Archives For Dysfunctional Families

Relationships are the school of life. They give us the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons that can help us to become healthier, happier people.

In my work as a psychotherapist, almost everyone who walks through the doors of my office is struggling with a relationship in their life. One question that people often ask me is “What is a healthy relationship?” I’m going to answer that question today and I’m also going to share 3 important keys to creating healthy, happy relationships in your life.  Continue Reading…

Letting Go of the Past

September 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

Did you know that symptoms of anxiety and depression are the result of unresolved hurts and traumas from the past? I’ve found in my psychotherapy practice that when people regularly practice letting go of the past, their symptoms naturally decrease.

A lot of people have trouble letting go of the past. One of my readers asked me a question about that recently. The question was, “How do I let go of past hurts and traumas and become the person I want to be?”

That’s actually two questions, so I’m going to answer them one at a time. The first part is “How do I let go of past hurts and traumas?” That’s a big one, isn’t it?

Letting Go Isn’t Always Easy

Most of you have been told at one time or another to let go of the past and move forward. You’ve probably heard people say, “The past is past. You can’t do anything about that now. Just let go of it!” Does that sound familiar to you?

The problem is, if it was as easy to let go as they make it sound, you probably would have done it already.

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If you were like most children when you grew up, you probably thought your family was ‘normal.’ That’s because children believe that whatever they experience is ‘normal.’ They have no frame of reference to compare it against.

.Is My Family Dysfunctional?

I was definitely one of those children. I thought all fathers were angry and abusive. I thought everyone had older siblings who teased them unmercifully and laughed at their expense. I thought it was common to cry all the time and never be comforted or protected. It never occurred to me that my family was dysfunctional at the time. I thought that there was just something very wrong with me.

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All of us have experienced hurt feelings at some point in our lives. Generally it’s something someone says or does that just leaves us feeling hurt, misunderstood, unappreciated or unloved.

Getting Past Hurt Feelings

Getting through those difficult feelings and getting back to feeling happy again can be very challenging. Sometimes they stay with us for days, or weeks or months, even though we really want to be free of them.

What Causes Hurt Feelings?

When someone says or does something that hurts us, our first impulse is generally to look at what’s wrong with the person who hurt us. We often think, “How could he have said the things he said? What kind of person is he (or she) to behave like that?”

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A dear friend was asking me about forgiveness the other day. She asked ‘What’s wrong with me that I can’t forgive people? Even though I’ve tried to forgive them many times, why do I just keep thinking about what happened again and again?”

The Truth about Forgiveness

As we talked, I realized that this was a conversation that you might like to hear, too. Nowadays, everyone is writing and talking about the need for forgiveness, but why is it so hard to do?

What is Forgiveness?

The Encarta Dictionary defines forgiveness as “the act of pardoning somebody for a mistake or wrongdoing.” Forgiveness is not condoning a wrong that has been done to you. It’s simply letting go of the emotional pain of what happened so that you are free to move forward in your life without your past still holding you back and dragging you down.

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Abuse is one of the most obvious components of many dysfunctional families, whether it is verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Can I Really Overcome Verbal, Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse?

Abuse in childhood is like a vampire that steals a child’s feelings of self worth or self esteem and makes him or her vulnerable to negativity and abuse later in life.

Defining Verbal, Physical, Sexual and Emotional Abuse

Let’s define each of the types of abuse before we continue:

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No matter where we grew up, who are parents were, who we’ve been in relationship with or who we’ve worked for, all of us have had some version of ‘The Legend of the Lousy Bastard’ in our lives.

‘That lousy bastard’ undoubtedly hurt us, betrayed us, used us, abused us, overpowered us or abandoned us in the middle of some horrific time or situation in our lives.

Legend of the Lousy Bastard

In our personal legend, ‘that bastard’ generally didn’t listen, didn’t care, didn’t try, wasn’t honest, wasn’t fair, wasn’t trustworthy or wasn’t kind. He or she didn’t validate us, acknowledge our right to be human, or give us the love and respect we so desperately needed at that time.

Our ‘lousy bastard’ may have been male or female, young or old, rich or poor, smart or stupid, but whoever or whatever he or she was in the world, he or she obviously never treated us the way we deserved to be treated.

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Boundaries are the limits that we set in relationships to let people know what we will or will not tolerate in our lives. Setting healthy boundaries is a very important part of having healthy, loving, supportive relationships.

How to set boundaries

Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images

The problem with setting healthy boundaries is that many of us grew up in dysfunctional families where we had no boundaries. All too often we had to tolerate the negative talk or behavior that was happening around us in order to simply survive in our unhealthy families.
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Expect a Miracle!

December 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

It’s very common today to read sayings like ‘Expect a Miracle.’ Since Facebook and social media have become so much a part of our everyday lives, we share these uplifting proverbs with each other regularly.

Expect a Miracle!

But even though we may believe these sayings with our conscious minds, how many of us believe in our hearts that miracles can really happen in our personal lives?

Definition of Miracles

People have different definitions of the word ‘miracle.’ Dictionary.com defines a miracle as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.”

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Stop Tolerating Abuse!

December 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

Sadly, abuse is still very common in our 21st century culture. As a psychotherapist, I often see clients who are tolerating abusive relationships or abusive behavior in their everyday lives.

Stop Tolerating Abuse!

Although I’m always very grateful that the person I’m working with has made the choice to see professional help, I also feel sad that there are so many others out there who are still being abused. Too often, the most beautiful people simply don’t realize what the problem is or that they could make a choice to better their lives.

Why You May Allow Abuse to Continue

There are many reasons why you may allow abuse to continue in your life. Some of these include:

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Loving Your Inner Child

November 11, 2012 — 4 Comments

One of the most powerful exercises you can do to overcome anxiety, depression or other dysfunctional family issues is to love the wounded little child inside of you.

Loving Your Inner Child

Remember that all of us were wounded in one way or another, whether it was done by well-meaning parents who simply didn’t know what we needed emotionally, or whether we were abandoned, abused or neglected.

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Big Boys Don’t Cry!

November 7, 2012 — 2 Comments

Children need to feel safe in naturally expressing their feelings and needs. They need to know that there is at least one adult in the world who genuinely cares for their well being and is willing to make the child a priority.

When a child feels free to express feelings and needs and he is met with patience, kindness, encouragement and support, the child naturally feels safe and secure to learn and grow and express himself openly in the world.

Big Boys Don't Cry

But when a child is verbally or emotionally abused and he experiences disapproval for expressing feelings and needs, that natural vitality and energy of life has to be repressed and shut down. This can easily result in depression, anxiety or negative, acting-out behavior, which often leads to a life-long pattern.

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