Podcast Episode 90 – Toxic Family Members & Self Diminishing

Jul 3, 2023 | Podcast

DIANA: Hey hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode with Rianon and hello, Rianon!

Rianon: Hi, Diana. 

DIANA: Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Everything. I hope everyone had a great holiday with their families and relatives. And you still may have New Year’s coming up. And if you’re in the Renew Your Mind Facebook group and you’re watching this on video, merry Christmas and Happy New Year coming up because we’re recording it before the holidays. So wherever this catches you, I hope you’re having an amazing time. Since that’s our holiday episode, everyone’s busy, we’re going to keep it a little shorter. We’ve got two questions that came from the Facebook community, so let’s get to it. 

Rianon: All right, well, the first question we have is from Mary, and she says many of us have one or more toxic family members. How do you deal with them in your life without letting them destroy your peace? 

DIANA: Yes, we all have that. Well, I vacillate back and forth between the idea of calling people toxic and admitting that they’re not really toxic, because it’s easy for us to call them toxic because it takes the pressure off of us, and we’re like, well, they’re the ones with the problem. And it’s like, infecting me as if I drank some poison or something and it’s out of my control. And now I’m dealing with toxins within me. So that’s why sometimes I don’t like to call them toxic people because that doesn’t really happen. They’re out there doing their thing. I think. I did a podcast episode once about not getting into family drama, and I used the example of the people with the Drama are on the hockey rink and you’re in the stands behind the Plexiglass. So if they’re down there with Drama and toxicity or whatever else is going on, we can be behind the Plexiglass, at least with our thoughts. 

And then with our thoughts, we can manage our emotions, right? So if they have toxic fumes now I’m thinking of when COVID versus 6ft. And then remember, we’d get all those pictures of if somebody coughs, how far does the puff go before it infects us? Well, if we’re behind Plexiglass, it doesn’t infect us. But you can still see the person. You can still look in their eyes. You can still converse with them. You can be there, and it doesn’t have to infect us. So if we want to maintain peace and not have that toxicity or Drama or whatever it is infect us, then we don’t take it on as our own. And if it’s thoughts, really, which is what it is. So let’s say Aunt Sally I think that’s what I usually say. Sorry. If your name is Sally or if you have an Aunt Sally, this isn’t you. Aunt Sally’s in the kitchen going, oh, my God, did you hear what so and so did last week? And she’s such a bad mom, and she should have done this and she should have done that, and is that how you’re going to cook the turkey? That’s not how to do it. Fine, let me do it, or whatever else is going on. If it’s not going to infect us, we aren’t going to take what we’re observing and turn it into toxic thoughts in our brain. That’s where it’s, uh, up to us. If we let our brain become infested with toxic thoughts, we have let that plexiglass come down, and we’re like, breathe it in, breathe it in. But we don’t have to do that. And if you’re listening to this after the holidays and you’re thinking of some things, uh, that had happened to you during the holidays as an example, this is also a perfect opportunity to replay it in your brain and examine what was that person saying or doing? And since I know it got in me and I didn’t feel peace, what is it I was thinking. So I don’t know. We’re dealing without a specific situation here. When I’m coaching people, I’d love to get in specific moments. If you have an idea, let me know. Rhiannon but if it’s Aunt Sally, and she’s like, oh, my God, your sister is just totally not doing it right with her son. 

What a mess. Thank God you’re not like her. And it feels icky and it feels toxic, what do you want to think that doesn’t feel icky? So we feel icky if we think things like, oh, my gosh, she’s so judgmental. Can you see why that feels icky right away? Rianon right? 

Rianon: Yeah, well, we’ve had conversations like that. It’s like as soon as you’re calling someone else judgmental, you’re also judging, and then you feel bad about yourself, too.

DIANA: Suddenly, we become the judger of the other person who is judging. Mhm we instantly feel icky. This is also in the world of psychology, it’s also called mirroring emotions. Mhm aunt Sally is feeling judgmental. You have an opportunity to not do critical thinking and just mirror her emotion of judgment. judgmentalness and criticalness, or you can not reflect it back, which means you’re going to have to think in different wavelengths. So often, the toxic people we think of, they’re judgy or they say critical things either to a person directly or about someone else. It’s often what we’re talking about with toxicity. Let’s not become a person that then judges them for doing that. 

