When choosing to establish boundaries many survivors experience what could be described as a pond of guilt. We are trained so well by an Emotional Bully to attend to their needs rather than our own, and sometime even our biological make-up tells us that our parents or spouses are to be believed. It is no wonder then that seeing their true face, and prioritizing our own need for mental stability over their needs, is a huge emotional undertaking.
The price that one pays for refusing to act on the truth as one sees it,
is to be led to believe untruth to avoid guilt.
Kenneth L. Pike
Acting in Self-Defense
W is amazed how much fun her family enjoys together when her mother is NOT there, and how ugly and awkward things are when she is. “I will never understand. My dad can join in without causing disruption, so why can’t she”. The truth of the matter seems that W’s mother loves to create drama, she is out to create disharmony and problems. In creating problems for those around them toxic people can control the dysfunction of their own emotional lives. W realizes that “cutting her off is in self-defense, and direct defense of my family. It has nothing to do with her, her problem. It has to do with preserving my life, my relationships, my household peace and joy and love”.
Cutting the Cord is Hard
Even when the rationalization is rock solid and we know that we need to set boundaries to protect ourselves and our loved ones, it is hard to actually cut the cord. “My father has a debilitating disease and will need more and more care as his condition will worsen over the years. I felt like such a bad daughter when I made the decision not to be part of that future. And not just a bad daughter, but also a bad sister, as I am leaving the burden of care on my siblings’ shoulders”. Leaving her parents to deal with their own problems was hard for H, but she felt that her responsibility to herself was more important than that to her parents. “I simply could no longer sacrifice myself for people who simply did not care about me”.
Working Through the Guilt
To some people it may seem self-centered and disloyal to leave someone to fend for themselves. H did not make the choice to leave because she could not be bothered to care for her ailing father, but because that same ailing father was interfering with her work and that of her partner, because her parents consistently put her down, tried to break up her relationship, meddled in friendships… Being the target of a toxic person means your whole life is one big game for the toxic person to play with. The only way to end that game, is to walk away.
In all honesty, the kind of choices that survivors of abuse face with regard to their relationships make it virtually impossible not to feel guilt. In order to be able to deal with your issues and truly move on, the time you spend in the Guilt Pond needs to be limited. So how do you deal with your guilt? “Talk to other survivors about things. People that have not faced these choices, will simply not be able to understand and validate what you are feeling. They are more likely to judge you and add to your burden of guilt” is the clear advice that H gives.