How to deal with toxic family members as an intuitive and empathic person.
In this video, I will share with you some grounded tips and tools for navigating complicated family systems while staying centered on your heart and your intuition.
What I find really common is that intuitive and empathic people often were birthed into complicated family systems. That means there can be a lot of toxicity within your family now. That might be your parents or your siblings and might even be your extended family.
Families are constellations. It’s a whole system, but the number one thing and loss I see isn’t just family, closeness, and intimacy. It’s really disconnection from your own intuition and your own spirit.
Because when you are born as an empathic, sensitive being into an unconscious family, we, in many ways, can learn to develop our intuitive muscles to heighten our sensitivity and read into what’s being unsaid. Like how people are feeling, what is going on, and what is the solution.
Within that, those are all systems and strategies to create safety within ourselves, trying to create safety. An island of feeling safe and grounded in a lot of chaos.
What often also happens within that real, almost like super-sensed sensory power, is that we also get into a lot of overthinking. We get very much into our heads. What is the right thing to do? What is the right thing to say in case I accidentally cause an explosion, drama or conflict?
And it has us, that ripple effect of where we were first taught how to be in the world. That wound carries with us in all different facets of our lives in all of our different relationships that robs us of our spontaneity of our creativity and of our ability to be deeply connected to others in the way that we actually want.
Here are some of the signs that I see in my mentoring and in my readings:
When you’re sensitive and intuitive and come into a very unconscious and unskilled family, you often end up getting stuck in perfectionism.
We feel like if we’re excellent and do things right, if we’re good helpers and come up with solutions, with generous understanding, we’re good listeners or empathic, that somehow this will be this magic key to create more ease and predictability in our lives.
The other thing I see often is when they’re born in these systems, what they’re also really good at doing is being very accountable. Accountable for their actions. Self-examining of what is my part because the system that they came in with had a limited amount of that.
There’s an idea of our ego-intellect that the intellect that tries to figure things out that says if I can figure out what I did wrong then I can come up with a solution with how to do it right or how to do it better next time.
I need to be more patient. I need to be more loving and forgiving and all these things. And you know what happens?
All that gets stacked upon itself until you get crushed with so many things to do. That this is your responsibility, but it’s not.
I can think about one of my clients who loved her mom very much. Her mom had a lot of wonderful gifts. When we talked about her mom, she was like my mom was great. She was always really supportive of me and my brother. She would do anything, go to the ends of the Earth for us.
But any time we got into an argument, it would explode in my house. It would just be like Armageddon. Everybody would freak out, and it’d be so scary.
Then, eventually, she would calm down, and then she would attack my character. Tell me that I’m a bad person and all these things. And this sort of barrage vomit of mess. Then later, she would come around and apologize, and I would forgive her, but at the same time, it left me feeling sad because I love my mom, but also, this isn’t working.
The first thing that I want to say when we’re talking about our families is we can start to appreciate the gifts that our family has given us even in complicated systems, but at the same time, be okay to let the people around us be accountable for their actions.
I learned a wonderful quote from my therapist, Anna Maria, a while ago called unsaid that said.
Understanding doesn’t create change.
I love that because intuitive, empathic people are very good at understanding others, why they are the way they are, from their family trauma, from their upbringing to their bad day from x, y or z.
At the end of the day, oftentimes, those are excuses for bad behavior.
So, how do we stay centered in our hearts? How do we stay connected to our intuition? How do we navigate this? How do I get out of overthinking?
The very first thing is to examine your family system.
Examine these relationships.
How is your communication? Do you feel safe? Are you allowed to disagree? Are you always the one who has to apologize and take responsibility? Are there any ground rules when it comes to fighting? Is anybody allowed to say anything in the heat of the moment?
If we can start to pause and not make it good or bad or that I have good parents or bad parents or good siblings or bad siblings and really take that intellect lens of black and white out and just think, how does it make me feel?
How does it make me feel when I communicate with them?
Can I be supported?
