Cut Them Off?
Who’s allowed in your castle?
There are plenty of examples from nature that show not just an inclination, but rejuvenation and change as a way of life.
Snakes change skin when they shed, which is really a shedding of the old upper surface skin layer. Spiders also malt, that’s why you find spider shaped exoskeletons lying around. Various mammals grow and lose fur depending on the season. And far less appealing: people lose 1.5lb of skin a year on average.
Why am I talking about shedding?
Animals just do it naturally, but we can take some inspiration and metaphor from it.
This is nothing related to dermatology.
The shedding I’m referring to is that of people. If you haven’t done it already, maybe it’s time? I can’t decide for you, or act for you, but I can offer some advice on this subject.
A cliche but also a truism is that who your friends are, the people you are surrounded by reflects you as a person on some level and has a massive influence on your future direction and success*. And it’s important to distinguish the difference between choosing your associates and the associates you have minimal or little choice in being affiliated with.
The ones we cannot choose are family.
You may be blessed with a good enough family (to flip a D.W. Winnicott phrase), in which case you are fortunate beyond what you can perhaps comprehend. It is likely worth holding onto those links.
If there is ambiguity in your familial relationships, there is consideration to evaluate what it represents to you. Maybe some relatives are helpful and energising and others are not. They aren’t a package deal. They are individuals. So treat them that way.
If you have the misfortune of having relatives that are toxic in a passive sense or confrontational, then you need to seriously consider your life situation right now. That is not a family beyond the loosest definition of the word.
At some stage, to return is like volunteering to enter a radiation zone without protective equipment.
And ironically, through the brainwashing conditions of family ties and family environments, the toxic elements in a family are often very very good at retaining you in their vortex of emotional and/or physical abuse, like a surname-linked cult.
My family love me.
I’d do anything for my family.
Don’t say anything about my family!
I love my parents.
And any other exaggerated offence taken when someone is perceived to insult a family member also fits in here.
The above are often just programmed responses.
Do you really believe them? to the point of: Getting personally insulted if someone says anything about your family or individual members; Threats of violence against those who say anything you don’t like about your family; Embarrassment at slights against your family, etc.
To be overly protective is a reaction of many people who have been duped into believing that their toxic family wants what is best for them. It’s maybe the only thing they know. The equivalent of a dog abused by its owner, who is viciously protective of its owner.
It’s a version of Stockholm Syndrome in which captors become aligned with their kidnappers point of view. Trauma can severely reduce ability to reason. There are many examples of prisoners of war who began to sympathise with the people holding them hostage, even in brutal conditions.
The reality is, some families are cold war zones.
Protect those who are worthy, not those who you’ve been made to feel ought to be.
If you have been led to feel like you cannot go against the regime that is a normal – even conditioned – response, but not one that has been achieved through a grand master plan years in the making.
Toxic family members are rarely that smart or forward thinking. It is simply the result of their actions which are likely rooted in their own insecurity, unstable personalities, egotism, anxiety, narcissism, inability to inhibit responses, and many other psychological factors.
Going, Going, Gone
Depending on situation people cannot necessarily leave.
Many families will reduce a person’s capacity to survive on their own which intentional or not means that it is harder to escape them and thrive by your own means. A real self serving circular sickness.
In this situation a long term plan of attack is ideal to leave as there may be a need to build essential abilities for independent living before exiting.
Consider it like a political campaign in which the support you are seeking is—your own.
And the confidence necessary to make the leap is steadily built upon so you get to the point where the foundation is not going to crumble at the first few hints of difficulty in the new world.
When leaving a family or elements of it, an evacuation procedure is necessary. Strategise before implementing. Envision before actualising.
Don’t fall for the idea of family ties are for life. And if you’ve been raised with that idea, question it deeply. Who is benefiting?
Friends are different from family in the structure of the social links.
But not necessarily any easier to avoid or dissociate from.
School is the obvious one.
Maintaining social connects and an equilibrium of sorts is usually adhered to in an extreme way. The prospect of social isolation in teenage years is very difficult to contend with which can happen if someone is intolerant of behaviours and actions that their friends have.
