Today what I want to talk about is one of the words that you hear when you start researching toxic relationships. You are definitely going to come across the word “hoovering.” It is derived from the Hoover vacuum, and it is a tactic that is used by toxic people, narcissistic people, and emotionally abusive people to suck you back into the relationship and into their control. Once they get you back in, they continue to treat you like dirt.
Assuming that most of you have been in a toxic relationship, emotionally abused, or have lived or are living with a narcissistic-type personality, I know that overwhelming feeling of dread that you feel in your entire body when they are present…when the toxic person is on the phone…when someone asks you about them…when someone is speaking about them…when you observe them or see them or pass them on the road…
For those of you who have been able to remove yourselves for a time or, hopefully, permanently, you know how it feels to wake up in the morning and not have that overwhelming feeling of doom. That is how life should feel. You should be able to wake up and face the day with confidence and be full of ambition.
How many know what it feels like to wake up this way? How many of you are waking up this way right now? How many wish you were able to wake up this way?
To wake up not worrying about the day. Not worried what may or may not happen. Not worried how you will get all of your stuff done to perfection. Not worried about how to put out the fires before your feet hit the floor. Not worried about being in trouble. Not worried about how you’re going to keep conflicts down.
How many of you have had glimpses of waking like this but they were only temporary? When you felt that peaceful, unrecognizable calmness, what did you think?
This is exactly how I want my life to feel. I want my life to feel calm. Right?
I’m guessing because you are here you have experienced all of the above but it has only been in very short stints. A flash in the pan. When that happened, you loved your life and you thought “This, I got it!” And then what happened? It came back. How did that feeling come back so fast? You were doing so well! Once again, you are waking up feeling doomed, feeling stuck, feeling like you are in prison. You have stress in your body. You are uneasy and sick to your stomach. Why does this keep happening? You thought you were out. You thought you were strong enough. You thought you were going to start over.
When you’re feeling safe and strong, when you are out of a toxic relationship and you are feeling like your life is ready to go and you’re on track and you’re feeling successful and happy, that is the absolutely most critical time for you to stay alert for the ever-returning toxic person.
Here comes the vacuum.
That’s the tactic that I’m talking about. Hoovering. Toxic people use it to manipulate you and to suck you back in as their victim into a relationship or their circle of control. They do that by making false promises, showing false improved behavior, or by promising the things they know you’ve always wanted.
Hoovering is nothing but a fake scheme. It’s totally an act that is meant to toy with your emotions so that they trick you long enough to get you to feel sorry for them, feel proud of them, or to pay attention to them. They want you to let your guard down so you soften up, so you listen to them for a minute. You end up feeling sorry for them, and they suck you right back in.
They will do this at the precise moment that you are feeling lonely, vulnerable, and reflective. They will also do this at the precise moment that you are feeling strong, confident, and happy. They will get you when you’re weak and they will get you when you’re strong. They know exactly how to do it.
Now how is it that we can say no and take care of ourselves and remove ourselves from bad situations with others, but that one person shows up and we cannot convince ourselves that we have a choice? We have no trouble avoiding people that are insane or openly appear to be abusive or dangerous. However, toxic people are masters at hiding their true personalities and abnormal behaviors from you until they feel that they have enough control over you to begin uncovering their hidden agendas. Even if you have seen the pattern over and over, they are so good at what they do that they will trick you into believing that they are remorseful and they have changed.
A tiger does not change its stripes. A leopard does not change its spots.
This can happen to you even if you’ve been out of contact with your toxic person for a lengthy amount of time. You can bump into them at the gym or at a party or the bar, after a wedding. Someone asks you about them and it triggers a memory that makes you miss them, so you reach out. A certain date or anniversary pops up on the calendar and you get the “Hey!” text. Family events. Deaths. Accidents. All perfect ways for them to wiggle back in. Maybe if they can just get in under the surface, you’ll begin to feel sorry for them.
“Hey! Just wanted to let you know Uncle Bob died.” Okay…you’re thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know you had an Uncle Bob, so he must not have been that important.” But they are hoping that this is the perfect in, reaching out to you so that you will feel sorry for them.
The #1 very best way to avoid the vacuum? Keep your floors clean so you don’t need it!
How do keep your floors clean? No contact. And I absolutely know 100% that no contact is the hardest thing to do. I get it. To everyone out there struggling, I know that you feel like you can’t do it. I know that you feel like you just need to talk to them for a second, that you just need to defend yourself, that you just need tell them this one thing, or that you’re so sick of them contacting you all the time that you just want to meet them one time to tell them to stop.
You know as well as I do that if they get one foot in the door, they are all the way in.
Remember, the toxic person is all about control. The desire may not really be to get back with you for you; they may want to get back with you so they can control your situation.
If you are already divorced or already separated, it may not have anything to do with them getting back in control of the situation, but they use the same kind of tactics to make your life miserable. It all starts the same way:
You get the text:
“Hey, my mom and dad are coming into town and I’d really like to have the kids for the weekend.”
You either don’t respond or you ask him what the paperwork says, and then you get the “I don’t get why you have to be such a blankedy blank blank when all I do is work everything out for you. I help you out all the time and you never pay for anything. Last year, one time we were in the middle of this argument you said this, this, and this.” They go from being Mr. Nice Guy to Super Crazy Psycho. If being nice doesn’t work, they move to being mad. If being mad doesn’t work, they move to accusing you. If that doesn’t work, they threaten you.
“I’m going to call the police, and I’m going to videotape you, and your lawyer is going to hear from me.”
Then, if you still don’t respond and you still don’t give them what they want, they’ll start right back over with Mr. Nice Guy. It might take 24 hours but they’ll sleep on it and then, “Hey, did you rethink everything with the kids?”
That is why I am so adamant about no contact. They really never go away on their own. They will always be lurking. They will always be kind of in your business. You cannot control them. You have to be able to control you, and no contact is absolutely imperative to do that.
I do have quite a bit more on this subject, but I have so many clients right now that are struggling with this constant barrage of texting and bringing the kids in and accusing and threatening and receiving more when you don’t respond. What they are hoping to do is break you down so that you’re so sick of it that you’ll succumb to what they want.
So for those of you out there right now who are dealing with this, I know it’s hard and I know you’re struggling. Every day that you do no contact or you only contact them regarding the things that you’re supposed to talk to them about or the things you agreed to talk to them about, every day that you do that is a huge, huge win. Every day that you do that will get easier. They will never go away if you don’t break the cycle. Because they don’t change. If you’ve been with them long enough, you know they don’t change.
Sometimes they still stay in touch not to harass you but to keep you on the tail end in case they need you for something. If you know they have been toxic, and they have been toxic or unhealthy to you, no contact or very limited contact is essential for you to be completely free. Otherwise, you will stay within the cycle at some level or another.
I hope this helps a few people. I am so grateful that people are finding me and reaching out and that I’ve been able to help, or at least guide, people in this really confusing situation that there seems to not be a lot of answers for.
You can find me through my Facebook or Instagram pages @coachingwithdrheidi or through my website. On the website, there is an assessment called the Toxicity Profile Analysis. It’s 106 Yes/No questions. You can fill out that assessment online and submit it. Your results will come directly to me. What we can then do then is set up a consultation. What that Toxicity Profile Analysis tells me is which character traits the toxic people in your life have and which character traits may have affected you. It also gives me a really good overview of the severity of the situation that you are in. Sometimes it’s enlightening for people who may not understand their situation to chat for a few minutes. You may have been feeling like something has been going on for a long time, and you may receive some validation that you aren’t crazy and that not everything is your fault.
I will talk to you all soon!