Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them


Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them

Even if toxic people came with a warning tattooed on their skin, they might still be difficult to avoid. We can always decide who we allow close to us but it’s not always that easy to cut out the toxics from other parts of our lives. They might be colleagues, bosses, in-laws, step-someones, family, co-parents … and the list goes on.

We live our lives in groups and unless we’re willing to go it alone – work alone, live alone, be alone (which is sometimes tempting, but comes with its own costs) – we’re going to cross paths with those we would rather cross out.

With any discussion of toxic people, it’s important to understand that you can’t change anybody, so it’s best to stop trying. Save your energy for something easier, like world peace. Or landing on a star. The thing is though, when you do something differently, things can’t help but change for you. If it’s not the people in your radar, it will be their impact on you.

Personal power is everything to do with what you believe - and nothing to do with what they think. Click To Tweet

Co-existing with toxics means going around them to set your own rules, then accepting that you don’t need them to respect those rules to claim your power. Here are some powerful, practical ways to do that:

  1. Be empowered by your motives.

    Sometimes toxic people will trap you like a hunted thing – you know you don’t have to give in to them but you also know that there will be consequences if you don’t. The secret is to make your decision from a position of power, rather than feeling controlled. In the same way there is something they want from you, there will always be something you want from them (even if it is to avoid more of their toxicity). Decide that you’re doing what you’re doing to control them and their behaviour – not because you’re a victim of their manipulation. Personal power is everything to do with what you believe and nothing to do with what they think.

  2. Understand why they’re seeing what they see in you.

    Toxic people will always see in others what they don’t want to acknowledge about themselves. It’s called projection. You could be the kindest, most generous, hardest working person on the planet and toxic people will turn themselves inside out trying to convince you that you’re a liar, unfair, nasty or a slacker. See it for what it is. You know the truth, even if they never will.

  3. They might get worse before they leave you alone.

    Think of it like this. Take a little human who is throwing a tantrum. When you stand strong and don’t give in, they’ll go harder for a while. We all have a tendency to do that – when something we’re doing stops working, we’ll do it more before we stop. Toxic people are no different. If they’ve found a way to control and manipulate you and it stops working, they’ll do more of whatever used to work before they back off and find themselves another target. Don’t take their escalation as a stop sign. Take it as a sign that what you’re doing is teaching them that they’re old behaviour won’t work anymore. Keep going and give them time to be convinced that you’re not going around on that decision you’ve made to shut them down.

  4.  Be clear about your boundaries.

    You can’t please everyone, but toxic people will have you believing that you can’t please anyone – so you try harder, work harder, compromise more. It’s exhausting. Toxic people will have your boundary torn down and buried before you even realise you had one there. By knowing exactly what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t – and why – you can decide how far you’re willing to let someone encroach on your boundaries before it’s just not worth it any more.  Be ready to listen to that voice inside you that lets you know when something isn’t right. It’s powerful and rarely wrong (if ever). Whether someone else thinks it’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is whether it’s right or wrong for you. Let that guide your response and when you can, who’s in and who’s out.

  5. You don’t have to help them through every crisis.

    The reason that toxic people are often in crisis is because they are masterful at creating them. It’s what they do – draw breath and create drama. You’ll be called on at any sign of a crisis for sympathy, attention and support, but you don’t have to run to their side. Teach them that you won’t be a part of the pity party by being unemotional, inattentive, and indifferent to the crisis. Don’t ask questions and don’t offer help. It might feel bad because it’s not your normal way, but remember that you’re not dealing with a normal person.

  6. You don’t need to explain.

    No is a complete sentence and one of the most powerful words in any language. You don’t need to explain, justify or make excuses. ‘No’ is the guardian at your front gate that makes sure the contamination from toxic people doesn’t get through to you. 

  7. Don’t judge.

    Be understanding, compassionate, kind and respectful – but be all of them to yourself first. You can reject behaviour, requests and people without turning yourself into someone you wouldn’t like to be with. Strength and compassion can exist beautifully together at the edge of your boundaries. It will be always easier to feel okay about putting up a boundary if you haven’t hurt someone else in the process.

  8. Own your strengths and your weaknesses.

    We are all a messy, beautiful, brilliant work in progress. Once you are aware of your flaws, nobody can use them against you. Toxic people will work hard to play up your flaws and play down your strengths – it’s how they get their power. If you’re able to own your strengths and weaknesses, what they think won’t matter – because you’ll know that your strengths are more than enough to make your flaws not matter, or at the very least, to make them yesterday’s news.


