Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Book Review: How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic and Difficult to Love Personalities

by heather

There’s a fair amount of dysfunction in the family that I was raised in. (But then who doesn’t have some degree
of dysfunction in their families?) After talking with a friend who grew up in a similar circumstance, she recommended that I read How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic and Difficult to Love Personalities by John L. Lund. It was a great book and very much worth the time it took to read it. I even think that I will read it again. I recommend it to everyone. Now you may say ‘My family is not dysfunctional’. Perhaps. Let’s pretend that you came from a perfect family and your children are perfect too. You still live in the real world (or do you?) and at some point you are going to have to interact with someone who has toxic or dysfunctional behaviors. This book has many pointers on doing so. I don’t think it is a resource to get you through every difficult situation, but it is a valuable reference. I felt like reading it has helped me to better deal with my family and be more conscious of dysfunctional behaviors that I have learned so that I can stop them and be a better mother to my kids. Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book:

  • A toxic behavior is any word or action that inhibits you from being your best self or hinders others from being their best selves.
  • “Everyone exhibits toxic behavior at times. However, being able to apologize and accept responsibility for one’s behavior is a healthy reaction.” Not apologizing and blaming others for your behavior is a sign of a toxic personality.
  • Toxic people, like everyone else still need to be loved. The trick is to do so without becoming an emotional pin cushion.
  • For most toxic personalities, whatever you do will never be good enough. So you need to set your own standard. A good daughter or a good mother would do (blank). Meet your own standards and don’t feel guilty that you are not meeting the every whim of the toxic person.
  • The person who cares the most in a relationship is held hostage by the person who cares the least.
  • “Each person is responsible for his or her own behavior regardless of the actions of others. Each has a right and opportunity to act and react. We cannot always choose the circumstances, but we can always choose our response.”
  • “Toxic behaviors are counterproductive and self-defeating. They alienate others and demonstrate and immature ability to cope with life. Negative behaviors are choices you make by habit and tradition. They can and must be replaced by positive responses to frustration if you are to gain self-respect and establish a healthy identity.”
  • “The focus needs to be on preparing yourself to remain emotionally healthy when interacting with the toxic loved one. Parents and others want to speed up the process of change in the life of the one about whom they are concerned. Therefore, they criticize them hoping the truth of what they have to say will speed up a change. It doesn’t. It simply increases frustration and leads to more detrimental behavior.”
  • “True change comes from within. Control is not change. Conformity and submission are not change.”
  • Focus on the good in a toxic person and build on it.
  • The most effective ways to change behavior are to invite, inspire, reward, encourage and affirm. Uninvited, unauthorized and improper criticism will place the focus on the critic and not on any value that may be contained in their message.
  • Criticism is not only ineffective, it may be counter-productive because it may weaken a person’s self-worth and self-confidence.
  • When being criticized separate your ego from the issue or behavior being criticized.
  • To be a loving person is a goal, to be loved in return is a wish. Focus on goals, things that you have control over, not wishes.

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