getting stepped on and hurt.
Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I write really only on topics as they pertain to the Law of Attraction. Best wishes to you! XO, Andrea
My question is how does this work when the family member has a superiority complex and dictates how family and friends should treat them ignoring there own behavior and making personal attacks and making a public display of the fact that people say no or that they are busy and uses young with special needs children as bait and a bagaining/ guilting tool to manipulate people and complains about quality of help and then complains that they are not getting help when told they should complete task to show how it should be done
People like this win when they get our negative reaction. It is our reaction that perpetuates their action: when they get what they want (our irritation/annoyance/subservience) they keep doing what they are doing.
The trick with “toxic people” is to become immune to their tactics…to choose to look at them in as positive of a light as possible. To stand in the middle of their drama and feel totally calm. When we can do this honestly, the behaviors change.
Sometimes, in cases like this, it can be very helpful to keep the person at arm’s length while we learn to become less reactive to their antics.
I hope this helps. Big hugs <3
I am desperate for answers/help, I have been the family scapegoat since my dad ( I was dads favorite) died 16 years ago but it got really bad two years ago when my oldest sons daughter was born 98 days early & a month later my middle son told me he was addicted to drugs. Just when I thought my family would help me, they turned on me. My mom being the ring leader. She faked a heart attack & blamed me. The list goes on & on….My older brother the black sheep is the only one that understands. I’m devastated.
Sometimes it helps to realize those that hurt us are also in pain, and may very well share some of the same feelings we do. Best wishes for your healing and transcendence of this situation <3
Im in need of help. My family is dysfunctional to the limit. My brothers call my mom a bit## same as my other brother. They treat our parents like crap. My mom has had enough. I hate the way they treat them. I really need some help on how to get them to stop. Ive tried telling them they are ruining the family but they don’t care. Help please.
Ultimately the only control we have is over ourselves and not others. My best suggestion would be to learn some techniques to rise above the chaos…if you are interested in learning how to manage how you feel in this environment, here are some tips on my website you may find useful. Be well! XO https://raiseyourvibrationtoday.com/how-to-raise-your-vibration-easy-law-of-attraction-tips/
I like your coping strategies. It is true and we can only control ourselves and our reactions, not the other family members. My family has manipulative behaviors and words. I do not think they know or mean to hurt me or the other person. It is painful. In the end, I think I will probably choose to wish them well and walk away better than deal with the negativity. The definition of crazy is arguing the same point over and over. It seems to be for the best for all parties. these people helped me grow and taught me words can be more painful. Listen to words and watch the actions. I thank them for that.
beth e fink
I thank you for your coping strategies. I must for now keep the peace out of respect for an aging parent. I do not think my family knows how close I am wanting to walk away from the hurtful words, manipulative behaviors/statements. They , do not know nor understand. In the end we only have control of our actions and words, not other peoples. Words can not be taken back once said. Actions do speak louder than words. I want no part of this toxicity, and I do not know if they are mean to hurt me. Forgive them they know not what they do is most relevant. There is also the definition of crazy,”repeating the same pattern, and going nowhere.” In the end, i will wish them all well and move on, I think it will give me peace to leave the toxicity. thank you for when i have to meet them in a social setting though.
Good strategy Anonymous! Ultimately, we get to choose our reactions and it sounds like you really understand this XOXO
Since kids, my parents always fight. They are fighting even until now. I don’t know how to stop them. Before, I was rebellious, sometimes i would cry inside(but i don’t feel it anymore), and one day I shouted to them that I will be the strongest, which in turn, after being limp(will stand up again), I prayed to God I don’t want to be anymore him, who is the most powerful, most high. I jumped on the 3rd floor balcony cause I want to out-do veteran parkour artist David Belle, and so I started practicing. I thought I wasn’t going to be damaged cause my bros before on the other condo did that and they were fine, but as I can remember, they bent their knees if I’m right, and I forgot. It was also just low on the view, so I thought everything’s fine. I was also high on drugs so maybe that helped.
I am so thankful I found you on a search on Google. Sometimes, us kids too argue and fight. I remember my last two fights with a younger brother(but who’s larger than me cuz he’s fat) about my lighter and I forgot the first one. We fist fighted but on those two fights, I said sorry. They kinda got sick of me always saying sorry. But the last sorry is real. I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I am older, and I should be more responsible and act maturely. I’m a little bit embarrassed that they sometimes disrespect me and act like they’re older because as a Filipino, we should call each other Kuyas and Ates, but our parents didn’t taught us that, so we don’t know really how to act in our age, or to respect any older sibling. But we get along.
My parents are strict, but I did some few talks about them that they are somehow doing some change. I told them about my panic attack that happened a few times and two times already, it got me paralyzed in bed. The first one was 1 year and 3 months. It’s a long story on how they are over-protective. But I ain’t backin down. I have learned and valued freedom because of my chains. I also learned how to be self-reliant but sometimes it got too far, and I become anti-social, which I am now changing. I’ve read a book by Dale Carnegie called How To Win Friends and Influence People and it has truly helped me become more social. It’s a classic.