  9. Don’t expect change.

    You can’t reason with toxic people – you just can’t. That’s one of the things that makes them toxic. Decide where you stand, and then stand strong. You don’t need to do any more than that. They will try to make you bend, flex and break at the seams. Because you have an open heart, the thought that someone might misunderstand you, disapprove of you or dislike you might get to you, but remember that you’re not dealing with someone who is motivated by what’s good for you or your relationship. It’s always about them and it always will be. Decide that sometimes you’re going to make it about you. It’s what you deserve.

  10. Choose your battles wisely.

    Dealing with toxic people takes an enormous amount of energy. You don’t have to step up to every battle you’re called to. For many toxic people, conflict is the only way they can connect. It’s the way they feel alive, noticed and important. Save your energy for the people who matter.

  11. Don’t be the victim.

    People can be a pity sometimes, but you’re not one of those. Decide that you won’t be anyone’s victim. Instead, be the one with the boundaries, the strength, the smarts and the power to make the decisions that will help you to thrive. Even if they’re decisions you’d rather not be making, own that it’s a move you’ve made to get what you want, rather than to bend to someone else’s will. You’re amazing, you’re strong and you’re powerful – which is why you’re nobody’s victim. Nobody’s.

  12. Focus on the solution rather than the problem.

    Toxic people will have you bending over backwards and tied with a barbed wire ribbon to keep you there. What will keep you stuck is playing over and over in your head the vastness of their screwed up behaviour. It will keep you angry, sad and disempowered. If you have to make a decision that you’d rather not make, focus on the mess that’s it’s cleaning up, not the person who is making your life hell. Don’t focus on their negative behaviour – there’s just too much there to focus on and it will never make sense to you anyway.

  13. Surround yourself with people who will give as much as you do.

    You might not have as much freedom in certain parts of your life to decide who’s in and who’s out but when it comes to the ones you open your heart to, you absolutely have the choice. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to let them know what they mean to you. 

  14. Forgive – but don’t forget.

    Forgiveness is about letting go of expecting things to be different. You’ll never be able to control the past but you can control how much power it has to impact your future. Forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting the behaviour or approving of it – it means that you’re not going to be controlled by it any more. It’s something done in strength and with an abundance of self-love. Don’t forget the way people treat you – for better or worse – and use that to help you live with clarity and resolve.


  15. Understand the cycle.

    There is a pattern many toxic people follow. First they’re charming. This is when they’ll get you. They’ll be attentive, loving and impressive – but all of it will be to get you into position. Next, when they have your trust you’ll start to see the cracks. There will be mounting demands and a rising pull on your emotional resources. Then there will be the crisis – the test. You’ll feel stuck – whether or not you give them what they want, you’ll feel compromised. Finally, you’ll do what they want – because you don’t want to be ‘unreasonable’ or cause more drama – and then they’re back to charming you and giving you just enough of what you need to make you stay. The problem is that this never lasts for long and always comes at a cost. Be aware of the cycle and use it to build your boundaries on an even more solid foundation. If you can’t get out of the relationship, know that you’re not staying because you’ve allowed yourself to be fooled or blindsided, but because you have your eyes on something bigger that you need.

  16. You don’t need their approval. You really don’t.

    Don’t look for their approval or their appreciation – you won’t get it unless it comes with conditions, all of which will dampen you. You’ll constantly feel drained because they’ll draw on your open heart, your emotional generosity, your reasonableness, your compassion and your humanity – and they will give absolutely nothing back. Give what you need to, but don’t give any more than that in the hope of getting something back. There will never be any more than minimal, and even that will come with conditions. Whatever you do, know why you’re doing what you’re doing and make sure the reasons are good enough.

The world is full of people whose behaviour is breathtakingly damaging. That doesn’t mean that we have to open ourselves up to the damage. The secret to living well means living deliberately. Knowing the signs of toxic behaviour and responding deliberately and in full clarity to toxic people will reduce their impact and allow you to keep yourself whole and empowered – and you’ll always deserve that.

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I know how you feel. Been dealing with the same issue for years. Finally after all theses years I’m beginning to realize that things aren’t going to change. But I need to help myself. Not sure how yet. But I need to try to figure it out.


