Dysfunctional households breed psychological and emotional issues, causing many people to carry troubling questions with them throughout their lives, such as:
- “Why can’t I ever be close or vulnerable with people I love?”
- “Why do I keep testing the limits of my relationships?”
- “Why am I so bad at confrontation?”
- “Why is it so hard for me to believe that people can love me for who I am?”
Residual or untreated trauma from childhood and adolescence can cause greater problems in adulthood. However, you are not destined to exist in this state of mind forever.
Here are three small steps you can take to start your journey to healthier living capital.
#1. Take care of the child inside you
Growing up in a dysfunctional environment causes children to mature earlier than they should. An unstable home lacks healthy communication and fails to meet the child’s emotional and psychological needs.
As a result, the child learns to take care of himself. Inevitably, they also internalize this dysfunctional dynamic and repeat it in future relationships.
For example, when you feel like your partner is going to leave you because you fought with them, it could be your wounded inner child reliving the trauma of abandonment.
This is why it is important to examine the emotionally impaired part of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Seek treatment. Learn to forgive the child in you who didn’t receive the unconditional love and support needed to trust people at face value.
When a child is playing, you don’t expect them to fix all their problems on their own. You ask them what they need at that moment and try to understand the root of their pain. Once they feel safe, you can redirect their focus to the issue that caused them in the first place.
“Inner child healing” comes under the larger umbrella of self-care known as self-compassion, which advocates listening to yourself with patience and objectivity. Being kind to yourself instead of putting yourself down is a great way to change the narrative your inner child is used to hearing.
#2. Rewrite your internal (and external) dialogue
When we grow up with a distorted idea of family and relationships, we also grow up with a distorted self-image. We tend to blame ourselves for things that are not our fault, engage in self-criticism and defend people who hurt us.
It’s hard to accept that the space you occupy in your family is not the space you occupy in the world. However, this realization can be incredibly liberating. You don’t have to discard what you’ve been through, but you can realize that you have more to offer.
Instead of trying to undo your experience, try to change the way you see it. One technique you can use is to remove the permanence of your past when you describe it. For example, you are not “damaged goods”, you are “a work in progress”. You are not “weak”, you are “learning to show up for yourself”.
Reinforcing to yourself that the past is in the past can help you regain your strength. This will also prevent you from setting yourself and your current loved ones up for mistakes that neither of you made.
#3. Remember that all families have flaws
Being constantly subjected to your family’s dysfunctions can make you feel isolated in your suffering. It can make you believe in the fantasy of a perfect family that exists somewhere out there.
The flaws in your home can prompt you to turn “building your family” into a personal project. This is often more harmful than helpful.
While some dynamics are more severe than others, it is important to know that all families have their ups and downs. Every family faces its own kind of dysfunction. The best thing you can do is learn from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others.
It’s hard to be optimistic about relationships when your family has let you down your whole life. However, creating emotional and physical distance from your past — and leaving behind the fantasy of the “perfect family” — can help you see yourself and your family in a new light. It may even bring you one step closer to forgiveness.