I clearly remember that feeling of anticipation and dread whenever I’d have to attend a family affair; the worry that my life was about to be criticized, belittled, and joked about. I didn’t want to sit at a table or in a circle around the living room with my family because pressure to appear to be a nice, happy family was huge—and it usually ended in fight over something insignificant. Depending on the size of the affair, I would be nervous about it for a long time in the lead-up. Imagining all the ways in which my family would be able shame and blame me ate away at me until the day arrived.

Dreams Of Dread

I’m sure I am not the only one that has felt nervous when it comes to family gatherings. Christmas may be the ultimate attempt at perfection within a toxic family. The pressure that this brings to victims of emotional abuse is massive. I know I used to spend weeks trying to plan the perfect feast that would take me days to prepare. All in an attempt to buy approval from my parents and siblings, and to compensate for how awful our family situation was.

What I realize, now, is that I may have approached this from the wrong angle. Making plans is fine, good even, because you focus your attention on keeping yourself safe. We spoke about some ways to do that a few weeks ago. Planning is actually a very good idea, but the secret is in what you are actually planning for.

Plan For Your Success

For years I was thinking about all the bad things that could happen when my family would get together. The hurt they would inflict on me. Fear, however, is not a very good foundation for life. So how should you plan for a confrontation with toxic people (this does not only apply to the holidays, by the way)?

Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.


Instead of focusing our attention on all the different ways that the toxic person can hurt us, we need to think about the ways we can successfully protect ourselves! I know that may sound like the same thing, but it really isn’t. The latter implies that you believe you have it in you to be strong—and to be successful at protecting yourself from their toxicity. It is just that belief that will give you the boost in confidence to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So when emotionally preparing yourself for the holidays, remember to plan for your success!

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Having gained experience while working for a variety of European non-profits, I am proud to now work with SwanWaters. My connection with the website is not only professional. I am glad to tap into my personal experiences to help those who are living in toxic relationships whether with parents, partners or in their professional life. We need to make the world more aware of the devastating effects of emotional abuse and help more people on their way to heal and thrive.

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