Grown toxic son-in-law, who has swayed my daughter to his methods of toxicity. When I quit giving, they cut me off totally, blocked my phone number, won’t speak to me or my husband, and are telling people what a toxic person I am. For the first time in 16 years I didn’t come crawling back, apologizing for my feelings of inadequacy, etc., and it’s driving them crazy. I feel peace and freedom from not being tied to that cycle of toxicity. I’m not overwhelmed with feeling like I haven’t done enough, paid for enough stuff, given enough, and on and on. The very sad part is that their tool of choice is cutting us off from our granddaughters. Very sad, especially knowing the kids will be affected long term by their toxic situation, but we’re getting our sanity back.


Hi, my daughter is Toxic, we have bent over backwards to help her,everything you have done we have done too, and for no real reason she has turned on us (its not the first time) and is cutting us off from seeing our 20 month old grand daughter which is the only reason I am at this moment trying not to sever all ties with her. Its so sad, well done you two for being strong enough, I wish you well and that soon you will be able to see your little ones.


Good for you, we are in the same exact position right now. We have decided to take our lives back, although this breaks my heart. I love my daughter to the moon and back, however after almost 8 years i cannot allow his bullying of my husband and me to continue. Our daughter told us she will no longer speak to us, as well will hold our grandchildren from us. We have decided we will get through the hurt and feel real again. No matter what we did, “maid and butler” “cook and cleaner” loans never paid back, it was never enough to stop our son in law to stop bullying us both.


So sorry about toxic sons/daughters in laws and grandchildren issues. Plan for changes for the two of you – travel, moving, etc. Keep focused on what you can do for yourselves to enjoy the lives you have together.

Naghina B

I’m sorry that they treated you so badly but I’m glad your both happier it’s important to place our happiness first if your unhappy if your needs are not completely met from you then you will feel no joy and no peace having nothing to give where you put your power is who and what controls us put your power back in you both good luck

julieanna A



My husband is toxic and I’ve given everything I can and more, but it’s never enough.
I wish I had the money to be able to walk away as it’s my second marriage. We’ve been together 13 years and it won’t get any better.


I’ve very recently moved to my aunts place where my cousins (one boy, one girl) live too. I moved out from my mother’s place because she decided to buy a house too far from the center of the city (2hours lost per day) although I would really prefer living with my beautiful mom… I don’t understand her choice.
I’ve always felt kind of nauseous around my aunt, ever since I was a smaller kid. I always thought my cousin (girl) was so bitchy and such, but I loved my cousin (boy). It is only as I started living at their place that I felt this toxicity really strongly. I realized my aunt’s toxicity had been given off to my cousin(girl) whereas my cousin(boy) had unconsciously created a self-defense mechanism against this. Indeed, I never really understood why he would always (95%) answer to his mother or sister’s call ”mhhm.” or ”whaat.” and he would stay very silent when we would eat dinner together or things like this. Interesting thing, my cousin is a very smart, cool, funny, and sportive guy. He’s like my favorite member of the whole family after my mom (and I have quite a big family). So I noticed that his defense mechanism – which was totally unconscious – was to avoid the toxicity; so as the articles talks about it.
Now I’ve been put up front to a bigger problem; I just can’t leave my cousins in this situation. Whenever my aunt is away from my cousin (girl), she is a totally different person, she is like a pure angel and I can see it in her eyes directly! I don’t know what to do. Do I have the strength to make things better, or is it not worth my time? I have a LOT of things I need to do on my time here. And I strongly feel this is not one of them… F*ck.
Last point. What is really f*cked up about this whole story is that my aunt is really screwed. Like she does actions that seem nice but deep inside she is absolutely totally scared and insecure. She is so struck with this self-confidence thing that it’s like something obsessive and really f*cked up.
I don’t know if I have the strength to climb this specific mountain or if I should just abandon my cousins… or maybe come back at a time where I stand stronger than ever. I don’t know. But I do know, that if this toxicity attains me any longer I will gtfo of there and tell my aunt to get her load of shit and spew it out on other people than her own children, freaking B*tch.


Study literary history, learn a second language, study anthropology and study the scapegoat mechanism in group dynamics. If you reverse engineer the descent of our language you’ll realize there was a day when people only said things that pertained to reality. Once there were bearded gods who roamed the forest plucking fruit from the trees. They smiled with their eyes, not their teeth. They were vegetarians.

