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How to Handle Toxic Relationships as You Build a Support System

When in a state of crisis or trauma, we need compassionate people around us whom we trust. Before we are in crisis, we must build a team of these people. I never learned this concept because of my dysfunctional upbringing. When I came to this realization, it was too late. Here are the new “rules of engagement” I have formulated for myself and am sharing to help prevent others from being betrayed, abandoned, and alone when crisis hits:

1. Holding a standing “Do Not Resuscitate” order (say “goodbye”) on relationships with individuals who exhibit 48 hours of non-responsiveness to any form of communication. (Unless someone is in crisis. It’s super simple and takes only a few seconds for a quick, “I received your message. I’m in the middle of something. I’ll touch base with you in a couple of days, if not sooner.”)

2. When the psyche is in the “ICU” (suffering crisis or trauma), refuse those who operate under a de-prioritization system from hire onto the “ICU care team” (crisis support system).

3. There will be no probationary hiring of rehires nor new “care team” (circle of friends) members to the ICU care team.

4. Any care team member whose behavior warrants disciplinary action will receive a written or verbal warning which, if ignored, will be grounds for immediate suspension (temporary break from interaction) for 30 days.

5. Any suspended care team member returning from suspension whose behavior again warrants disciplinary action will be terminated (no contact) from the care team.

6. Terminated care team members may apply for rehire after one year of documented rehabilitation.

7. Any rehires or new care team members are subject to a 90-day probationary period.

8. Any team member whose behavior warrants disciplinary action during a probationary period is subject to permanent termination from the care team with no option for rehire.

9. Any specialists (medical and mental health care professionals) called in to the ICU are subject to all of the above rules except #3.

Important: Suspensions and terminations require written or verbal notification — no ghosting!

Note: There are no special privileges nor waivers for family members — including adult children!

Behavior Warranting Disciplinary Action:

  • Lying
  • Scapegoating
  • Gaslighting
  • Explosive outbursts
  • Demeaning
  • Dismissiveness
  • Disparaging comments or “jokes”
  • Intimidation
  • Threats whether verbal or through gestures/body language

Important: Any physical violence perpetrated is grounds for immediate termination without warning and no possibility of rehire.

You have no responsibility to train an adult out of the behaviors listed above nor out of any double standards, hypocrisy, or judgmental closed-mindedness they may exhibit. You do, however, have a responsibility to be the kind of person you would hire for your own care team. Feel free to use this outline as a guide to creating your own support system requirements. Be as responsible and disciplined to the building and maintenance of your support system as you would be if you were the administrator of a health care business.

Getty image by OKADA

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