Toxic – What to do?

With a recently acquired Internet-enabled phone, I am now constantly connected to Twitter and Facebook. This provides welcome breaks of 5-10 minutes from the drudgery of office life. Like everyone else, I have met lots of old classmates and friends through FB – some I had completely forgotten about and some I could not forget, however much I tried.

 You see, the ones I want to forget are the toxic friends. Friends who would never be happy when I was happy, and try undermine my confidence at every step. Here is how:

– After XII result: “SRCC is such a boring college. In any case, nowadays, getting admission by paying money is so easy” or “Everyone is doing computer engineering, it has no value anymore”

–  After MBA admission: “This admission is good but how long will you keep studying? Don’t you have to get married?”

You might wonder why I was friends with them, honestly I don’t know why. I guess, I didn’t realize their impact till I went to college and met nicer people. At that point, I tried to cut off from them as much as possible. Distance helped to a large extent.

I was a naïve kid till I was 18. Having grown up in a protected environment, I was quite a goody-two-shoes type person. I realize that this doesn’t make me a very likeable person, but then that is what friends are for to accept (even if they point out and try to correct) your flaws.

I have, with a lot of effort, left such friends out of my life and it is a big relief! You might be wondering if they are no longer a part of my life, why I am talking about them. That is because I have recently realized there is another source of toxicity which affects a lot of people – Family. I have realized with my own experience that cutting ties with anyone you have closely been associated with is tough, family I am assuming would be horribly tough.

In all the years, I was growing up I saw one dysfunctional family. The parents in their own pettiness would encourage kids to behave badly just to spite the other person. This led to the kids not respecting either of them and misbehaving. As shocked as I was hearing such stories, I treated it as an aberration and didn’t give it much thought. 

As I went out of my house, city, circle of friends I realized duniya kaafi screwed up hai. I will tell you 2 small stories where 2 different people coming from f****d up families realized the worth of sensible, open, loving families after they got married.

The girl, a door ki relative, came from a family which was messed up in the sad way that they didn’t even see their dysfunctionality. Their problems according to me:

– Her parents spoke about the time they( which means their grandparents) were rich, and then their drunkard sons had squandered away nearly all of their money. They had the ego to give gifts, the cheapness to buy fakes and pass them off as originals and the stupidity to believe others would buy their charade.

– Her parents went through life with the cockiness that they had a superb family. So what if they didn’t discuss what problems their kids were facing or why their kids preferred to spend all their time outside the home. They were still an ideal family because they thought so.

– Despite everyone, including their daughter being highly educated they were still living in the last century. They believed in all sorts of biases against the girl child, against inauspicious days, against people from different gotras and all that bakwaas.

She married a nice boy in an arranged marriage and realized for the first time that parents could talk to you sensibly and you didn’t need to run away from them to solve problems. Family loyalty still kept her from saying anything bad about them. Everyone spoke about their fears that she might turn out like her family, but everyone gave her a chance. She has turned out fine till now and is happy with her husband’s family. Now married for 5 years with 1 kid, she is doing well. The catch is: she has considerably cut ties with her family. Noone seems to mind really, except when her parents have to use senti to pain their daughter.

 The boy, a friend, came from a family which was full of selfish people, who treated their son as an ATM and as a problem solver.

– The only time he would get a call from them would be when there was a problem.

– Noone would call him before a big exam or on his promotion or on his birthday. He would see his friends around him, who would count at the end of a birthday if anyone from family had not called. He got used to this fact, and started avoiding family at all costs.

– The family was bothered more about “log kya kahenge” than about “what will make my child happy”. This meant he suffered every time he did something different.

– To avoid social pressure, the freeloaders in the family would keep asking him for money. Irrespective of his financial situation. This, when they are stinking rich themselves. They didn’t care if he fell back on his loan payments but some relative should have a new bike.