Reverse the order of your sentences (we are speaking vulgarized Latin right now) and you’ll see that your mistake was in your propositions. How can you call your aunt mean while and a few sentences later call her a bitch? With a second language you’ll see that baiting and switching a bully is the easiest thing to do on this planet. Don’t use Duolingo it’s for common folk and it will get you nowhere.

Lastly, realize there is nothing to realize. We are dreaming anyway. English; Image Spanish;Imagen Latin;Imaginem (imagination)


This is a good article. My Husband is this way, and I am staying in the relationship only to be able to protect my kids from this behavior. We live in a joint custody state and I don’t want them alone with him. I have tried to shield them from this, but they have seen it. That makes me sad. I only have a few more years until the kids are grown up & then I’m outta here! I was so mentally down a few years ago I didn’t want to be alive, and only hung on for my kids. I then went to counseling on my own for 9 months and have become stronger, and healthier. My boundaries are good. I would suggest anyone who has to be around a person like this go to counseling and learn boundaries, or there are several good books about them. The counselor and boundaries have saved my mental health. This article is a good start for you to start taking care of you. People like this will not change, but you can change yourself. Stay strong!

Richard Chadwell

My Mom was so toxic and hateful that I am just glad she didn’t drown me in the bathtub when I was a baby. then years later I showed her my first child newborn. Her only response was this…” if I had my way, that baby would be dead by morning. my wife and I got up and left and never returned. She repeatedly told me as a child growing up.’ I wish you were dead”. Then she taught my brother to be just like her. So he spent years making my life as miserable as he could. just another day at home.


Hi Richard, it sounds like your Mom could have borderline personality disorder. I am dealing with a very toxic family member myself who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety but I think it’s much deeper than that. It’s not necessary for you to keep in touch with someone like that even if it is a family member. It’s always a reflection of them and not you at all. I am sorry she said such hurtful things to you and your family.


Way to go Richard! That was very brave and protective of you to get your family and yourself the heck out of there. You are an awesome husband and dad. Stay away and keep protecting yourself and your family. 😅 I had to laugh because I can so relate, it just wouldn’t really surprise me if mine had tried that with me. It’s awful, horrible and criminal. That’s what I’ve had to change my perspective to of mine. I’ve put them in God’s Hands. I can’t fix them. It’s not my circus. We have our own families to love and invest our time and energy in. Keep up the great work. Stay focused. Prayers for both of us as God heals our hearts, minds, and emotions. May God bless you and your precious family.


Damn that is cold. My mom had post partum depression and I’m pretty sure she had the impulse to kill me more than once. She was always playing these head games with me; there one day, shunning me the next, constantly saying I should be someone else.

Sounds like you had it a little worse though. I get the feeling your mom was raised in the seventies, when everyone was drunk and high and thought they were real, and the dark shadow of the unending Vietnam war hung over everyone’s conscience. Your mom sound like she’s had some type of severe trauma in her past; something that showed her the dark hairy underbelly of society in one scary instant. Maybe she even tried heroin or speed. That type of blatant outright psychopathy is not normal. The Russians say that women benefit from a regular beating; horrible right? But if a man said he would kill your baby I know you’d not hesitate to smack him in the mouth. I’m not saying to punch your mom bro. Just that she is being outrageously passive aggressive.


That is really devastating Richard it is unfortunate that there can be a lot of darkness in people. It was a smart decision to leave and never look back. Family members are not always as supportive and nurturing as we hope or expect. An important truth to realize,

John Narayan

Richard – check out Narcissistic personally disorder.

Ollie Mathews and Narcissist survivor both have very good channels on youtube on this.


Sorry, Richard. (Wow!!! And I thought my mother was cruel). Your mother should have never ever said that. I am glad you both left and never returned. It’s sad that the one person that is suppose to love and protect you becomes one of your worst enemies.


This article is excellent. I am a Brazilian woman married to an American for one year and two months. I left my 25 year old daughter, my job, all my belongings behind to come to a “new life” with my husband in a new country (Middle East). He is a toxic person. The article describes him in every single line. I am scared and lost. I am 50 years old now. My life was organized as much as it could be, after a divorce, after supporting my daughter by myself, after succeeding in developing a carrear despite all the difficulties. The only thing that was missing was a relationship. I thought that this was the moment, and that he was the person. I know he won’t change. But I have nothing to go back to. So, I am trying to learn how to cope with this. Menopause, stress, sadness… Maybe I am depressed already. I am hopeless.