There’s the risk of being outcast at an age when socialising and discovering more of the worlds workings are crucial to development.
I’ll reiterate that shedding is dependent on many very personal circumstances which nobody else on the planet may understand. Consider your situation with perspective before acting.
In the same way families can be abusive emotionally and physically, the same applies for friends. Outwith the family environment, without their protection (if they offer any at all) it is up to each individual to establish personal boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn’t which is a learned process, nobody is born with indefatigable self confidence or self esteem.
There is so much novelty as a child and teenager that we make lots of mistakes which hopefully become lessons and not habits.
Observe this: How your friends treat you will also be a strong reflection of how your family treat you.
For clarity I’m going to address this next part with the idea that you are considered a legal adult. Ask your self if the friends you have offer you unconditional acceptance. If they don’t, consider why your time is worth spending with them (and literally think of your time as a value here).
In an ideal scenario, are the friends you have people you would actively choose to hang around with? I’m not convinced.
Weight it up right now. What do they offer you? (and the same process can be run with family in mind)
Positivity? Energy? Enthusiasm? Honesty? Care? Interest in your life? Encouragement? Ideas? Friendly competition? Inspiration? Engaging conversation? Support? Mutual interests? Knowledge?
Negativity? Energy sucking? Selfishness? Narcissism? Disrespect? Backstabbing? Gossiping? Criminality? Addiction? Extreme risk taking? Disregard for life/lives? Humiliation? Physical harm? Destructiveness? Jealousy?
To clarify here: people are not perfect. Never expect anyone to be or you’ll be perpetually disappointed.
We all have or had elements from both of those lists.
But there is a reasonable level of expectation that you should and must have for a future that is rich in enjoyment and mutual satisfaction. Because if you will settle for bad treatment from family or friends or both, then your life will be far less than it could have been. By a very long way.
The common notions of success such as money, a home, cars and other commodities are not relevant here. I’m referring to your fulfilment on an emotional level.
Should I Stay or Should I Go
Let’s consider the flight part of the fight or flight response.
Staying to fight against family and/or friends is usually energy draining and pointless. So fly.
Now you’re the pilot.
Go ahead, take a look back and see who is on board your plane. Who do you imagine is on your jet (I’m going with a jet)?
Press the auto pilot button, take the headset off and make your way towards the passenger section. Is there any one else on board?
How many seats are there? Who is sitting in the seats, if any?
Keep the people in mind, because they are the people that are closest to you in terms of influence for good or bad.
Part of building your castle mindset, of forging ahead in your life is to open the exit doors of your jet plane.
Mentally, or out loud, whatever is most comfortable for you, tell them to get the fuck off your plane. With the authority to make them do it.
This exercise will give you an idea of who really means something to you.
And who the hell doesn’t. It will also give you an idea of where you are mentally in terms of being ready to fly solo in real life if you’re not already there.
If you don’t have many friends, and perhaps even none – here’s a positive flip on that: having destructive friends is worse in some ways. And the damage inflicted can take a lot of time to recover from. Consider it a trade off of reduced socialisation for emotional stability. Another key thing, is that socialising is a skill, not something we’re born with. Therefore it can be learnt.
If you honestly evaluate your social elements and how they influence your life, there will be contentious moments in the process, uncomfortable truths most likely. There may be feelings of guilt, of spikes in emotions in various directions, realities that you’d wish were avoidable or didn’t exist.
You’ve got your life ticket.
Use it wisely. In your decision making try to be as balanced as possible.
Ultimately, do what is best for your evolution.
Consider what you’ve been told, the repetitive sentences and phrases. Consider the relevance of hierarchy and question who has imposed it (if any).
And ask your self if people can be forgiven or if they are beyond that from your situation. And try not to be unduly over reactive either and verge in to vindictiveness, or revenge scenarios.
But the main thing is, don’t gift undeserving people with your time when you can control that. Spend it wisely.
* Up to some stage this is not within your control, and feeling stuck, that it is somehow your fault? Those are unfounded notions. You have not had a choice in it.