How to Heal When You Come From a Dysfunctional Family
Growing up in a dysfunctional household can negatively affect how you experience your adult life. For one, having a dysfunctional childhood can cause you to develop mental health disorders that can prevent you from finding professional success. In addition, you may also find it difficult to create and maintain a relationship with a partner or friends. At times, you may feel different and isolated when you’re around people who grew up in loving families.
A nonprofit organization notes that all families experience some level of dysfunction. However, households that often experience addiction, abuse, perfectionism, fear, communication, boundary, and intimacy problems are more likely to create emotionally dysfunctional adults. In this post, we’ll be discussing how you can find inner peace and healing if you’ve come from a dysfunctional family.
Create a new support network
The thing about having dysfunctional families is that it automatically removes your kin from the pool of people that you trust. Because of this, someone who grew up in a chaotic and traumatizing household will have to build a reliable support network from their closest friends. While it may take a long time before you can find people who you connect with emotionally, having a good support network can help you cope better with adult life. Be careful not to trauma-bond with friends who have experienced similar dysfunctions, as this encourages maladaptive behaviors and prevents you from finding true growth.
Encourage family members to seek help
Dysfunctional families are a lot more nuanced than what many perceive them to be. For some, true healing starts once you break free from your toxic family members. On the other hand, some people cannot let go of their dysfunctional families and would prefer to keep in contact despite the abuse and neglect.
If your healing journey involves seeing your dysfunctional family members get better, do try to encourage them to seek help from various professionals. If they have a history of abuse and crime, and want to move on from their past selves, point them to mental health professionals who are trained to work with trauma and understand the needs of people who experience social and psychological struggles. Those who have studied psychology will have developed a comprehensive approach to mental and behavioral care for families, individuals, and communities. These professionals work in accessible settings such as community health centers and handle both victims and offenders. You can also try to persuade your dysfunctional family members to find a therapist that they can trust.
Know that it is normal to want to build your familial relationships, but it’s crucial that you do this from a safe distance and stop when family members refuse to accept their toxic behaviors.
Seek help yourself
Of course, it goes without saying that you should also talk to a mental health professional to resolve your childhood issues and heal from your wounds. This is especially important if you want to have a healthy relationship with your friends, and eventually, your new family. If you fail to address your own issues, you may place an unfair burden on your loved ones and create a new cycle of dysfunction. A therapist can help you let go of any resentment, pain, and anger from your childhood. In addition, you should also try unorthodox mental health therapies such as mindfulness and meditation or spiritual healing to heal the pain and relieve the stress inflicted on you by the very people who should’ve taken good care of you.
Accept that your family may not support your healing
Many families are entrenched in generations of dysfunction. Oftentimes, in order to survive in a family system, to be accepted, you need to follow unspoken rules. In families where there is abuse, to speak up about it often means to be ostracized from the family. In families where there is substance abuse, when someone decides to become sober, they often feel left out. Or they may even be criticized, saying that the sober person thinks they are “better than us.”
Understanding that there could be a loss of relationship with your family is key. Knowing that this is normal and being prepared to rely on your “chosen family” will help you continue on your healing journey when it gets hard and you question whether or not you are doing the right thing.
As children, we don’t get to choose which family we are born into. We don’t get to choose our childhoods. However, as we grow into adults, we have choices we can make. Choices to heal, to grow, to find healthy relationships and ways to live life. Dysfunctional families don’t have to define you. Although they will always be a part of your story, you can choose your path to a healthy ending.
Are you from a dysfunctional family and wondering how to heal from it? Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that has helped many people heal from the wounds of their childhoods. Feel free to learn more about her here.
Written by Lia Huynh, LMFT and Rosalie Jullena