I really thank you because I keep on having a hard time talking about them on their fights, mom’s and dad’s. And now I learned that I must be the change I wish to see in the world. The focusing on positive qualities and law of attraction part really hit me. I’ve been complaining about their attitudes and how they’re going to end up old bringing that habit and they might die quickly and tragically from that. I just told my mom that they should stop fighting I while ago and she just acted like a pissed off lady and told me that it’s because no one is helping her.
I should also not think that I am perfect, because that’s what my fat bro argued with me(one of the things he said) on our last fight. I am reading a lot of successful material, success-driven mats and things on how to be rich and happy, self-development books. I just wanted to help them, but I didn’t notice I was already hitting on their short-comings, and damn my fat bro was just so tired that night from working(he already became a provider for our family. He makes money from the internet. I am doing my best too to make money online).
I do not blame any one anymore. I want to blame myself, but I read something that said that blaming yourself isn’t part of the equation, so I’m thinking.
I have bookmarked this page as I find it really helpful. May I ask if you too had some problems comparable to mine with family? You might had, because how can you write an article about it. If you have time, can I know what happened. I don’t want to force you into writing that if it isn’t part of your plans or anything, but it’s up to you. Again, thank you so much. BTW, you can just write it on the comments if you will.
Do you want to know how I became limp? Don’t worry, I will stand up again. Check it out here: http://www.focusondisability.org.uk/forum.html#bn-forum-1-1-2381766292/843
Wanna know legit ways on how I make money. All have reviews by trusted sources. Check it out here: http://www.hustlindudof17.blogspot.com
Hi Emen, yes I have had a boatload of family issues in my past that have fortunately resolved in a pretty wonderful way. It all boiled down to ME making changes, rather than waiting for others to change…then the “issues” started to fade out of the picture.
Thanks for your feedback on my article, much appreciated! XO, Andrea
I have to agree with someone else who wrote here that although your advice was indeed helpful (and strategies i used), it does not really help with a mother n law who has significant borderline personality traits. Her whole family knows it. Their way of dealing with her berating or manipulation is to ignore her and not take her insults to heart. I am pregnant for a second time and cannot just deal with her like I use to. I have tried switching topics or avoiding topics that are sensitive (like politics). I have tried everything. Today was the accumulation of it all, she exploded, my husband has my back and has always known of her dysfunction. Although i am sure this too will pass, I am still uneasy with knowing that she will always be in my life. I cant keep being adversely affected like this by her, especially when pregnant and now especially while having babies of my own who she could negatively influence… is there any positive to this situation?
Well, Anonymous-I would say the thing that comes to mind is that I myself used to have borderline personality disorder (along with many of the symptoms: mood swings, addiction, eating disorder, etc.). I no longer have any of the clinical symptoms. So, the positive thing is knowing that people CAN change-change is absolutely possible even in clinical conditions.
Also, I would say that it helps best when we simply accept people where they are. You don’t have to change her in order for you to be happy. Let her be as dysfunctional as she wants to be. This lets her off the hook, and when she’s off the hook, she’ll be less likely to lash out <3
That is VERY helpful and promising. Thank you.
Thank you Anonymous <3
Lots of love
Amazing article!!! Keep it up! I hope one day I can blog, but I’m too busy with a career change.
I’ve choose. To cut my family off. Toxic people are toxic until they get therapy. I don’t need toxic people in my life. The more toxic people you have in your life, the less energy you have for healthy relationships. If it’s a mild and doesn’t cause problems, then maybe a person could set boundaries.
For me, it’s triggers my pstd so it’s just no contact or low contact. I feel sad because they’ll never “get” it.
I think people pressure people to maintain toes with family when they shouldn’t. I think when you grow up, you get to decide who is in and who is out. If your family has been toxic, then that’s on them and it’s okay to walk away. If people want to have family, then they need to be healthy enough that their family wants to be in contact with them.
If I don’t walk away from toxic people then I’m almost as responsible for enabling it. It is hard when everyone is in denial though.
Thanks for sharing your story Lots of love, and for your kind words! Sending my love <3
Andrea, your wise words have given me a new insight into how to move forward in a more positive way with my neglectful ….but very charming brother….see I’m already focusing on his positive attributes!! I also need to lower my expectations, and accept that is ok, as he is unlikely to change , and I need to maintain a relationship for my mother’s sake.
Thanks for sharing Lynne, and sending my best wishes for positive progress in this! <3
This is nonsense. Humble yourself to a toxic person and the person will continue doing the same thing. Simply avoid any interaction with the person, that’s the only way they get to see that they are wrong.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Anonymous!
Young Married Couples Problems
I’ve read several good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to make such a great informative website.