Rianon: Right. And that’s easier said than done, I know. 

DIANA: So let’s just run through a couple of practical ways to do that, right? Because we could just try to resist. It like, okay, I can’t judge that, Sally. I can’t think that’s wrong, but that is wrong. It is wrong to talk that way about people. How could I think that’s not wrong? I don’t want to feel icky, though, so I’m not going to think it’s wrong. Wrong. Does that mean it’s right? And then we go on this kind of loop in our head, mhm, and we feel just as icky. 

Rianon: Right. 

DIANA: So what in the world are we going to think about Aunt Sally where we’re not judging her? So I think the holiday time is the perfect time, but really all year round, but this one, we’re reminded of it. Holidays make us think of loving people in our family. They make us think of not focusing on what we dislike about everybody, but focusing on the love. So I think bringing love to the forefront of the situation is always amazing. And if you could partner another emotion with that, because we can feel more than one emotion at once, I would go with compassion.

Rianon: Yes. 

DIANA: So Aunt Sally, when I see her judging someone else instead of thinking, oh my gosh, she shouldn’t do that, that’s so rude, and then I judge her, I think, huh, Aunt Sally must be hurting a little bit, because when people are hurting or uncomfortable, then they judge other people. 

Rianon: Right. Yeah, um, I know I’ve talked to you about situations like this, too, and, um, I think when you first hear that concept, it’s like, how can you even do that? I feel like, especially when you’re dealing with family, um, and depending on how close you are with a family member, it’s like there’s these patterns that have been there for years, and so it seems automatic, but it is possible to have compassion and still not approve of the behavior. And I know that was kind of a difficult thing for me to kind of wrap my brain around that you can be like, okay, this gossiping about someone or being rude or critical, those things are wrong or those are not behaviors I want to participate in, but I can still have love and compassion for that person. And then, too, it helps you to respond better. And yeah, another thing I was thinking, too, when you were saying that is just that separation between, uh, the plexiglass. Like, yes, I thought about your episode that you had with the hockey rink, and there’s a psychologist that I know says there’s a me between the we and remembering that you have that filter. You don’t have to take on whatever it is that that person says. It’s about them. Their behavior is about them, even if it’s directed at you. So I feel like you totally nailed it on the head with, um, that analogy and bringing it back to the hockey thing, too, because I think that’s what helps us to keep our peace. It’s not about us whatever Aunt Sally or whoever does. 

DIANA: Yeah, I love all the little thought hacks, brain hacks that help us get through if we can practice saying something. So one of the things I say to differentiate that other person and this is about Aunt Sally, this isn’t about me. I think a thought like, she’s doing a really good job being Sally. She’s so good being Sally because it takes that pressure off in our own brain that we think she has to do anything different. 

Because it takes us, to a little bit more of acceptance. Like, this is what Sally does every holiday, every family gathering, every weekend or at church, whatever. This is what she does. She shows up and she says some judgmental things. She’s really good at doing that. And by the way, that’s and then when we have the compassion, she’s in pain. This is part of how her brain is convincing her to relieve some of the pressure of emotional pain. My mom always says, and I don’t know that she made it up, but I like to credit her for it. I’m sure it wasn’t her, but turn your shame into blame. Yeah, we do that because when we have internal shame, when we feel icky about ourselves, we’ve talked about this because we talked about shame. We want to offload some of that pain onto other people. And shame and blame rhyme. But really to relieve our shame, we can be critical and judgmental of other people so that we don’t have to be. Because shame is thinking, uh, there’s something wrong with me. Well, if I can see that there’s something wrong with somebody else too, it doesn’t feel quite so heavy on me. And that’s where we get the compassion. Sally’s doing a great job being Sally. She’s so Sally, she feels internal pain and so she tries to offload it by judgmental on other people. I mean, it makes sense. Mhm. 

Rianon: Yeah, well, and the other thing, too, is just kind of something that I’ll do sometimes if I know I’m going to be around someone who, historically speaking, has been, um, difficult to be around, is prepare myself and know. 

Like, uh. You’re saying Sally, being Sally. When it happens, it’s not a surprise. Like you’re almost kind of expecting it. Because sometimes I think we want to have magical thinking, like, well, maybe it won’t happen this time, or maybe things will be different and it will happen. Right. And it’s like, okay, that’s who that person is. And choosing to love them and, um, have compassion. I think, um yeah, that word acceptance is probably the key word there that I think helps to not take it personally. 