Can I bring my own stuff?
Can I be uplifted?
If we have a disagreement, are they able to hear my perspective?
Can we come to a solution?
This is all good information. Once we can get clear in the present time, we can start moving towards creating better relationships with ourselves and our spirit and then extend that to our family.
So, look at your family system. See what’s working and see what’s not working. See what makes you feel good. See what makes you not feel good. What are the things that you would like to change? What are the things that work?
Starting at that baseline.
There’s a quote by Carl Jung: “When the diagnosis is correct, healing can begin.”
As much as our empathic sensitive cells want to be compassionate and understand, say, is this working or not?
It’s not being judgmental. It’s not being critical. It’s just being true.
Another hallmark of intuition and living a life in alignment is being true. Truthful with yourself. Truthful with your higher self and the people around you.
Second, Let’s say you have a toxic mom or sister, and every time you go to call her or visit, your whole body tenses up because you know it’s just going to be judgment, drama, and terrorist stories of everything that’s not working.
You can feel your body contract.
You can feel that your spirit gets squeezed right out of your body, and often we get into overthinking. We can see this as we try to say, “Oh, what might happen? How might I be able to react? What can I do?”
Start by just taking a deep breath through your nose. Imagine breathing up through your feet, pulling in the support of Mother Earth, and connecting yourself back to home number one. Exhale like you’re exhaling ten birthday candles.
This is my favorite tool. Hand in your heart, hand on your belly. Gently close your eyes and drop your attention from the chatter of your headspace to your heart. This is the portal where we can listen. This is our home number one. This is where we can start to establish feeling safe in our own bodies that can carry us into these different challenging situations and moments but knowing that this is where we can always return to.
Often, when we have to navigate, let’s say, speaking up or navigating having to go to a family function. The anxiety rises. I feel strange. I’m already myself. I’m already over it before I’ve even been there. I’m already feeling worried, afraid, anxious, and any of it.
Any time we’re in black and white, trying to figure out, and our mind is like a little rotisserie chicken on a spit, it’s a good sign that you are not connected to your spirit. You are in your head trying to figure things out, and it will exhaust you and also hijack your imagination for every worst possibility possible.
So when you recognize that your protective ego intellect is in charge, that’s freaking out. It’s our inner child that’s the one that’s afraid, not our higher self, not our spirit.
Two, take a moment and reassure your inner child and your ego intellect that they don’t have to be in charge.
You’re going to turn it over to your higher self, who will be able to navigate whatever comes and make you feel safe.
When we can practice giving ourselves the reassurance that we missed. Many times in toxic family systems, we don’t get reassured often. We’re good at being reassurers because it’s what we need, and we’re good at reassuring our family members.
We have to practice giving that to ourselves first and foremost because then all of that crunchiness will start to relax.
So make this a practice any time we’ll see the phone rings, you’re like, “Oh no, what is grandma going to say this time? Take a breath. It’s not my inner child or ego intellect driving but my higher self.
Third, establish boundaries.
One of our soul lessons on planet Earth is to have good boundaries.
We have to remember that the relationships that we have with ourselves dictate the relationships that we have with all around us. So you might love mom, dad, sister, brother, or grandma, but if you let them mistreat you and give them a pass because you love them and you know that they love you, then what you’re saying is that you can treat me however you want and that in and of itself is not self-loving.
Let’s start by first saying I will center all of my actions and decisions on love for myself. So, any boundaries that I exercise, anything that is a no, anything even in conflict that is out of a place of self-love and appreciation that moves away from my own judgment of self or others, I am making these decisions and actions because I love myself.
You can’t download on me all day because I love myself.
You can’t nitpick death by a million paper cuts because I love myself.
You can’t be judgmental of me, whether it’s talking about my body, relationships, clothes, or choices, because I love myself.
That can help us change and give ourselves more grace.
I love you. I love your spirit. I don’t love your barking dog.
We can also use that by looking at our family members: I love their higher self, I love their spirit, I don’t like their barking dog. That’s okay. It’s not being critical. It’s just being true.
