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So you've got a Difficult Family Member (DFM).
Who makes you feel like tearing your hair out and giving up on life.
Maybe this person is your mother, husband, wife, sister, brother or father.
And although it's clear that their influence on you is poisoning, for one reason or another, you can't cut them out of your life.
Probably because you still love them.
Or you still feel some loyalty towards them.
Or because you just can't bear the thought of your kids not having this person in their lives.
Your DFM is always needy. They believe you exist only to serve them.
Your whole family has to tread very carefully around this difficult family member, because when he/she blows up, it can get ugly pretty quickly.
They scream, swear, throw things or say horrible things. And this happens often, especially when they don't get their own way.
They are critical of absolutely everything you do and are constantly pointing out your flaws, using your mistakes against you.
They find it so easy to say things that haunt you for months or even years.
And then when you are gone or suggest that you are cutting off, they turn on the waterworks and make out that they are the victim.
So, there is no hiding it. Clearly, your DFM is the real problem here.
But you want to be able to deal with them without getting so emotionally wrapped up in their games.
You want to be able to detach yourself from the pull your DFM is having on you.
You want to stop caring so much about whatever your DFM does, without becoming a horrible person yourself (you certainly don't want to become like them).
Essentially, you want to be able to cope better with them.
So that you are not pushing yourself into self-destruct because of them.
In this article, I am going to be sharing one essential tip that can help you achieve this goal.
Then at the end, I will show you where you can download a 7 point checklist that...
Okay, let’s dig in.
I start by revealing two really big fears that make your DFM gain immense power over you.
Then I‘ll reveal the crucial tip I just hinted on.
One of the biggest reasons you get entangled in your DFM's drama is...
The fear that their actions or in-actions will lead to big unfixable problems.
Problems that will impact you and other family members in irreversibly negative ways.
Here are two examples of this hidden trap in action.
Clarissa’s mum is always leaving her hearing aid out.
And whenever Clarissa calls to remind her, mum manages to turn the call into blaming Clarissa for not visiting enough.
The calls consistently turn into big arguments leaving Clarissa wondering why she made the effort to call in the first place.
Now Clarissa has always known her mum to be manipulative (this pattern has been ongoing for the last 6 years).
So at the back of her mind, she knows her mum will be fine. But Clarissa could not shake off the guilt she would be racked with if something did happen to her mother.
She feared that such an outcome would have a devastating impact on the whole family.
Because of this, Clarissa keeps calling despite feeling emotionally drained by each call.
Moving on to the next example...
Darren’s wife gets a lot of pleasure from buying things.
This wouldn't have been a problem except that she mostly spends £500 and above every single time.
At worst, she could spend £2000 at a go.
She claimed that most of the expenditure were for things the family needed.
But, this would regularly plunge the family in financial problems for a few months. As such they often had to sacrifice essential things to get through.
Now Darren really loved his wife, but he did not think this way of spending money was wise.
So he tried his best to explain the disadvantages of spending money in this manner. But this would always result in arguments that led to his wife treating him quite horribly for days and at times weeks.
She would accuse him of not caring about her or her happiness. And she'd claim that his disapproval of her use of money proved this.
For Darren, his fear that the family will end up in deep financial problems forces him to keep trying to make his wife see sense. But the reaction he keeps getting drives him to a place of hopelessness and despondency.
You see, the big mistake that both Clarissa and Darren have fallen for here is that...
They over-estimated their ability to get their DFM to see sense just by vocalizing their point of views.
This is a really depressing state of affairs. Because in your mind, you know that if only your DFM could just see sense, life will be easier for everybody (DFM included).
So you try to help the person see that bigger picture you are seeing. But the more you paint that picture, the more fighting, rebellion and negativity you get from your DFM.
So why is this a big mistake?
Firstly, continuing on this path will eventually drain you emotionally.
You become overwhelmed with anxiety, panic and depressive symptoms. At extremes, You could even get suicidal.
Secondly, unknown to most people...
You've got to break through multiple mountain sized layers of defences before your DFM can even contemplate listening to you. Much less taking your point of view on board.
As a therapist, I experience this regularly.
People come to see me for help. And even though they came to me of their own free will, signifying that they are open to anything that will help them, I still have to work through these massive layers of defence.
When I don't take their defensive layers into consideration, the therapy simply fails to work.
In fact, I have to take defensive layers into consideration as I am writing this article. Otherwise, this article will be rebuffed by your defensive layers too.
Relating this to your experience with your DFM.
Your DFM has these defensive layers up as well.
And in most cases, their layers have become fortified with an additional layer of stubbornness, which makes their layers 100 times more difficult to break through.
Two massively powerful defences you will find in your DFM'S layers are their trust defences system and their bubble defence system.
Here your DFM is thinking that you just want to win the argument to favour yourself.
They believe this will make them lose out.
They don’t trust that you know what you are saying because they are looking at a completely different part of the problem.
As a result of their trust defence system, your DFM needs to be able to see the picture by themselves. Trying to paint it for them, or push them, so they see your picture will only get their back up straight away.
Now, this trust defence is influenced massively by the bubble system and the emotional baggages within it.
We all have a defensive bubble around us, which has been created by our past experiences. Anything that challenges our way of seeing things gets repelled by that bubble.
Your struggle with your DFM is created because you are challenging their way of seeing things, and at the same time, they are challenging your way of seeing things.
As a result, whenever your DFM voices an opinion or carries out an action that your bubble feels threatened by, your innate reaction is to repel. Because you can see the downside.
But when you repel, they feel invalidated, hurt and offended, so they dig their heels in.
But this works the other way around too.