DIANA: Yeah, I mean, it’s what happens. She’s a human being. A human. This is what our brains do. Our brains try to relieve the pain and pressure in different ways and this is how that person does it. Now, all of this said, you can have your thoughts and you can come in with some arsenal. Sally’s doing a good job being Sally. She’s so sally. Must be hard being Sally. I can understand why she’s trying to offload her pain by being critical and judgmental. I still don’t like it. So you can walk away. You can go in a different room. You don’t have to sit next to her, you don’t have to invite her over. There’s no rule that says you have to invite everybody over. Um, this can invite a few people over or I’m not going to have this kind of family event at my house. I’m going to do it at somebody else’s house so that I get to leave whenever I need to. Mhm. Or I’m not hosting so I don’t have to I can go sit in the car for 15 minutes and cool off. Or I have found the upstairs bathroom around the corner and gone to the bathroom and gee, it takes me a long time. She’s been in the bathroom for 15 minutes. Hope she’s okay. Find a magazine or scroll on my phone or whatever and come back out when I have taken a deep breath and I’m ready. 

Rianon: Yeah, that’s a great reminder to remind ourselves that we have choices. It’s like sometimes we forget that we have choices like that and then we’re not a victim either in the circumstance we know if XYZ happens, I have a choice in what I’m going to do about it. So I love that you brought that up. 

DIANA: Yeah, we’re never stuck. Let’s, um see. While we were, um, talking, I looked up the word peace because I think in the question, the final part was how to have peace. So of course I looked it up. Right. Peace. One of the definitions of peace exactly as it is in the Webster Miriam dictionary, is freedom from disquieting or oppressing thoughts and emotions. HM. Well, that is a beautiful definition.

Rianon: Sure is.

DIANA: Freedom from disquieting or oppressing thoughts. Mhm. So if we can release ourselves in any situation with people that are harder to be around and it’s okay that they’re harder to be around, like I’m saying, you don’t need to sit in the same room with them. And it gets tiring to do a lot of thought work. But we can practice managing the thoughts we’re choosing to think by having an arsenal of some that we can just go to and not let ourselves go down the familiar road of disquieting or oppressing thoughts. Like, our family is such a mess. It’s always like this. Any of those stories that we tell ourselves that just pull us down and feel oppressing, we don’t have to go there. We have choices in what we do physically and who we’re going to be around and for how long. And if we’re going to leave the room and we have choices with what we’re going to allow ourselves to think. Oh, I know. There was one other thing that came up in my brain before that I thought I would mention, because sometimes people will take the toxicity directly to us and wait for a reply or try to get us to try to pull us into it, ask us what we think, or engage us to participate with them. And so I know this can be really hard, but again, I recommend having some sort of arsenal of things you might say in any situation. You know that person better. So if Aunt Sally sally is the kind of person who always likes to triangulate and talk about people, I’m just like, you know what, Aunt Sally? I love my sister so much and I love you. And that’s all I have to say about the situation. 

Rianon: Yeah. 

DIANA: Or have compassion. Sounds like this situation is tough for you. I know it’s tough for that person, too. So I’m thinking and praying for both of you. 

Rianon: Yes. That’s awesome. Both of those, because you’re not being mean about it. Because, um, sometimes when that stuff happens again, I feel like this is something we talk about over and over, but it’s identifying those thoughts and feelings that are almost automatic. 

DIANA: Right. 

Rianon: Sometimes we don’t realize and then we can just have this really quick reaction. If someone says something like that and kind of have some explosive reaction, but instead of doing that, having a calm, loving response and shutting it down, that’s awesome. Yeah. 

DIANA: And if it’s one particular person that you’re always having this with, it takes practice over multiple encounters with the person. And so if this is new to you, it might be thinking back on something that recently happened or trying something new for the first time and seeing how awkward or uncomfortable it is, or if it works well or not, and then revisiting it in your brain and seeing how you might want to do something different the next time. I’ve had people in my life where I’ve practiced multiple times, and then I’m like, AHA, I got it. Now, after a year of practicing different ways of communicating with this person in these kind of situations, I got it. And I feel love and compassion and I know what to say. And a lot of times, people, they just won’t see you as a person to dump this stuff on anymore when you get good at how you respond to them or if you just walk away or whatever it is. 

