Getting Ready for 2012 -- Doing an Emotional Housecleaning

12/19/2011 05:19 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2012
  • Carole Bennett, MA Substance abuse counselor; activist; author, 'Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict'

Well, one holiday down and two to go.

When I returned from my Thanksgiving holiday I received an interesting e-mail from a woman who was expressing her confusion and possible despair with some of the family members/friends that were participating in the Thanksgiving dinner.

Though no one was intoxicated or high, she realized that she left with an unsettling, almost empty feeling about the evening. It took her a few days to sift through her emotional discomfort and put some kind of description or label on what she had experienced and how it was affecting her.

The woman's communication to me was cloaked with a sense of embarrassment as she sadly realized that she didn't like some of her family members and purported friends. They were loud, obnoxious, opinionated, dictatorial and downright rude. Even when things seem to settle down or unwind from the hectic preparation and conclusion of the evening, no one asked her how she was doing and what was new in her life.

She was recently divorced from an alcoholic and venturing on a new career, and she hadn't seen some of her family members for quite some time so she was hopeful that the reunion and subsequent conversations would be warm, genuine and gentle and not one of manic, herky, jerky discussions and actions.

As she sat back and pretended that she was invisible, scoping out the room and its inhabitants from a corner, she saw that her family acted like wind-up toys on helium. She felt badly that she was judging them, but maybe all the work she was doing to rid her of the toxic man in her life was inadvertently spilling over to other members of her family.

So with 2012 right around the corner, can one do an emotional housekeeping as an honest way to take care of a healthier self? If you wish to do this inventory, what do some of the guidelines or prerequisites look like in order to make sure that another person stays a complimentary part of your life?

Maybe you want to take a second look at some of these concepts and realize that you might not want to have people in your life who have these qualities:

1) Giving off bad vibes or energy

2) Leave you emotional drained

3) Leave you questioning yourself

4) Make you feel "less than"

5) Bully you

6) Aren't encouraging

7) Placate you

8) Don't really like you, but pretend to because you are family

9) Are two-faced

10) Don't keep their word

11) Seem to always find fault or challenge the decisions you make in your life

12) Talk about you behind your back, but start out saying... "I really love this person, but can't understand why she/he are doing this or that. What's gotten into them?"

13) Feign concern about you and offer their "expertise" to help you, but are annoyed if you rebuff the invitation or advice.

14) Shout at you or speak disrespectfully

15) Never ask you how you are doing and only talk about themselves

It is sad, scary, disappointing and unnerving to come to the realization that you just don't like some people that you have been told all your life to love. However, you can love them and accept them, but realize their limitations and don't set yourself up for anything to change. Realize that just because you have brought a special gift or played with their children, cleaned up the kitchen after serving 30 guests that their relationship with you and how they treat you may not and for whatever reason can't change.

If you aren't dependent upon these people for anything, then taking a deep breath and being honest with yourself about how you consider them can really be very freeing. You don't need to share this new emotional freedom with anyone as "loose lips can sink ships" and there is no need to get anyone in your corner to agree with you or make you feel like you have to defend and justify your position.

Just consider it a bit of emotional housekeeping for the new year, and pat yourself on the back that though as painful as it might be, there is no room in your life for toxic people.

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