He kept buying his way out of problems for a long time. He had a love marriage and found in that family love, appreciation and respect. He would call them when he needed guidance/help/company. He met people who would try to see things from their children’s perspective and adapted to her family’s ways. They still use him as an ATM and are still as selfish. However, he can never go back to them and discuss issues with them. The few attempts he made were met with disproportionate responses, so he gave up.

What these two stories made me think is – Is there a way to solve the problem of difficult families? Is cutting off from toxic influences a solution? Given the increasing role of friends in one’s life, can friends take the place of family?

Most of all what it made me think is – Apart from the economic situation of the family you are born in, is family the next most important factor determining your personality? 

I have too many questions and no answers. Let me know what you think.

9 Responses to “Toxic – What to do?”
  1. a traveller says:

    Ah family… they’re such a tricky thing. I’ve seen too many dysfunctional and messed up families for my liking, but at the same time, I’ve also seen what a solid support your family can be.

    I don’t know how well cutting off ties works – I’ve seen brothers get estranged and die inside, all because they didn’t know how to just talk and sort out the misunderstandings. I’ve also seen a daughter continue to call her mother to make sure she’s alright, rush down to another city because her mother had a dental appointment and no one to take her – and get no gratitude in return. But she continues to do it – it’s her mother.

    And friends can be no less tricky – you spend three years together in college, call each other “best friends”, and one day get stabbed in the back over an entrance exam. But the right kind can also be there for you at 3 AM.

    Aargh – I think this topic is just too close to me. I’m going to stop rambling now.

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      The daughter’s story is quite painful. Again such stories make me think, why not cut ties. You know, just the fact that you are a parent, shouldn’t mean you take advantage of the child. That is my opinion.

      End of the day, it is a give and take relationship like all others. Unconditional love is bakwaas in my opinion. What do you think?

  2. Rambler says:

    I can’t write. But I’ll ramble because I have some time. And you wanted comments, right? 🙂 Be warned though that this may go toallt off course of what you wanted because you never game a set of bullet point questions to be answered 😉

    Your “examples” have solved the problem pretty ok. It is becoming increasingly easier over time to be independent. Two or more generations back, the children were totally dependent on their parents to chart out their futures. So the daughter would inevitably get married off. And the son would loiter around if there was enough money in the family or get into work or family business if there wasn’t. Then this “toxicity” was less of a issue than being able to survive independently.

    It’s an issue only now.. when we’re becoming independent easily. We find jobs that allow us to pay our rent, buy a house, pay our expenses and after that save up for the future. We usually have spouses who work too, that can act as a safeguard. So we have financial independence. We find our life partners on our own.. ensuring emotional stability as much as possible. I doubt couples a 100 years ago had the kind of bond among themselves that we now share. The man used to remain dependent on his family for emotional support. Now it’s much easier to break away, because our significant other provides that in far greater amounts.

    Again, we meet many more people from diverse cultures when we are growing up, which broadens our thoughts. We read more books by various foreign authors which again makes us become different from our family in general by the time we grow up. The gap in our thoughts from our families becomes much more than it used to be before. And our newly gotten independence allows up to dwell on this “toxicity” and worry about it.

    There isn’t much to solve IMO since this is inevitable. I think when you ask whether friends can take the place of family, part of you is still stuck in the opinions that were formed when you were much younger- when parents taught how family was important. I was taught that too. I was told that if I ever have a problem, nobody other than family would come to help. But I really think that this “needing help from family” is reducing over time.. as our economy does better, as we get more educated and start thinking for ourselves what we want to do, have a spouse we can actually talk to.

    So that is why I think your “examples” did what they could and I doubt that they feel a vacuum in their lives because they had to cut off their ties with their family. It’s much easier done that it could be done before. And while it should not be a goal in life – i.e. to cut away all family ties, many many people will feel this need. And they’ll manage.

    Another thing that you can add is the amount of work that we take upon ourselves to do.. our ambitions, our goals, our opportunities.. we’ve increased them so much that we do not even have the time to feel the need for extended families.