Thank you <3
This is very good advice for anyone dealing with dysfunction within a family or friend relationship. However, when there are layers upon layers of issues, decades of negative thinking/actions, and ‘demons’ contributing to the dysfunctional thoughts/actions in families, that’s when this tactic may not help all the way to a completely “fixed” state (as some have expressed). There is no overnight fix for the pain that others have or the heartache you have from the pain. You can only truly heal yourself through focusing on your own dysfunction, your own demons, your own flaws. Dont worry about others- give it to your higher power- those dysfunctional people are on their own path. Pray for them, work on yourself, set boundaries and surround yourself with positive people, places, and things. Yes, sometimes that means distancing or cutting off toxic people- dont enable them and dont give energy to anything that doesn’t serve a higher purpose. Why should we reward or give attention to bad behavior ever?? Forgive them and yourself and then focus on creating a healthier, happier, harmonious you. My testimony is based on my reality. My story is of survival- as a child of an alcoholic, narcissistic divorced parents, neglect and abandonment by both parents, rape and sexual assault as a teen and into adulthood, highschool shooting, siblings with addiction who still suffer today, PTSD, depression, low self worth, loss of children (miscarriages), physical/emotional abuse by past partners, lack of ability to focus at job, homelessness, weight issues, and inability to have intimate relationships or trust. With THE LAW OF ATTRACTION, FAITH, THERAPY, SELF AWARENESS, ACCEPTANCE & most importantly- letting go of that which does not serve my highest good-including toxic family members, toxic relationships and toxic environments has enlightened me and guided me towards more positive encounters and more positive vibrations that has lead me towards an amazing life full of love, a righteous husband, a new family and circle of friends, and abundance. Nothing new could come into my life until I could appreciate what I was grateful for already, “take out the garbage” and allow that pain to heal over time. Focus on the good ALWAYS & discover how your light can shine bright. We are all individually on a spiritual journey together.
Thank you for sharing your perspective and story Nikki, much appreciated <3
I have a dysfunctional situation that is different than most. I think there is some mental illness. Throughout my life, there has always been extreme solutions to everything. Too much emphasis was put on guilt, shame, and feeling as if you should be obligated to people more than usual, for no reason but to be good. Each and every one of us goes overboard to accommodate others. I have found it to bite me in the butt more than once. People take advantage of this. Our mother continues to take this obligation to the extreme and insists we all do like good boys and girls to make her look good, even though we are all adults! If anyone suggests they are not interested, she tells us it is not going to hurt anyone to give. I hate being told what to do and at my age! I never have any say. I am the one in the family that gets the look if I do. I love my mother but she is a manipulator who uses her authority to get her way. I am a mother of grown children myself and a bit tired of living under her rules when it comes to how I am supposed to think! To me, this is dysfunction. I also have a brother who is really out there and who is also an extreme hoarder. He is normal, says my mom, who is also a hoarder. I am the one who needs help because I don’t like to have the clutter that I do.. My mom has actually told me they are concerned about me for thinking like this! More dysfunction! This same brother has anorexia but says he doesn’t eat for religious reason because he is sacrificing, yet spends money on things he enjoys and doesn’t see he could sacrifice there instead of with food. He also won’t sleep in a bed because that would be too luxurious, so he sleeps on the floor…and because I try to take care of myself, I am the one with the eating problem, although I am within normal range. It is all very hurtful and sometimes I think I am going to explode. It’s all like the elephant in the room every day of my life. I do my very best to remain positive and use humor, and obviously, I hide this from friends and family. How could I tell anyone! Did I not say this is unusual dysfunction! 😀
Your advice is REALLY upsetting. In fact, your advice is telling the person who wishes to confront the dysfunction TO CONTINUE THE DYSFUNCTION. It goes against any actual, successful therapeutic model. What kind of decent person tells an abused person to continue to protect the abusers?
So much is dysfunction is about not being able to validate one’s experiences. How is a person expected to heal when they must continue participating in a happy-go-lucky false reality? You make statements under the assumption that saving the relationship takes priority over advocating for one’s self.
Please take this article down. You have no business advising on this.
Hi Keila, perhaps this video may better illustrate the underlying message I am communicating here: https://raiseyourvibrationtoday.com/2017/05/12/toxic-people-the-law-of-attraction-and-quantum-physics/
I am just a kid just so you know and I need some help. I think that I come from a semi dysfunctional family. I say this because me and my dad hardly get into arguments but my mother and my brother are arguing a lot and sometimes I feel unsafe being in the same house as them. They have had fights before and there was just a really big one so I decided to take a step In the right detection and reach out to you. I really need some help on what to do, pls respond soon.
Ps. I have looked at the stuff in your article and a bunch of other ones but I can see them working in my situation.
I have been in a abusive relationship for a very long time. Nobody to blame but myself for allowing it to happen. My advice is too cut your losses before you get up in years and are too old to do any thing about the relationship. I am 85 years old. I got wise too late, don’t waste your life with dysfunctional people who refuse to get mental help. I have gone for help from professionals.i really tried to heal my relationalship. So my conclusion to the ongoing problems are the (Prayer of serenity) and find some loving and caring people and bring them into your life !! God bless and may your pain lessen through his grace and mercy.love to you all who are suffering emotionally.
The prayer of serenity helps people who are dealing with these issues. Love to all who are in these situations. Cut your losses while you can life is to short, I got wise to late, and have no one to blame except myself for allowing it to happen. I am 85 years of age and hope I can pass on some wisdom to the younger generation. Love to you all.
Dr. Arline (Maust) Westmeier
I respect everything that you have written in this blog. Please continue to provide wisdom to more people like me.
This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.