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Understanding Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns in Your Family
Many people hope that once they leave home, they will leave their family and childhood problems behind. However, many find that they experience similar problems, as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns, long after they have left the family environment. Ideally, children grow up in family environments which help them feel worthwhile and valuable. They learn that their feelings and needs are important and can be expressed. Children growing up in such supportive environments are likely to form healthy, open relationships in adulthood.
However, families may fail to provide for many of their children's emotional and physical needs. In addition, the families' communication patterns may severely limit the child's expressions of feelings and needs. Children growing up in such families are likely to develop low self esteem and feel that their needs are not important or perhaps should not be taken seriously by others. As a result, they may form unsatisfying relationships as adults. If parents carry these issues forward into new family environments where there is a family history of schizophrenia, it may increase the risk of the children developing schizophrenia. For this reason, it is important to identify dysfunctional aspects of relationships and correct these behaviors.
Types Of Dysfunctional Families
The following are some examples of patterns that frequently occur in dysfunctional families.
Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children's trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of selfworth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.
In common with other people, abused and neglected family members often struggle to interpret their families as "normal." The more they have to accommodate to make the situation seem normal (e.g., "No, I wasn't beaten, I was just spanked. My father isn't violent, it's just his way"), the greater is their likelihood of misinterpreting themselves and developing negative self concepts (e.g., "I had it coming; I'm a rotten kid").
Sometimes we continue in our roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us "permission"; to change. But that permission can come only from you. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you "change back." That's why it's so important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. Some specific things you can do include:
Recommended Books to help:
When Panic Attacks: The New Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by Dr. David Burns
In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a group of people with similar experiences and/or with a professional counselor.
As you make changes, keep in mind the following:
Don't become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns of behavior. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they will begin to become part of your day to day living.
References And Additional Resources
Some excellent books on Dysfunctional Families are: