How to free yourself if you’re caught in a dysfunctional family cycle
Many people who’ve been brought up in a dysfunctional household would agree with the famous words that open Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Yet Tolstoy’s great novel — which ends in heartbreak and tragedy — is still only a work of fiction. Real life provides countless examples of men and women who’ve overcome a dysfunctional background to author a happy ending for themselves and the people they love.
The process of healing begins with acknowledging that a wound exists. ‘Everyone wants to believe that their family was or is “normal.” The members of a dysfunctional family are no different.’ The members of a dysfunctional family are no different. Yet the more they have to rationalize to make it seem normal (e.g., “I wasn’t beaten; I was just spanked” or “My mother isn’t verbally abusive; that’s just her way”), the greater their risk of misinterpreting situations and developing negative self-concepts in the process (e.g., “I had it coming; I was a rotten kid”).
Furthermore, those who haven’t learned new and healthier life skills than the ones handed down to them by their family tend to repeat the same unhealthy patterns within their own families. These classic dysfunctional dynamics are summarized below:
- Sweep problems under the carpet.
- Don’t express your feelings openly.
- Don’t address issues or relationships directly.
- Always be strong; always be good; always be perfect.
- Don’t be selfish.
- Do as I say, not as I do.
- You’re not allowed to have fun.
- Don’t rock the boat.
Do any of these sound like you?
If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you can indeed take control of your own life and stop these cycles from repeating themselves within your own family. Contact a therapist and begin your healing journey.
Don’t become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns. Changes may be slow and gradual, but as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they’ll start to become part of your day-to-day life. It’s a tribute to your strength that you survived your dysfunctional background. Now, it’s time to put your past in its proper place so that you and your family can enjoy the happy, healthy future you deserve.
‘If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you can indeed take control of your own life and stop these cycles from repeating themselves within your own family.’