Rianon: Mhm. 

DIANA: All right, what’s the next question? 

Rianon: Okay, um, I love the answers to those. All right, we got another question from Barb, and she says, what do you do when you find yourself starting to self diminish when being complimented? 

DIANA: Self diminish when being complimented. It makes me think of me and my mom, we used to do this. I don’t think we do this anymore. Now we just say thank you. Like, she’d say, oh, Dito, I love your sweater. That is so cute. And I’m like, oh, thank you. I got it on the clearance rack at Kohl’s, and I had a 15% off coupon and Kohl’s cash that somebody gave me. So I only had to pay $10 because I had to diminish the whole experience of it so that I, uh, couldn’t just say thank you. Contrast that, too. I was getting some new glasses, um, at a store recently, and I’m having problems getting them right. So I’m not wearing them right now. If anyone’s like, those don’t look new, they’re not new. But I put on this new pair and I’m like, I think we’ll get this right. So I’m not dizzy when I’m wearing them. He’s like, I think I will too. But I said, um, but look it, I look really good in these. Yeah, you do, right? No diminishing anymore. Mhm? The difference in me over time is that I’ve chosen to love myself. Mhm? So when we do tend to lean towards self diminishing, there’s nothing wrong with you. This is what all humans do. I like to think of it like a beacon, or I always think of, like, lighthouses with the light going around. It’s like, alerting us to something. And so feeling that self diminishing or speaking self diminishing when you get complimented is your beacon or your alert that you aren’t loving yourself. When somebody else says something that feels like love or appreciation, we want to either deflect it off or don’t let the light shine. We got to dim it down to match how we feel about ourselves currently because it feels too uncomfortable. 

So I think back to you, and I talking about humility, right? Or I had a great discussion with a client on this one, too. And so sometimes I think as Christians too, we really think we need to diminish ourselves to be humble. And that’s not what humility is at all. Because if we’re supposed to go out in the world and lift each other up, how in the world would that work? To lift each other up and encourage each other if we’re supposed to self diminish, I mean, that would be a feudal task that God’s given us. Go out in the world and love and encourage each other and lift your brother up and your sister up. And it’s going to be really hard because they’re going to hate themselves the whole time. But keep trying, and then love your neighbor as yourself. We are supposed to love ourselves. So the remedy for this isn’t to try to take a compliment and stop self diminishing. The remedy for this is to start finding ways to love and appreciate yourself. So one of the things there’s a lot of mirror talk out there right now. Mel Robbins is a famous coach and self help guru, and she’s got people I’ve seen this everywhere, all over the Internet, high fiving themselves in the mirror. So this mirror practice has been going on for a long time. Psychologists know that when people look in a mirror and they see a face, our brain in its primitive sense, I mean, our critical thinking brain, knows that’s us, right? But the part of our brain that does automatic release of endorphins, uh, and feel good hormones doesn’t know it’s us. So if we go look in the mirror and we smile at ourself, it’ll send off some happy endorphins as if somebody else smiled at us as we’re walking down the street. 

Rianon: Interesting. 

DIANA: Yes. So also, if you go to your mirror and you say, I love you, Diana, you look yourself in the eye and say that the brain registers and receives that as if somebody else said that to you. Mhm. So we can create this practice. And when we see someone saying it to us day after day after day, our brain starts to believe it. We believe things because we believe them over and over and over, or we see them true over and over and over and over, or we find evidence for it everywhere, then we believe it. So if you create evidence that you’re loved, you will start to believe it. So the mirror is the best place to start. I love having people look in the mirror and tell themselves, I love you. 

A lot of people can’t do that. If you can’t do that right off the bat, you can go to the mirror and look at yourself and say, I see you, Diana. Now you’re just acknowledging someone’s presence. It actually goes to acknowledging worth. Mhm in the most core way when somebody just sees you, any kind of acknowledgment, I see you’re wearing your favorite sweater today. 