So whenever you voice an opinion or make a suggestion that your DFM’s bubble feels threatened by, their innate reaction is to repel.
And when they repel you feel invalidated, hurt and offended.
And the cycle goes round and round.
Essentially, we need to get to the point of realizing that “this is what it is.”
You've got your own system of seeing and doing things. And your difficult person has got their own system of seeing and doing things as well.
Albeit very destructive in nature.
“This is what it is.”
And sadly, no amount of knocking one's head on the wall or over analysing this will change this.
It is essential to accept this fact in order to start reducing the pressure your DFM creates for you.
But what do you do instead?
How can you protect yourself from the disaster and pain your DFM seems to be pushing you towards?
I will be getting to that in a moment, but first, let me reveal the second fear that causes DFM’s to gain power over us.
Your DFM bubble system becomes even more resistant and problematic if they've had a history of traumatizing abuse from others.
Or if they were used to getting their own way throughout their childhood years.
These issues have a tendency to produce one of these three reactive behaviours in people.
Takes in all the blame.
It becomes about how they are not worthy and may lead to suicidal tendencies.
Sees everyone else as the problem. All the time.
They fail to see their contributions to the problem and also end up making suicidal threats as a way of controlling the situation.
But, what’s the importance of knowing all this?
How is it going to benefit you and help you cope better with your DFM?
You see if you don't take all these issues into consideration and find better ways to manage the stress and pressure they create, you’ll be forever wrapped up in the cycle of distress that your DFM has fallen into themselves.
So for example...
Greg knows that his girlfriend keeps using the “I’ll kill myself phrase.” She's been doing this for the last two years.
Whilst, deep down, he doesn't think she will actually act on this threat. It still rips him up inside to hear it.
What's more, he would feel painfully responsible if she does ever act on the threat.
As a result of this, Greg keeps hanging around, succumbing to his girlfriend’s wishes with the hope that this will keep the suicide threat away.
Kathy has broken up with her boyfriend a few times.
She's been trying to cut off all ties.
But her ex keeps creating new e-mail addresses and Facebook accounts to keep reminding her that he'll kill himself if she doesn't come back.
This chills Kathy to the core and forces her to remain on the scene in one way or another.
In these examples, both Kathy and Greg are locked in a repeating cycle of distress. Unintentionally, their way of managing this keeps the cycle alive both for themselves and their DFM’s.
But there’s hope.
There is a better approach to coping with your DFM, and I am getting to it now.
But to do this, I need to lead with the most important point I will be making in this article.
This is the one essential tip for coping successfully with your DFM I promised to share at the beginning of this article.
You see, even if you could get your DFM to see sense and cooperate with you, this would take a really long time to happen.
In fact, it could take a lifetime of effort on your part, to start seeing any useful results.
I don’t mean to sound gloomy here. But the reality is that most experienced therapists spend at least seven years training before becoming effective at helping people change.
In some cases, therapy can go on for seven years before clients can see the other side of the picture and achieve the changes they want.
Hence it is a massive trap to expect yourself to be able to quickly encourage changes in your DFM with no training whatsoever.
Having this expectation puts you in a losing battle from the start. And could easily turn you into a bitter person.
What point am I trying to drive home here?
To start coping better with your DFM...
You've got to start accepting that dealing with your DFM will be a “long run project."
What does this mean?
I'll explain by asking this question.
What do you think will happen to you if you tried to run a whole marathon with the same energy that you use for running a hundred meter race?
You'll use up all your energy and become exhausted. You'll have no resources left for getting through the whole marathon.
In the same way, if your difficult person is a sister, wife, husband, brother or grandparent.or anyone you will always have to interact with even if you break away from them...
Chances are you are going to have to deal with that individual for a very long time.
As such you can't allow yourself to use coping strategies that waste all your energy quickly.
If you do, you will eventually get worn out and naturally grind to a halt.
This is the point where people start to experience multiple physical and emotional health problems.
Some people put on bucket loads of weight because of this.
Due to this exhaustion, some people find that they crumble under the added pressure of work and simple day to day tasks.
Essentially, you've got to start seeing coping with your DFM as a "LONG RUN SITUATION".
You've got to develop a personal coping system that ensures that you do less of the things that will drain you fast. And more of the things that will keep you sustained.
This is the only way you can guarantee that your life remains motivating, pleasurable and worthwhile.
But how do you practically ensure this?
This is a free downloadable PDF Checklist to you to prevent yourself from slipping back into emotionally exhausting behaviours when dealing with your DFM.
Whilst there are many traps that cause us to get engulfed by DFM’s. I have hand picked 7 traps that I have regularly come across in my last 20 years of working as a mental-health practitioner.
These 7 traps have the potential of making your life a living hell when you don’t know they exist.
In the PDF, I have included tips on what you can do to help you avoid falling into and getting stuck in each of the 7 traps.
Enter your details below to download your "7 point" checklist for getting through the pain and drama of your Difficult Family Member.
Especially when you have no choice but to associate with them.
Yes it sucks.
You’re probably like, “Adewale, can’t you just tell me how to hypnotise my DFM and zap the irritating stubbornness out of their brains?"
The honest answer:
No. If I could do that, I'll be a QUINTILLIONAIRE by now (if such a word exists).
But Jokes aside.
You need to make a decision.
What are you willing to trade for your sanity.
Are you willing to trade your health and well-being? Or are you willing to trade your time and effort.
I can't promise that it'll be easy work.
But this is the first step, that one simple choice that moves you towards claiming your life back from the strangling hold of your DFM.
Leave me a comment with your decision. I’ll be watching.