The New Normal – Healing from a Dysfunctional Family
The New Normal – Healing from a Dysfunctional Family
Nobody had a perfect childhood, not even the kid down the street whose family seemed to have it all together. We all grew up with some sort of dysfunction, and we’re all who we are today because of it.
But dysfunction doesn’t determine our destiny. We must learn how to heal from a bad childhood and to take destiny into our own hands. Find out how to start healing from the pain of a dysfunctional family. Plus: Are you depressed…
What did your dysfunctional family look like?
Characteristics of a dysfunctional family may include alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, physically, emotionally or sexually abusive parents, psychologically disturbed parents, excessively rigid or controlling parents, bitter divorces, or uninvolved parents.
The impact a dysfunctional family can be overwhelmingly and lasting.
Some of the effects include:
Difficulty with emotional or sexual intimacy
Alcohol or drug abuse
Poor communication skills
Clinginess in relationships
Obsession with perfectionism
Feelings of abandonment or isolation
Feelings of powerlessness
Feelings of worthlessness
We can’t choose the family we’re given. But children of dysfunctional families can overcome leftover feelings from a bad childhood with a new adult perspective.
Here’s what you need to know:
You can’t change people
No matter how much you beg or plead, most adults don’t change their core personality or behavior. There has to be a point you reach in which you stop wishful thinking or believing a parent when they say they’ll change – you’ll be disappointed often. You also can’t continuously seek approval or acceptance from someone who never met those needs.
If a dysfunctional parent who won’t change is harming your life with destructive behavior, it’s OK to keep your distance or cut off ties altogether. Blood is not thicker than water. You should only allow someone to be a part of your life if they exhibit good, consistent actions. You have every right to set boundaries to protect your well-being.
You’ll never get it back, so stop trying
What’s done is done. You can never go back in time and change your childhood. So why are you still trying to? Many people believe they can make up for the past by trying to salvage an irreparable relationship in the present.
But they often fall short, and it’s a difficult pill to swallow. You’ll always struggle with reconciling your past with your present, but it’s the personal power you grab a hold of today that will make that reconciliation seem more plausible.
Stop repeating the cycle with your own family
When you dwell on your pain, resentment and anger from your childhood, you’re probably taking it out on your own family. Worse yet, the time you spend obsessing over the past takes away the time you could be building a healthy future with your kids.
While you should be open with your spouse about your past before you get married, your family doesn’t deserve to continuously relive your pain for you. By putting an unfair burden on them, you could be creating a rift within your own family.
Having a family of your own is a small, but powerful way you can redeem your childhood. By providing your children with a loving, stable and safe environment to grow up in, you’re putting an end to a cycle of dysfunction. You know you can’t rewind your childhood and totally get rid of the pain and trauma. But you can heal some of the pain by watching your marriage and children thrive later on in life.
Don’t blame your bad behavior on your childhood anymore
The great thing about growing up is you gain perspective, insight and autonomy, and with this comes a capability of better coping with your bad childhood. You’re certainly more susceptible to making bad choices when you’ve been robbed of a healthy framework by which to live your life. But now, as an adult, it comes down to you.
You may feel angry, cheated and bitter, but your attitude doesn’t have to project that. Your parent’s behavior isn’t responsible for how you act – you are. What happened in your childhood wasn’t your choice, but what happens today is. No more excuses for your current self-sabotaging behavior. Once you realize how empowering taking back control can feel, you’ll find more peace in the fact that your parents can’t control what happens anymore.
Forget the victim or survivor mentality
You were certainly cheated out of a healthy family dynamic during your childhood, and you still might have become a well-adjusted adult despite your hardships. It’s easy to attach yourself to a victim or survivor mentality, but these labels may be a disservice to your well-being.
A victim or survivor of a dysfunctional family can become solely your identity. If you see yourself as a victim, the past controls your present and you feel allowed to indulge in self-pity and a pessimistic attitude. If you see yourself as a survivor, you may be simply surviving but not thriving. How you see yourself affects how you live your life.
Is forgiveness reasonable?
Forgiveness doesn’t have to be the last step in your healing process. Some experiences are just too painful to ever forgive, and it’s OK if you’re never able to fully forgive your family.
If you are able to forgive someone in your family, do it on your own terms, and make sure whoever you’re forgiving has accepted responsibility for their wrongdoing and is working toward making it better, too.
Often, the most effective way to heal from a dysfunctional family is to seek therapy. Consult a healthcare professional if you think you need help.
You’ll forever be connected to your childhood experiences, and that’s something you have to endure. But your ultimate success and happiness is something you’re responsible for. When you grasp this concept, you’ve already won half the battle to healing.
Could you be depressed?
Like Picasso, everyone experiences “the blues” from time to time. But if you’re depressed, you are experiencing more than just the occasional bad mood or terrible day.
Depression affects 19 million people in any given year and is a serious enough disorder to compromise one’s ability to function normally day to day. Find out if you’re just blue or if you might be clinically depressed.
Last Updated: 11/17/2017
“Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who've already been there.”