Unhealthy Family Ties that Bind Over the Holidays
Family is a place where we develop our sense of self and belief of whether the outside world is made primarily of friends or foes. While social scientists continue to learn how much of our personality is already hard-wired within our brains from birth, no one is disputing the fact that a person's self-esteem has its foundation in how they were treated while growing up in their family.
All families have their share of quirks and dysfunctions, and for the most part, many families function in a stable, calm, and predictable way. But in some families the level of abuse - be it emotional, physical, or sexual - causes such extreme damage that the detrimental effects can have consequences in the here-and-now and into future generations.
Often parents who have mental health issues produce children who develop neurotic belief systems and behaviors. These children may grow up into adults who supress their emotions, feel overly responsible for the happiness of others, or attempt to continue to please toxic family members. And usually at the cost of their own happiness and peace of mind. While it's best to try and improve family relationships whenever possible, sometimes it's also healthy to step back and look at the bigger picture: is the maintenance of this relationship emotionally fulfilling, merely tolerable, or causing significant emotional harm?
A sense of obligation: It's up to you to define what is an obligation and what is not. You don't have any obligation to see people you don't want to see. You don't have any obligation to see those who have hurt you or forced you to do things you didn't want to do.
You can't stay away from her or him because he is your _____ (father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, cousin, or grandparent). You don't have to spend time with people just because you are related. You never need to spend time with people who treat you badly.
You should forgive and forget. Choosing to be kind to yourself by setting boundaries is essential for health and self-care. Give yourself the time you need to heal from trauma. Tell yourself you don't need to forgive anyone, except maybe yourself for trying to improve toxic relationships that are impossible to repair. And, no one forgets trauma. It sears into our memories. YOu can forgive someone in your heart without ever forgiving them in person.
You can't survive without them. They are the only family you have. You can decide you can do anything you need to do to take care of yourself and support yourself. You can even create a new family or a found family from friendships.
You just want the whole family to be together. You can decide that getting the whole family together may be a very bad idea. You can arrange to spend time only with those people who treat you well.
Daily decisions to be your own loving force in your life can help you create a foundation to bloom where you're planted, on your terms.
If you'd like to explore family relation issues, trauma, or how to find forgiveness for your own mental health, please contact Leslie Tourish for a free consultation.