Every end is also a new beginning. This is the time when an entire year comes to an end and we collectively celebrate the new one. I want to use this turn of the year not to make new years resolutions but to reflect on what happened this year, how it impacted me and my growth and what role I played in that process. To be able to make better choices next year.
Well, I have written about many aspects of my life in my last blog. For expample my studies or my social anxiety. This time, I want to focus on a major stressor in my life. My beloved husband's family. I have called them out as toxic in a former blog post as well.
You can read about it here:
Though, I do recognize, that this post from April this year was written from a victim mindset. At the time, I wasn't able to take back even the tiniest bit of my power. Neither did I realize, that I had any power at all.
Today, I want to be all about radical acceptance. Dr. Ramani Durvasula talks about the concept of radical acceptance a lot in her videos. It is not about accepting and putting up with abusive behaviour, but rather seeing the toxic person for who they are and accepting, that they really are toxic. That there is nothing that can be done about it. That it is not your fault. That you have to step away and protect yourself. But most importantly: that you have put yourself first - shift your power back from abusive jerks to your own journey. If you want to achieve anything in your life, earn a degree, get healthy, have a family of your own, whatever it may be, you will have to step up and make it happen. There is no one coming to save you. There will be no one doing any of this for you. This is your life. This is your journey. Let the jerks be jerks. They will never stop. But you can stop paying attention to their nonsense and start to focus on your growth instead.
How Do You Know If Someone Is Toxic?
Well, it really is simple. Every healthy relationship has the same core ingredients:
Mutuality of Regard
Every healthy relationship has those ingredients. Every. Single. One.
No narcissistic or otherwise toxic relationship has even one of those aspects. If you find yourself constantly walking on eggshells around this person, if you feel like you always have to work hard to please them and no matter how hard you try it is never enough, if they cannot celebrate your accomplishments with you and instead, shift the attention back on themselves, if thy mock you in order to sooth themselves, if they gaslight you, yell at you or abuse you in any other way, this person is probably narcissistic or in any other way toxic. Remember, there is no excuse for abuse.
I wrote about flying monkeys before. The term is actually borrowed from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Flying monkeys (or also enablers) are the people who enable toxic behaviour. My dearest husband was one of them for a long time. Even I was one for my own narsissistic mother. Enablers do the bitting of the abusive person merely to not be targeted themselves and also to maintain the peace. Which of course doesn't make it okay or in any way or less painful for those on the receiving end of their nonsense.
I did a lot of work on myself this year. I managed to ignore my narcissistic mother and sister in-law for most of the time. Whenever any abusive crap was thrown our way, I had my usual rants about it (which I probably will always have and that's okay), but I came out of them faster. I managed to focus more on my goals instead. Which to me is a huge accomplishment as my toxic in-laws used to control my mind most of the time.
But then they mobilized their flying monkeys. Thankfully we only have two of them. Which also tells us something, namely that there must be something wrong with mommy dearest and her daughter, if they have managed to drive everyone away, except for the father in the picture (I will refer to him as FIL - for father in-law for the sake of simplicity) and mommy dearest's mother (to her I will refer as GIL for grandmother in-law). My husband's famlily dynamic really is as strange as it is dysfunctional. So we have two narcissists (Mommy dearest and her daughter) and two flying monkeys (FIL and GIL). FIL and GIL are individuals who are not toxic per se, but definitely have no stable core either and therefore are very vulnerable for manipulation of any kind. They are deeply enmeshed with their cult-like church and derive their entire sense of self from thare. Keeping the peace and being there for others is their everything. How convenient for a narcissist! Mommy dearest did break up with FIL around 10 years ago. Yet, they still celebrate every holiday and birthday together. Neither of them has a new partner. He still hopes for them to get back together. It is sad, really.
So basically, mommy dearest and her daughter waltz all over others, do and take what they want with no regard for the feelings and wishes of other people and get backed up by FIL and GIL.
They constantly come at us saying we should be more forgiving. That we just have to accept everyone as they are. Interestingly this only applies to certain individuals, meaning those who make the most noise which threatenes the flying monkey's rose coloured world view -the two narcissist in the system.
Step Away - Invest Your Energy Where You Have Power
Which brings me back to radical acceptance. Not only do we have to accept that the narcissistic person is toxic. We have to accept that the flying monkey will enable her. This is what they do. This is who they are. These people are not your people. They never have been. And they never will be. It is as simple as it is sad. Sometimes this means you have to step away from your entire family system. Which is accompanied by tremendous grief. And some people will never be able to take that step. Again, radical acceptance. We can only go our own path.
In the past few month, I tried to maintain a relationship with FIL and GIL which turned out to be impossible, given what I just described. What I need to do, is radically accept them for the enabler that they are, while silmutaniously accept, that they will never do the same for my husband or me. I am a whistleblower. I can sense if someone is toxic mostly right away and it scares the crap out of me. As you can imagine, neither my family nor my in-laws like ever liked that quality about me. But this is who I am and it is why I am writing this blog today.
So now what? I have thought about this so many times. What can I do about this? And the answer is as simple as it is frustrating. Nothing. I cannot control what other people do. I only have power over what I do. Many people have said this before me. It is not a new concept. I cannot control what the narcissists are doing. If they want to badmouth me in their entire church, they will do exactly that. And well, they did exactly that. I have no control over that. And I have no control over how much they will be enabled.
But you know what? I can choose to not care. Because no matter how many times they get their way, how many people they can brainwash and control, it will never be enough. And even better, it is not going to be me.
And more importantly, I have to focus on what I want to accomplish for myself in my life. The more energy I invest in thinking about them, the less energy I have left for pursuing my own dreams. I knew this for quite some time. But we do not invest so much time in thinking about our abusers simply because we want to, do we? We think about them so much because we want to keep ourselves safe. If we could just learn to foresee what is going to happen next, what the toxic people will pull next, we'd be safe, right? We could probably take some preventative precautions, right?
The thing is, you can't. I am dealing with this toxic mother in-law for 7 years now and she still makes moves that catch me off guard. Even though I have said countless times, that "now that she did this, nothing can supprise me anymore". You have to accept that they are capable of anything.
So How Do We Shift Our Focus And Step Away?
Just do it. It has to do with unlearning. That autonomic nervous system response (increased heart rate, high alert, fear etc.) needs to be unlearned or re-wired. Whenever we fly into fight, flight or freeze mode, we have to remember, that this person actually has no power over our lives. Think about it. You cannot control what the narcissist does. But neither can they control what you do! They can gaslight and yell and throw their tantrums, but ultimately, that cannot keep you from doing you, if you don't give in to their nonsense. And this is where your power is. Accept that they are toxic. Don't expect them to turn into decent human beings. It is not going to happen. This is radical acceptance.
From there, you can establish other healthy supportive relationships in your life, ignore the narcissistic nonsense and go after your dreams. So what we all need to remember for this new year is that we all actually have more power than we realize if we just focus on our own journeys and growths.
I wish all of you a happy new year and send you some big hugs!