Recently a reader called Allison made a comment on a previous blog Love and Gratitude: The Final Step of Forgiveness. Allison wrote about her struggle with a narcissistic mother:
I ban her from my life for a while, but then feel guilty and let her back in, so the drama, manipulation and abuse continue. I do try to be understanding and forgiving and see the big picture, but mostly I just feel angry or sad, and guilty when I do stand up for myself. It’s so draining. I would like to find peace in my life.
Before we can be grateful for the lessons toxic people have taught us, we need to be free of them. Freedom is not a decision we make only with our mind. We need to free our heart as well. How do we do that?
The key to dealing with challenging people is clarity. We need to see them so clearly that, to us, they are transparent. We need to understand them deeply, and know they cannot change. We have to realise we cannot help them, and eventually feel as emotional about them as we do a pencil.
Finding this depth of understanding is a process, and there are beliefs and barriers in the way. We like to think of ourselves as pleasant, caring people. We like to see good in others. We feel uncomfortable judging someone close to us and seeing their limitations. We want to believe we can have a caring family (mother, friend, sister, son, etc.) and we find it hard to let go of this dream.
Seeing the toxic person clearly is an exercise of compassion. When we completely accept them as they are, we don’t need to judge them as good or bad, we just need to see that they cannot help being that way. Then you reclaim your self-protective power and distance yourself from them.
Here is a process that I have found helpful:
Focus on aspects of the toxic person’s behaviour that really trouble you. List these. Now ask yourself questions about each behaviour and take time to do so, going into the process deeply:
How many times have they exhibited this behaviour?
How do I feel when they do? Breathe through these feelings. Deep, slow breaths.
Have I ever behaved like this in my current life?
What if I have acted like this in a past life? Imagine doing so.
How did I feel at the time?
What was happening at the time?
Were there reasons for my actions?
How do I feel about my actions?
Have I been able to change my behaviour since then?
What is the difference between me now and my past self?
Can I feel compassion for my earlier self?
Can I love and be grateful for what my earlier self has taught me?
What if the toxic person cannot change his or her behaviour at this time?
What if I am powerless to change him or her?
Can I be generous enough to let them learn their lessons?
What do I need to do to look after myself?
There is always a cost to letting toxic people go. It can hurt and we can grieve—for a while. We need to let go of our dream of a happy, fulfilling relationship with this person. We need to claim our personal power and put ourselves first, conserving our energy and making our peace of mind a priority. We need to grieve our loss and come to terms with the reality of this toxic person we may love, but cannot tolerate.
When we have succeeded, we feel neutral about the toxic person. Neutrality is actually love, and indicates that we have total respect for this person and their soul journey. We also feel respect for our own journey too.
My book, Lost Soul, Wise Soul: How Challenging Past Lives Shape Our Future, explains how souls evolve from the beginning of their incarnations to the end. Our loved ones are at different stages of development and the stories in the book help us find understanding for others and peace within ourselves.