About this time of year, we are inundated with happy Christmas movies – the plot is usually something like a family encounters a crisis and needs to work together to get through it and in the end the experience has brought everyone together, where they are a lot closer and everyone has learned something important about the other and the true meaning of Christmas.
But, what happens when getting together with your family for the holidays, leaves you feeling emotionally drained, beat up, angry, anxious, stressed out, negative or depressed? What happens when entering the domain of a Narcissistic parent is like a war zone, where there is nowhere safe to go and you’re constantly on edge waiting for the next attack?
This time of year is very difficult for people who come from toxic families. We all long for the lives depicted in those holiday movies. We want the closeness. We want the support and love they promise and every year we try again. We reach out that olive branch and hope that this time it will be different – except it never is.
The one thing we know for sure is that we can’t change our parents and siblings. We can’t make them see the error of their ways. No holiday miracle is going to jump out in front of them and change the way they perceive the situation.
All we can do is either accept them as they are, or leave. We don’t have the power to change anyone but ourselves and because our well-being is our responsibility, we don’t want to put ourselves in harms way. We don’t want to engage with toxic people, that make us feel bad.
We have every right to spare ourselves from the drama, to protect our self-esteem and spend time with people who make us feel happy, supported and loved. This means that if we come from a toxic family where our well-being is threatened, we either go limited contact, or no contact.
Limited Contact means just that – we limit our contact with our families for certain occasions. We make an appearance, maybe even have dinner, but at no time, do we engage in the drama, the passive-aggressive digs, the name calling, the button pushing, blame and fault finding… we simply don’t participate. We’re civil, we have no need to push our position, or make others agree with us.
If you come from a toxic family you know by now that none of this will be met with happy, eager enthusiasm. All it will do is provide fuel for the never-ending family fight, so just don’t go there. If you have a parent or sibling determined to get under your skin, set your boundary and tell them you do not wish to speak about this now and if they continue you will leave – and follow through with the boundary you’ve set – action – consequence.
It’s important that you don’t absorb the responsibility that will be thrown at your feet. If you’ve come to this point of your healing you’re well versed in what it’s like to be the family scapegoat. Remember that your well-being is your responsibility and that means that it’s your job to protect it. If you’re under siege, or you’re not enjoying yourself, you have every right to leave. By doing so you are teaching people how to treat you, your leaving shows them that you will not tolerate poor treatment.
Always make sure you have your own transportation, so that if the need to flee arises, you aren’t reliant on someone for a ride, that doesn’t want to leave. If you do leave don’t feel bad or guilty about it afterwards. The happiness of others is not your responsibility and know that their behavior is not about you it’s about them.
For some, no contact is extremely difficult over the holidays. For others, it’s a relief and a soothing reminder that you are someone that practices self-care. If you already have a no contact relationship with family members, it’s important to remember the reasons why and that you maintain no contact throughout the season.
This time of year often serves as a Narcissistic parent’s perfect excuse to reach out to their no contact child. If you respond, they get what they want, if you don’t, it provides them with the mantle of victim. They then get to regale family and friends with stories of what’s wrong with you and how everything is all your fault. As the scapegoat this is a custom you are all too familiar with.
It’s not easy to know, that those that should love and care for us are engaging in a smear campaign. It’s hard to fathom that cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends might believe what’s being said, but it’s important to understand that not all people are blinded by a Narcissist’s fake charm and phony façade. Most people, that know a Narcissist, know that something is off with them, though they may not be able to put a name to it. When I see a child that wants nothing to do with their parents, I don’t look at the child as the cause of the rift. I look at them as someone who has a very good reason for doing so and who has made a very difficult decision to step away from the toxicity and heal themselves.
If you have siblings, or other family members, that you care about, make arrangements to see them separately, perhaps on a different day. You very likely will be asked why you’ve decided to go no contact with your parents or if it’s ongoing you may be asked to rehash the story. Resist the urge, without getting into details simply say that you choose peace and that you just want to be happy and healthy and it’s best you do that apart.
Engaging in the drama, at any level, will only fuel the Narcissist’s need for self-preservation and to go on the attack. You don’t need to convince anyone that you’re right – so save your breath. If you’ve gone no contact, it’s for a very good reason and you have likely battled all kinds of doubt and guilt. Don’t allow the thoughtless words of others to awaken those old feelings. It really is no one’s business and you don’t have to defend your position.
In some cases, going no contact with your family, may mean spending the holidays alone, which may trigger feelings of abandonment and of not being loved. Remember it’s just one day. It’ll pass and you always have the option of tagging along to a friend’s holiday celebration. Usually this time of year, people will be happy to find a place at their table,for someone who would otherwise, be spending it solo. If you’ve been invited go, you won’t be imposing and it will give you the opportunity to see how other families interact.
Remember that no contact is not an aggressive act, meant to stick it to your narcissistic parents, or to slander them and make them look bad. It’s an act of self-care and self-care isn’t mean or selfish. It’s about doing right by you and putting you and your needs first. Don’t compromise all of your progress or hard work by giving in to the guilt. Remember that opening a door today that you have risked much to close, means you’ll have to start the process all over again. Christmas is only celebrated one day of the year, but self-care needs to be practiced every day, so give yourself a gift this year by keeping your life drama free.