Claudia, I just have to say that no, you aren’t hopeless. You are caught in a situation that feels hopeless, but I promise you that there are options. I was married to a very toxic person for seventeen years and i felt much as you do. But it finally got bad enough for me that I realized I didn’t deserve the pain he was dishing out to me. I started seeing the truth of the matter and that is…”I could not change him, the only person we can change is ourselves.” I started just like you did, searching around trying to find information that might help me fix him and learned the real truth of the matter. I started remembering who I was before I met him and that I was a good person and not everyone thought I was a weak, lazy bitch who could do nothing right. Sometimes it takes a huge bit of courage on our part to get away from these toxic people but I finally did it. I have been no contact with him for nearly a year and during the first part of the battle i was totally isolated from anyone and everyone, I trusted no one, and especially not myself. I didn’t trust my judgement of people and was terrified I would walk right back into another relationship just as bad and possibly even worse. The only time I went out was to buy groceries and probably wouldn’t have done that except I had animals that needed food. I spent weeks and then months waking up crying and wondering what I had done to get treated so badly. And could NOT understand how anyone could be so cruel, to me it never made sense. Sometimes I still wonder what made him so mean. He threw me in the trash and never looked back and nothing had ever hurt me so bad in my life. But you know, now I am so grateful that he did that because I couldn’t have done it for myself. During that terrible time of isolation I started looking inside myself and going back to the years of my youth and realized I had always allowed people to hurt me like that and just thought that it was normal. But I went even deeper and realized that I had a lot of broken parts. And I started facing some of the horror of my childhood. I learned that I couldn’t have been as awful as they said I was, a child doesn’t deserve the treatment I got. I started seeing how my life had been programmed from a very early age and I took it all out and looked at it and dealt with those hurts as an adult would do and slow but sure I started to heal from the inside out. I realized that I was a worthwhile person and didn’t deserve the kind of treatment I was being dealt out. I never wanted to hurt people, I always wanted to help them. I also learned that some people cannot be helped unless they truly wanted to change too. I no longer feel like a lost cause. I am regaining my own power and if I can do that, so can you. It starts mainly with forgiving yourself. And when you can do that, you start to feel a love inside again. A love for life, and a willingness to take a chance on yourself. You cannot become happy through someone else, it has to start with you. Only you can make yourself happy, it comes from the inside, just like love does. People will treat us no better than we treat ourselves, so please, get rid of that inner dialog you have that says you are helpless, that you are hopeless beccause as long as you keep telling yourself that, that is what you will be. Even if you don’t believe me, give it a shot. Love yourself, say good things about yourself and every time a negative thought comes into your mind, toss it out and replace it with an beautiful thought. After while, the negative stuff gets weaker and weaker and you start to realize how truly awesome you really are. You don’t need this person in your life, the only person you need truly is yourself and you can and do deserve to be happy. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen quicker than you think. I can tell right now that you are an awesome person and there is way more good in you than you can see right now. Those kind of people are attracted to us because they can’t find their own beauty and they want yours. And they will suck the life out of you and then leave you laying in the dust.


Pam, what an amazing, insightful piece of writing! You will help so many people with this information. I also have been to hell and back in a very similar way to Claudia, hi Claudia 🙂 It has been almost 4 years since I made the decision to drive away never to return, ( across Europe!) Reading your words are spot on point for me. It has taken me this long to arrive at the point you describe so beautifully at the end of your comment. I wish now to take all I’ve learnt, forgiveness, compassion, boundaries, self love and acceptance that, and this includes me, no one is perfect and as the above article explains we have a choice who we allow into our lives on an open hearted level. I want to thank you for inspiring me to respond, Karen Young, Claudia and Pam. God bless you all xx


I have read your article several times and I see both my in laws there. My husband lives away and step children have been raised by the in laws. They are so toxic and intimidating. I had hoped for loving relationships after being widowed. They are rigid, self-righteous, they gossip and criticise and blame me for being different. They refuse to keep help and expect me to do house work. The mom doesn’t cooperate and when I try to work independently they criticise. It’s been 10 months and the cycle of being nice and nasty has repeated itself at least four times. No amount of sorting,communicating, apologising has worked. My relationship with my husband is getting affected. I have decided now to maintain distance and set my boundaries but my husband is pained. I love him too but I can’t let anyone and everyone stomp over me and yet get sympathy. I don’t know what to do.

