Being the black sheep of the family is challenging, as is being a naturally sensitive and empathic person.

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  • You feel judged negatively by them most of the time.
  • They try to control your behavior, e.g., by expecting you to behave the way they want you to behave, to believe what they believe, or to make the decisions that they’ve decided for you as a condition of being loved and accepted.
  • They try to set you against other members of the family (your partner, children, other relatives) by playing favorites, creating drama, and watching to see what you do as a twisted way of seeing where your loyalties lie.
  • You feel unseen and unappreciated for who you are around them.
  • They are self-absorbed, only talk about themselves, and don’t take a genuine interest in you or your life. This leaves you feeling unimportant and unloved.
  • They are envious and gossip a lot about others in a way that falsely elevates their “superior” knowledge, charm, or success.
  • They misuse substances (alcohol, prescription medication, illicit drugs), which leads to harmful and enabling dynamics in the family system.
  • You question your sanity around them because they gaslight you into believing that you’re the crazy, “hyper-sensitive,” or illogical one (instead of them).
  • Your boundaries are disrespected and ignored, whether that be physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally, or even spiritually. For instance, they might make rude comments about your body, touch you inappropriately, or stay in your house past the acceptable time of departure.
  • They are deceptive, and they rarely take responsibility for their actions or bad behavior.
  • They are overtly or covertly verbally abusive, e.g., they call you names, yell at you, or make underhanded comments to bring you down.
  • They are emotionally abusive, e.g., they dismiss, threaten, manipulate, or humiliate you.
  • They are bullies, and they seem to enjoy physical, emotional, or mental intimidation tactics to ensure that they have the power.
  • They are an energy vampire, and you feel exhausted around them, especially as they tend to vent and dump a lot onto those around them emotionally.
  • You don’t feel safe around them, and your nervous system goes into a state of fight, flight, fawn, or freeze.

How many of these signs can you relate to?

Exhibiting even one of the above points is a sign of toxic behavior.

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