Show #137: Dr Sherrie Campbell on cutting ties with toxic family members

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And onto this week’s show!

Are you in a toxic family or do you know someone who is? Not a light topic this week, folks. Dr Sherrie Campbell. What a brave woman and practitioner taking this personal experience of hers out to the world to offer a road map to help others in similar situations. She is a licensed psychologist in the US, inspiring author, and nationally recognized expert who’s featured regularly on TV and radio to share her expertise from nearly two decades of clinical training. I am committed to discussing from time to time on the show, areas of our life that affect our mental wellbeing. Stress will kill us faster than a hot dog and family and relationship stress and toxicity is very real for many, keeping people in fight, flight or freeze for often years on end. This show talks about the very tough experience of living in or growing up in a toxic family and how one psychologist who lived this herself, decided that enough was enough and that she could actually cut ties and give others permission to do the same, making peace with the situation and moving on. I hope this show helps you or someone you know, navigate this tricky situation. And please – if things are super tough for you right now. Australia’s helpline is 13 11 14 and Wikepedia actually has a list of all the country’s helplines. Amazing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

 

The questions I asked Sherrie:

  • Toxic family abuse is always two-fold. The first layer of abuse is the original poor treatment by toxic family members, and the second is someone’s denial of the ways in which abusers treat and harm them. So let’s start by unpacking that. The first part is the obvious part – shaming, hateful language, physical/sexual abuse… but the second part: How do we become at the mercy of this abuse – even thinking it’s about US needing to be ‘better’ / do more for them / be less demanding… How do we get there and how do we start to see ‘hey maybe’ this isn’t me, it’s them and I need to make a plan to get out of this relationship/friendship etc?
  • A significant part of healing comes with accepting that there are some relationships that are so poisonous that they destroy one’s ability to be healthy and function best. How can we know we’re not functioning at our best? Do you find for people it’s been a moment / a ‘snap out of it’ event or a slow burning desire to take back one’s control of their own life?
  • What is the best way to protect yourself from toxic family members? What are the risks of not implementing these protective measures?
  • When are we dealing with someone with regular flaws that can be worked on, (or are part of loving forgiveness) and when does it become something we need to view as toxic?
  • How can I put myself first when I’ve spent so much time and energy putting toxic people first? What does that journey look like and what are the most important tools to have in my kit?
  • Isn’t ‘No Contact’ a cruel way to end a relationship?
  • How do I explain my cutting of ties off from a toxic person, that might be a child or someone else who just can’t get their head around it?
  • What drives someone to be a toxic parent?
  • How can we prevent toxicity from growing in us as parents? A mindfulness practice? Journalling?
  • Can toxic behaviour ever be justified? Or is it perhaps a situation where sometimes you could understand how out of their own circumstances they BECAME toxic, but perhaps that shouldn’t ever give justification to it repeating and cycling?
  • What about trickier situations where you see a child at the mercy of a toxic parent? Is there anything helpful we can do in that circumstance to support the child? To intervene? It’s heartbreaking to know that a child is experiencing toxicity in the home and I know we all find that one a very tough one to navigate…
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Can we unpack that? “Closure” is such a buzz word for what we seek when moving on from things… and when I read that like of yours, it felt like: Oooh that’s a big retrospective lesson. To forgive without ‘making peace’ seems culturally unsatisfying but perhaps we went wrong there and Hollywood showed us closure was all smooches and love and friends and ‘so happy for you’s’ but sometimes we need to forgive and not have the satisfaction of that neat and sweet little ‘we’ve made peace TOGETHER’ moment.
  • How have you rebuilt a sense of family?
  • What does your self-care look like?
  • What would you say to a person feeling trapped in their current situation?

Other helpful links:

To find out more about Dr. Sherrie Campbell and her work check out: http://drsherriecampbell.com/

Connect with her on Instagram @dr.sherrie or on Facebook

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Low Tox. Happy us. Happy planet

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