Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“Toxic people attach themselves like cinder blocks tied to your ankles, and then invite you for a swim in their poisoned waters.” ~John Mark Green
I would like to share with you an acronym that I created for my patients who are dealing with the effects of a toxic relationship. This acronym is a reminder to not form an attachment to an unhealthy bond by giving it your time and energy. The relationship can be a romantic one, friendship or familial one. Through the process of therapy, my patients learn to identify these toxic relationships. They learn coping mechanisms and defense strategies. This acronym serves as a reminder for them to focus on their well being. Every moment we have the opportunity to change the direction of our lives. By reminding ourselves to L.e.t G.o of toxic relationships we give ourselves the strength to sever the tentacles of negativity that may encircle us in our daily lives.
This acronym can be applied to any toxic relationship in your life. Here I am applying it to the relationship between a child and parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
1. Live your life
Realize that the most important obligation you have is to live your own life as authentically and as well as you can. Your life belongs to you and there is only one opportunity to live it as you wish. A narcissistic parent may attempt to sabotage your efforts to have an independent life by using manipulation tactics. It is important to learn to recognize these behaviors, and how to deflect them. To the narcissistic parent, a child’s independence is like severing an appendage. They see their child as an extension of themselves and not as an independent separate being. They will shatter all boundaries that the child may attempt to set up. They will greedily consume the child’s life as well as their own if enabled.
2. Engage with community
Often times when we are dealing with a toxic relationship we can become overly focused on the resulting negativity. It is imperative to break this isolation and surround yourself with healthy individuals. It is important to dilute the negativity in your life by surrounding yourself with healthy friends and family. A parent with NPD can be extremely possessive of the child and will attempt to keep them away from others. They may engage in triangulation in order to create problems between the child and others. One must try to minimize all personal contact with the NPD parent. The contact should be as impersonal as possible so as to not give the NPD any fuel for their negativity. If this minimal contact continues to result in chaotic harmful behavior then one must make the difficult but necessary decision to stop all contact.
3. Take a step back
There is no need to fight every single battle that is presented by the toxic person in your life. Often times, unhealthy individuals will create chaos in order to get your attention. If you are not careful you may find yourself living in a perpetual state of panic; trained like Pavlov’s dogs to constantly put out fires set by the emotional arsonist in your life. An NPD parent may use triangulation or other manipulative behavior to pit you against others or to control and manipulate you. By pausing and taking a step back you can resist engaging in the orchestrated drama. By not putting out every emotional fire set by the toxic person in your life you can begin to break the impulse that you need to make things better.
Over time you will need to grow and nurture your independence from the toxic relationship. It is common to form a co-dependent relationship with the toxic person in your life. One can start by setting clear boundaries and not allowing them to be crossed. You will need to start establishing your own identity apart from the toxicity of the unhealthy bond. A parent with NPD will use control and manipulation to keep you chained in the relationship. They will use guilt as a weapon and seek to cast themselves in the role of a martyr. They will exclaim and go into detail about all the sacrifices they have made for you. If you are financially dependent on an NPD parent, it is important to seek financial independence. If not, they will use their economic leverage to maintain the status quo of master and servant.
5. Observe don’t absorb
Do not allow the toxic person in your life to kill your life impetus. Do not mirror the behavior that is being directed towards you. A parent with NPD will use many tactics in order to control, manipulate and keep the upper hand in the relationship. They may exhibit passive-aggressive behavior and undermine any attempt you make to seek your independence. They will withhold love and make you feel as if there is something wrong with you. Do not accept your parent’s toxic behavior as truth. By educating yourself on the behavior that your parent is manifesting, you can observe, acknowledge and set it aside.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is important to note that much of the growth that takes place in your life will be not about what you gain but about what you let go. If you have experience with a toxic relationship please leave a comment and share your insight on how you chose to manage the relationship.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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