Oppression is the reality behind thousands of superficial smiles today. Many of these people adopt different coping mechanisms to deal with this oppression. Some choose to live in hostels to pursue education or for jobs, some choose to dive into work to stay busy and distract their minds from the toxic background they come from. In this time of national lockdown, when nobody is getting to go to educational institutes, workplaces or anywhere to have a change of air, when people have been forced to leave their hostels and PGs to move back to homes, the problem is, how should one deal with such oppressive environment?
An oppressive environment could mean living with people who are pessimistic, unsupportive, tyrannical, manipulative, or emotionally unhealthy in any other way. This could be a repressive parent, a domineering flatmate, an abusive partner, a petulant family member or anyone creating a suffocating surrounding. This unhealthy behavior could exist for numerous reasons. The cause of such toxicity could be mental illness, obsession with perfectionism, psychological instability, substance abuse, fits of rage, controlling behaviour, traumatic incidents or life circumstances, etc.
The oppressor may try to invade your privacy repeatedly, indulge in emotional blackmail, find opportunities for argument, could be extremely critical of one’s choices and actions, could try to manipulate using guilt or may even be destructive to the physical environment. Even if toxic people came with warnings, it could still be hard to avoid them. Individuals may choose to be close or distant to some particular people in their lives but it is not always possible or ideal to block out some people even if they are toxic, especially when they are family. It is very important to know how to deal with the oppressor to co-exist in the same surroundings peacefully.
Here’s a list of suggestions which can be useful to cope up in such an oppressive environment.
- Stay away from the ‘trigger’ topics. Avoid topics that may result in unnecessary arguments and fights.
- Do not obsess about pleasing the oppressor or getting their approval. Just try to co-exist indifferently.
- Try not to ask for favors or look for dependency on the oppressor.
- Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable. Sometimes the art of ignorance can be very fruitful.
- Don’t share any personal information with someone who is not so trustworthy and can use it against you.
- Don’t try to be defensive or offensive if you somehow land into a war of words. The blame game only leads to disappointment and sorrow.
- Connect with someone who understands you. This can be a friend, a relative or any other well-wisher.
- Journal or talk about your feelings. Ranting gives an ‘out’ to the inner frustration and helps feel light.
- Make sure you don’t let the oppressor affect your physical health. Work on eating, sleeping and exercising well.
- Relax. Replenish your inner storehouse of energy by doing something ‘extra’ that you enjoy. This can be anything, gardening, a hot bath, reading, baking, foot massage etc.
- Build your own sense of worth and identity by investing time and energy in yourself. This helps staying unaffected from judgements.
- Always be patient. Be kind to everyone but more to yourself.
Sometimes in extreme cases, surviving in an oppressive environment can take an uglier form in the shape of physical violence or sexual abuse. Don’t tolerate or remain submissive to that. It is always advisable to maintain your distance and seek help. There is no shame in seeking help, be it for mental health or for escaping any form of violence. Try to reach out to a well-wisher for help. You may also contact mental health organizations or government helplines. Your safety is of premier importance in your life.
Most importantly, as long as violence is not involved you may try to improve your bonds on your end. While you may not be very close to your family, don’t indulge in resentment. Try to be forgiving and never stop caring about them because somewhere love still prevails in those bonds no matter how strained. Acceptance is the key to happy relationships and a happy life, which will only come with time.