Lyn Brody

If you are widowed then maybe you have money from your husband and a means to live by yourself. I would rather live in a small efficiency apartment than in a situation like you described—being treated like a live in maid. If you have the means go! Pick a state with cheap living and go there. Get all of your finances together and get out while you still can. If you need advice I am willing to help. There is a website called Intherooms.com. There is a group there called ACA, (Adult children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families). It is free and has helped me so much to learn how to set boundaries, love my inner child, and work on the problem of dysfunction so I don’t go repeat it again. Lots of times we attract people and situations like this into our lives. It is learned behavior. You don’t have to have lived with drugs or alcohol to come from dysfunction or find yourself in it, but a lot of people have that going on in their family situations. I also recommend reading the ACA Red Book available on Amazon. You will be amazed how it gets right at the root of the problem. Take care. God Bless.


The toxics that I have been trying to avoid are a mob formed by H’s xgf to trash my reputation. This is not face to face but gossip thrown around like pieces of paper in the wind. They cannot be picked up. The sports coach has tried to get defenders for me. That worked except, I was injured last June and couldn’t play until October. I told him I would be back in January. The two weeks before Thanksgiving, he did what he is so delighted with and known as coach’s discard. Had I not been told what it was I would not have known. This was also before I was out of town for a month which he claimed as me avoiding him. Except, my membership was put on vacation. He got a promotion and an assistant out of using me. In addition, he manipulated me into loving him and the way he coached the sport and the practice sessions. He would also lead any conversation with the name of another woman like —— got me to use —– coffee.


I don’t know how to post a issue iam dealing with now.perhaps i can get directions from someone.i need to rest now,but will check later.thank you


I feel the same. I have no clue how to express what i have been living with for the past 25 years. I do kôw that i need help dealing whth the stress. I am 52 and jm sick with ms. My nerves are shot. I need advise. Therapy didnt help, beb


Thank you for this article. It explains a WHOLE lot. All this time, I wanted to know what to do to make things right. I’ve tried everything to make my mother happy. Never worked. It’s always negative. Always drama. Condescending, belittling. Toxic people pull you in, then rip you apart. Every time you think it will be ok, another knife pierces your heart. If that’s not enough, they keep twisting and twisting that knife. Then later, they pretend everything is fine and you, so desperately wanting to be loved, falls for it, over and over again. It becomes a vicious cycle.
I have a malignant tumor and I really feel, it is years and years and years (about 40 years) of stress that caused it. Your body can only take so much you know. Tears are welling up as I write this. It’s a breakthrough moment.
I’m done. It’s like God saying, You need to stop and take care of you now.


My daughter in law is attacking my older son over minor issues. She seems to be alienating my younger son(her husband) from family gatherings. Her first husband has the same name as my older son I think sub consciously maybe she’s getting back at him? I lost my first born son and also my husband but she seems to have no empathy for what my family has suffered. How do I keep my family United?


How do I deal with a daughter in law who is trying to alienate my son from his family? She won’t come to family gatherings and my son is following her example. She despises my older son and tries to find any issue to attack him with. My heart breaks for my sons they used to be so close. My family has already suffered the loss of my first born son and my husband(their father) . This is causing so much pain.


Mindfulness really helps. It helps stop and question automatic thoughts and beliefs. Practice staying in adult ego state and living deliberately. Do something both productive and pleasurable everyday.