Or, um, hey, it’s 05:00 and you’ve made it through most of the day, well done. Or the end of the day brushing the teeth, you made it through another day and you got some stuff done that you wanted to get done. Anything that just acknowledges, uh, yourself as a person that has some value. So beyond looking in the mirror and doing that, which, again, if you don’t, don’t do anything else, just do that. I see you, Diana. I see you, Rianon. When you’re looking in the mirror, say your name. And when you get very comfortable with that, see if you can get to I love you, or I’m m learning to love you.  Or I think you’re doing a good job, anything. But we can just do this with our thoughts during the day as well. Um, I guess I would say too, if you do want to try to manage yourself, diminishing in the moment, is to, um, just appreciate that other person instead of making what they’re saying all about you. Because it tells us a lot about that person too. Like this person standing in front of me that says, I did a good job. They’re the kind of person that goes around telling other people they did a good job. I like that. That’s pretty cool about the person standing in front of me and feel an appreciation for them instead of making it all about you. 

Rianon: Yeah, that’s a great tip that, um, I guess I wouldn’t have really thought about. But then too, when you start thinking about, well, how can I acknowledge something good in someone else and not acknowledge it in myself? I mean, you and I have had so many conversations about worth and value and, um, I think the word worth stuck out to me the most. And one of the books that you recommended was The Gift of Being Yourself.

DIANA: Yes. 

Rianon: Um, and I feel like this question, um, I guess relates a lot to that book. Because it’s like, even if you’re wearing these new glasses and you look great, even if you look terrible, either way, it has nothing to do with your worth. I’m sure the glasses look great. 

DIANA: Right. 

Rianon: But I’m just saying, when you know where your worth is, it doesn’t matter. Because I think of the people pleasing and kind of searching, um, for approval, how you’re always making a judgment on yourself if someone compliments you or they don’t, working on your worth and acknowledging that. And I feel like that’s so much of the thought work that you do. And with the individual coaching program, too, you’re going through all these little baby steps on these issues that are specific to you so that you can kind of get to the root of that and continue to practice and build upon it. I just feel like this is the stuff you do right here.

DIANA:  Yeah, absolutely. In fact, um, well, when I first started coaching, I did I started with a six week program, and I was like, they’re just getting started at six week. I got to make it longer. So I made it ten weeks. And then I was like, needs to be just slightly longer. And I realized three months starts to get to be a big commitment for people. But I’m like, I made it twelve weeks because you need that much time to get traction. And I call that level one and then added level two. Because I realized if people would add another twelve weeks, and whether it takes them, um, six months or a year to finish a full 24 weeks, either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s just getting through that many lessons of purposefully. 

Retraining the brain on how to think about things. That’s like the magic number. So if you’ve been in the Facebook community, or you’ve been listening to my podcast without being in something as intensive as weekly coaching, it’s going to take you longer than a year. It’s going to take you potentially longer than two years. This is work for changing our brain, changing how our brain thinks. It’s why I call the podcast the Renew Your mind podcast. It is making it new and uh, just like, if you want to go restore a house or something, it’s not like, AHA, we changed the door, the house is restored. No, you got to change out the plumbing. You got to change out the electrical. You got to tear out the drywall and put in new drywall. You got to put in a new roof. There is work to do, and it takes time. And so the amount of time that you put in to renewing your mind, uh, is going to be reflective in the amount that you’ll get out of it. But again, it just takes time. So everything we teach you today, uh, on the weekly podcast are just another thing you can do. It’s just another thing renewed, another thing to practice, and it gets us on our way. But don’t stop if you guys are wondering, like, I keep trying these things and not working, you got to keep doing it. This is a new way. Absolutely. 

Rianon: Yes. And usually when you think it’s not working, you’re just over the hump. You just got to keep going a little bit longer, and then usually you feel like you’re getting some traction. 

DIANA: In fact, in my coaching program, as soon as about half the people will ask me at some point, when do I start feeling better? And I’m like, oh, as soon as you ask it’s, like, within two or three weeks, right? 

Rianon: Yeah. 

DIANA: Awesome. All right, well, I think that’s all we’re doing today, right? 

Rianon: Yeah. Thank you for the tips, the practical tips and all of the information. Very interesting. 

DIANA: You’re welcome. This was fun. Yeah. This one didn’t. It seemed a little less heavy, but, um, very practical, so that’s always good. Well, the next time you and I do a podcast together will be 2022. So that’ll be fun. 

Rianon: Yes. 

DIANA: Happy New Year, happy holidays, happy whatever to all of you, and we’ll talk to you next year. Take care of you.

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. Uh, I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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