The other thing is to get clear on what your ground rules are when you have time away.
So, for example, if you have a family that fights a lot, and that’s one of the ways that you guys work things out. Suppose there’s a lot of drama. Drama is addictive, and we can have these big explosions, and then there’s closeness. This is a cyclical pattern that can happen.
Let’s say you’re in a family that has a lot of drama. First, get clear on what your ground rules are for conflict. Is it okay for people to yell at you? Is it alright for people to attack your character? Is it okay for people to go to pass stories?
These are all good red flags.
So, the first ground rule is no yelling. You can even say what you have to say is important, and I want to listen, but right now, you can’t yell at me, and if you keep yelling at me, I’m going to walk away and then actually do walk away.
The second ground rule is you cannot attack my character. You can be angry at me as if I’ve made a mistake or hurt your feelings, but you cannot attack who I am at my core.
The third rule is to walk away.
Fourth is that whatever we’re talking about, especially in conflict, and we are talking about this thing in this particular instance is, we can’t go back in history.
You can say if that is important to you, we can circle back at another time, but right now, we’re working on this issue and slowly keep bringing them back to the present moment because that helps to contain things.
Also, know what your north star is.
What do you want the solution to be?
Do you want somebody to hear you?
Do you want them to not yell at you anymore?
Do you want them to understand what you’re saying?
Use your north star anytime you’re in that conflict because that will give you an out instead of getting stuck in all the mishigosh that can leave us and feeling like you are in the undertow of a wave.
Last, be direct. Be as straightforward as possible. Be clear on what it is that you want. Talk about how you feel. People can’t tell you that how you’re feeling is wrong.
We can often get so caught up in what happened that we have all sorts of different perspectives instead of focusing on how we feel and how what they’re saying makes us feel.
It makes me feel sad when you yell at me.
It makes me feel scared when you yell at me.
It makes me feel bad when you tell me that you don’t like my clothes.
When we can get out of our head and engage with people’s emotional selves, it helps to quiet that blah blah blah.
Have good boundaries. Know what your true yes and what your true no and follow through.
The big thing is consistency. Follow through.
Every single time that voice is raised, leave. Every single time there’s an attack on your character, leave, and you can say I want to talk about this, and I’m looking for a solution, but at this moment, it’s not working for me.
Another tool that I have if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if all of a sudden tensions rise, heart rates, people are starting to get more and more crispy, ask for a time out.
Say I need five minutes of no talking, and I will be back then we can resolve this. I always use this, even in my own family and relationships.
Anytime I can get into that space, I ask for a timeout, and we’ll be back in five minutes. It helps me re-regulate and ground back to my spirit and self. What do I want the solution to be? What do I want the outcome to be that can help to make sure that I am not only in alignment with myself but my relationships and that I can come to solution?
Setting all these boundaries and creating all these changes can bring about a lot of anxiety in yourself and your Family systems because there’s a fear of disconnection.
As you change and grow on your healing journey, things change. You create a change within the system, creating anxiety around disconnection that might come out in all sorts of different ways, but recognize that the changes you are creating within yourself have a ripple-out effect and the anxiety that rises within yourself. That’s when you can use your spirit, intuition, and higher self to help reassure those parts that need it.
Remember that you’re not hurting anyone. You’re not doing anything wrong. What you’re doing is very self-loving and loving to the people you care about. Creating these apparent dynamics and boundaries creates a more intimate connection where everybody else can relax, where it’s okay to have a full no and walk away.
Recognize that toxic family systems are tough, so be patient and gentle with yourself. Don’t be obligated. It’s okay if you miss a family function. It’s okay if you don’t answer the phone. It’s okay if you need to take time or space. These are all valid things.
This is not abandoning anyone that you love. It’s just not abandoning yourself.
So how do you deal with a toxic family system, or maybe it’s in-laws in your life? I would love to hear from you.
I am sending you all my love and see you next week!