I was brought up by an abusive mother. The memories always hung with me throughout my life. I came to a point of forgiveness, not for her but for me. At the time I was also living 600 miles away and my interaction with her was by phone only and minimal. I felt lifted and relieved for years. Recently I moved back home as she is not able to be 100% independent due to age and health. I didnt want the burden to rest solely on my sister and I really thought I could help. I thought things had changed, I thought she had changed. It’s been five months now and things have just gotten worse. Her hysteria and attempts to control are out of control. I try to help and I get criticized for the way I help. I have become a child again who just wants to curl away in a deep hole and hide from her. I really thought I was beyond this and am finding out I am just where I started, crying and feeling hopeless. The way she looks at me when she is upset reminds me of how she looked at me as a child, with disgust in her eyes. After a beating I would cry and she would say “dont look at me with your cow eyes”. She has that same look. But now, there is a twist. She complains to me that her mother was mean and abusive to her. She lives in that past and talks and talks about negative people, negative experiences etc… I have told her that I cannot be the one she talks to about this stuff because it brings up my childhood. I dont think she gets it, how can you complain about your childhood to the one you abused??? And I am telling you the abuse was physical (got beat with a broom because I couldnt pee in a cup at the Dr office) and emotional (I’m going to drive you to the desert and leave you there). How, as an adult feel like I need to do ANYthing for this woman? Guilt keeps me stuck. And here I sit trying to figure a way out.


Leigh – I am blown-away that I’ve read this article and your comment just now! I had a strange “heart-to-heart” with my step-mother this morning who told me (in detail) about her childhood abuse – when the night before I had another emotional breakthrough where I connected with my “child” self (I’ve recently been working on my childhood trauma over the past six months), and I have been going back-and-forth with the notion of going low or no contact with family – these little breakthrough’s get me closer to wanting to break away, just leave and never turn back.

Then out-of-the-blue, my stepmother (who was the main reason for a lot of emotional torment for me and my siblings (from my fathers previous marriage), makes this ‘confession’ to me the very next day (keep in mind, I have never had such D&M’s with my stepmother before this as she is one who prefers to gossip).

it actually caught me off guard and left me feeling like I don’t know what is the right thing to do? its as if I think I am clear in what has happened and what the truth is, and then its like these things happen, like conversations or coming across different articles, which puts me back in a state of indecision and questioning my own judgement – like – “am I being too critical”? am I being “selfish” in wanting to just disappear and be free from dealing with my family at all?

Both my father and step mother said to me once (and later said they were joking), who was going to look after them in their old-age? Oh, you will, won’t you? …I am the one of the scapegoated and didn’t get (what I feel) was any real love from either of them and at that time I was grieving due to losing a very close friend of mine (who was more like family to me). and I actually nearly laughed out loud because of the absurdity of it – that they could actually assume after their maltreatment of me all my life that somehow I was going to be the ‘good little daughter’ that was going to care for them in their old age!

So, my heart goes out to you that you are actually in the position of care-taker for your elderly toxic parent – guilt is always the thing that trips us up in the end!
I hope you find the resolve to either set boundaries with your mother or at least find the courage to relieve yourself of the burden of care-taker for someone who was cruel to you when you needed love, care and support yourself – sometimes its nuts what we’re willing to put up with for the sake of ‘family’.


I have an extremely toxic mother in law.. unfortunately it isn’t that easy to stay away as I’m her son’s girlfriend. LOL However, over the past eight years, I finally had enough and instead of retaliation, judgement, I turned to myself and my own heart and would just sit and listen to her and talk to her. After 7 years, she finally told me about her own life. Patterns.. can be changed, within our hearts therein lies the true answer. And then there is peace.


I got a toxic mom who didnt have much education, very controlling, and very traditional about sons carry the last name, daughters are like a bucket of water pouring out of the door when they get married.
My mom was a great mom tho, who was very selfless and give all to the kids when we were all young and small.

super toxic elder brother who feels entitle for everything and still asking my parents for money. he is 46 now, he cleaned out my parents bank account.

Since the day i left my country to study aboard where my brother is, my mom only call me when she needs something.

always the same scenario : My elder brother calls my mom to call me, and my mom will tell me to help my brother, she will say if you help your brother, it the same thing you are helping me. (feel so suffocated)

so sick of it, i had to work even i was in school, if i refuse, my brother will leave the paperwork at my door, my mailbox, been 14 years, my mom still call me and beg me to do things for my brother. My mom wont take no, and i have to continues to tell my mom dont ever called me again if its related to my brother. (its very painful to reject my mom, very sad)

Just got into an awkward moment, I was at work, someone walked in, i recognized they were the victim who got scammed from my brother and they recognized me as the sister. my heart is sinking in……. its like eating me up from being related to my brother. i stopped talking to my brother 4 years already. feel like its still haunting me…