  3. kaaliyakapoor says:

    I think what you are saying about the significant other helping one break out of family issues is absolutely correct. The issue is, family and spouse are sometimes pulling the person in 2 completely different directions. Another problem for the family se pareshan person to handle.

    And you have read my question on family and friends perfectly. I have grown up hearing ” In times of problem, friends might or might not help you. Family always will.” Touch wood, it has been true. But I have now seen examples where this doesn’t hold true. What I was told while growing up has made me think a certain way. The people pained by families also think a certain way because of their families. They just start life with a certain disadvantage, which is slightly sad.

  4. Rehab says:

    I know a girl who cut off ties with her family because she felt that her higher education was important for her. She ran away from home, worked at an IT firm and then did her MBA. The parents and society may call her all sorts of names but she took a chance.
    Contrast that with a girl who thinks that obeying parents is all that one must do. She can’t marry a guy of her choice because her parents would be hurt.
    I think parents, Indian esp, put a lot of unnecessary pressure in matters of career and marriage–the two most important decisions of a person’s life.
    And yes, its ok to cut ties because anything that leads you to a meaningful life is worth pursuing. I know so many women who want to get married to escape their measly existence. It may not be the right way, but its their only hope.

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      I completely agree. I think societal pressure/ fear of being alone prevents many kids from doing what they want to. Once you see the motive for pressure is selfishness, I think it is time to cut ties and run.

      Then again, easier said than done.

  5. Soumya says:

    Very interesting topic it is…. and these kind of scenes are very common….I have seen many such issues first hand. I myself come from a family of many girls (only girls- 5 of us) and have seen the kind of non-sensical social pressure that accompanies a marriage even in this age !!! that is even though my parents have given us a very liberal upbringing and we all still enjoy the company of our family sooo much…..Now coming to your questions, my personal take on them woukld be….

    Is there a way to solve the problem of difficult families? – I doubt.. we may say talk it out etc etc , but once certain things are set (like in the case of ATMs) its hard to change those… these issues lie in the fundamental line of thought of the heads (parents) of the disfunctional fmly and its hard to set their mentality straight; specially after sons/daughters marriage.

    Is cutting off from toxic influences a solution?
    I would say it is. And sometimes thats the only solution. May be maintaining a not-so-close-yet-not-so=far-off ‘status-quo’ may help… but i dont think there is a practical way of solving the problem fully.

    Given the increasing role of friends in one’s life, can friends take the place of family?
    Definitely no… blood is blood 🙂

    Most of all what it made me think is – Apart from the economic situation of the family you are born in, is family the next most important factor determining your personality?
    I guess… that must be why out first stint with our family is termed the formative years …

    PS: has been an irregular visitor to your blog… came in here through whatay … ur blog is getting interesting 😉 Keep posting ….

  6. Anon says:

    Nice post.

    My take:
    Your children learn how to treat their parents from how you treat yours. Its the best way to set a fine example to them.

    While walking away and cutting ties might seem like the easiest ‘why not’ option, it usually doesn’t provide a solution. Family sometimes as painful as they can be are still family at the end of a very long day. Unlike most other things that we try to kid ourselves about, your family is still yours.

    And sometimes having to cut out people only builds up toxicity within yourself due to the discontent feeling of having to cut out people at all.

    My friend had divorced parents and her well off mother threw her out of the house when she was 21 but kept back her degree certificates out of spite so that my friend couldn’t get a job. No relative helped her and it was hard to turn to friends without having the news spread like wildfire. The mother also tried ruining this girls name in the community. Long story short, she never held it against her mother and doesn’t have any bitterness even to this day. Even today the mother still tries to break down her daughter but our girl still stands strong. Forgiveness after all is a very admirable quality in people.

    Keep writing. 🙂

  7. runawaydoc says:

    friends are family u choose..

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