This sounds exactly like my 15 year old step daughter. She literally lies about everything. Small thing or big thing, it doesn’t matter. she lies. She makes up lies saying I hit her and that I tell her I hate her, which I’ve never done. She lies about other people too. We honestly can’t believe anything she say. What do we do if she doesn’t cooperate in therapy


I have a toxic father who’s abused everybody verbally and physically,who would tell us what we should be feeling and thinking,and would even threat to put us children under foster care whenever we made him angry.And he often had bursts of anger.In fact,I always feared what his mood be like when he came from work,since he imposed it on everybody,and we should’t talk or laugh if he was moody.He even touched me inappropriately and told me not to tell anyone and when I did he said I’d been teasing him!!I grew up full of insecurities and supressed anger.It’s only now when I came into my 40s that I feel ready to get rid of the bad karma.With books and positivity.But it’s hard as I’ve made mistakes too.I wonder if I could ever heal enough to find the love of a decent,caring man..


I feel like this greatly describes my younger sister and my mom.

I want to love them and have a good relationship with them but sometimes they actually make things so difficult.

Like one second my little sister will say she loves me then the next she has me do a task for her because she’s lazy. She’ll say that if I don’t do it I’m being a bad sister. Like what?! How is that suppose to make sense??

Then the moment after she tries to act like she was being an angel the whole time.

I just hate that she wants to walk all over me a lot of the time and that she’s just suddenly so ‘innocent’ afterwards.

Sad n Stressed

I hate to have to say this because I absolutely love helping people especially children, but this family I have met over a year ago has been extremely toxic not only to me, but to my family. Whats worse is they’re great at charming others we’re all associated with, which is makes it hard for other people to see whats really going on. They throw tantrums and unseen threats when they don’t get their way, yet nobody sees through this. I really have no idea what to do except to stop all contact with this family and to press charges if they continue to harass us. I hate to have to bring it to this, but they have done nothing but torment us, and all we want is peace.


I know most of what everyone here are feeling. I have a sister who is an absolute horror of a human being! has made my life miserable for years!


Hello, I stumbled across this site and it is definitely what I needed to read. What some many posts have stated and battled with, is the ill treatment they feel they have endured by friends, family colleagues. It is so hard to trust your own judgment when all of us have been coached and manipulated into a way of behaving through childhood. Since being a mother myself, it has made me on one hand realise how hard it is to be calm, caring and perfect all the time and I have some compassion for my parents, but on the other hand how awful and sad their behaviour was on the other hand. I grew up thinking my mothers eractic behaviour was my fault, she would say it was me driving her to it. She made out to everyone around us l, I was a problem child. When I had the see a child therapist for my chronic anxiety and bed wetting, I was too afraid to tell hem the truth as they would say my younger sisters would be taken away. My mum would always load the gun so to speak and when I reacted, it was all my fault. The madness and confusion I felt and even feel to this day is awful. With emotional abuse you always think your to blame even if some professionals or friends say your not. It’s hard as well as my mother had a very traumatic up bringing and at 12 she was sexually abused by a neighbour. I feel so so sorry for her, but it has stopped me from putting boundaries down, as it’s always an excuse from for her behaviour. My older sister has since carried on the toxic misery and manipulates morning parents and myself and 2 other sisters with her anorexia, epilepsy and jealousy. We have tried to seek professional help, but you bless she takes it there is nothing we can do. I have moved ken family and do not want them to endure what I did, my parents are very highly strung round them and snap and shout at the kids. I just feel like I’m done, it’s very black and white but of course it’s gray and I am not someone who can just make a phone call without getting emotionally involved. It has worried me to death and brought me to my knees, my mum is I’ll with stress, my dad had a stroke, but they will not stop doing what my sister wants she is too ill. What a mess .. 😥


My family doesn’t give a rat’s you know what about me. They never give anything or help me with anything. They are completely mean and act nice with others. When they talk amongst themselves they do not include me in their family conversations it’s very disheartening to have a lack of communication with them but you know what they are a bunch of jerks so why should I try to communicate with them. Bunch a nasty group of beasts.


Wonderful article. It really helped me. My wife is toxic. After 20 years of marriage I can’t take any more. I’m now brave to seek a divorce. I worry for my 2 boys. I feel they would be better with me.

Nancy K

I’ve done a lot of research in this area and found your article a fantastic summary of what I have read!! Thank you!!


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