Recovering from Dysfunctional Families

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  1. kalixao profile image61
    kalixaoposted 12 years ago

    Recently having done work with an aspiring singer/songwriter who was suffering from general anxiety disorder, I proposed a traditional approach for using creative outlets to ease fears and undo some really troublesome conditioned reflexes.
         The effort was well worth it. The writer opted to undertake a rewriting of his personal history, literally drafting his own personal history and rewriting his future, in the process. During this process, he came to the realization that his family was dysfunctional and that he was suffering from neuroses that were draining him of his very life forces. It was recommended that he contract a psychotherapist who specialized in Gestalt approaches and psychodrama, but he gained the majority of his breakthroughs and revelations through rewriting his own history. He was able to identify archetypes and paradigms he didn't know existed, and he was able to take cautionary steps to protect himself from the ceaseless attacks of his severely denial-based and threatening family members. The layers of his neurosis and denial were pretty thick.
        Finally, when he understood that there was a word for his type of family and for his type of condition, he began to relax and decided that he needed to seek out the truth of himself, of others, and especially of how he had come to form beliefs growing up in a family of this type. The prompt was simple enough: if you were going on a journey in a houseboat, what would you throw out, what would you keep, who would go with you, who would not be invited, and what river would you navigate. This induced the writer to take stock of his personal inventory and express his feelings and value judgments for the first time in a "harmless" sort of way. As he began to pick and choose objects and people, he began to get a clearer picture of himself and what he wanted and what he needed. The further into his inventory he got, the more self-realizations he was able to make. His writing became richer, more emotional, more surprising and unexpected - in short, more original and genuine. He began to value himself, flaws and all, and began to be a more spontaneous human being, seeking intimacy over sex, seeking peace of mind over chemical euphoria. He quit drinking, drugs, and cigarettes. He found a substantial relationship with someone for the first time in his life, and he finally took legal action against an abusive family in which members literally "took turns" attacking him. He faced the awful truth of incest and addiction in his family.
         Neurotics are the kings of denial, but what they secretly want is to be exposed. They'll deny it to the end, but they're wounded and want someone to attend to the wound in a way that doesn't threaten their all-pervasive need for control. What they need is their soul back, so they can give their hearts fully, love and be loved in return. Inside them is a maelstrom of creativity and original thought, compassion and ethics, the origin of creative thought and literature itself, but all these have been compromised by dysfunctional families who cannot raise adults, only crippled children. The process of recovery is brutal, and the greatest injustice is that these wounded children, as adults, are forced to shoulder the burden of self-recovery, after everything that has already been done to them. The resentment levels are off the charts and seriously inhibit recovery. They are trapped in a battle they can never win, no matter how hard they try, because the family has doomed them to a fate of being eternal losers.
         I wrote this posting in hopes that others who have suffered the same condition as this young writer without relief or release might also benefit from this simple exercise, and might also find their way clear to a new life, where they believe they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, where they can finally face their enemies and dispel the shadows, and walk away, because a dysfunctional family is like a Cold War scenario: the only way to win is not to play.

  2. WryLilt profile image90
    WryLiltposted 12 years ago

    I'm currently working on a manuscript about dealing with my bipolar mother (written a short version in a hub.)

    I don't see it so much as helping me (although I'm sure it will) as helping other kids who've experienced the same problems.

    1. schoolgirlforreal profile image80
      schoolgirlforrealposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I'm bipolar and I'm not like your mom.
      But I hope it helps.
      My parents are cukoo.  I wrote an autobiography- maybe you should too!!


  3. Rafini profile image71
    Rafiniposted 12 years ago

    Writing my life story is helping me with my issues - I'm surprised at the revelations I've discovered, things I knew long ago but learned to deny.  It's hard, really hard.  I cry almost daily over the things I've endured in my life and I'm shocked at how much it still hurts.  At least it's better than crying and not knowing why. lol  I don't think the pain will ever go away, but now I know why I cry.

    I've considered rewriting my life story, as in...the life I wish I'd had, maybe that will come later. smile  I wonder what it would look

    1. kalixao profile image61
      kalixaoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      You should remember one thing, that if you're crying, it means that at least something matters to you. People with tender hearts always suffer the most, needlessly.

      1. Rafini profile image71
        Rafiniposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Not too long ago I came to the realization that life is meant to be felt, experienced and shared.  I would much rather feel my true feelings than go through life constantly trying to numb my emotions, and with my only thoughts to be running from the pain.  It works better.  smile  Besides, all I have to do, when I start to cry, is tell people I'm just super-sensitive. big_smile

        1. kalixao profile image61
          kalixaoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          The writer I was working with came to a similar conclusion. After going through weeks of just confusion, pain, memories, powerful anxiety attacks in trying to undo his family's influence, he came to the realization that "feelings aren't irrational; feelings are the only things that make any sense!" The minute he realized that, his anxiety reduced. He began to look forward to new emotions and sensations, instead of hiding them and running away from them. This allowed him to feel, finally, a terrible hollow soul-crushing emptiness that was his perpetual condition growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive family. The minute he felt alone-ness, he turned and realized he had people around him supporting and loving them, and that they had been there all the time. He felt his greatest sorrow and his greatest joy in that short space of time, and I believe he's tremendously better off for it. Today, he can say without conflict that he is truly happy. He doesn't need to control his emotions, or those of anyone else, anymore. He learned to master flow, letting himself feel, and letting the feeling speak to him, and then learned to let the feelings go without feeling empty and abandoned. Can you imagine being so alone in the world, that the feeling of misery is the only thing you have to hold on to, and you can't stand to let it go, because you'd be completely bereft and without purpose?

          1. Rafini profile image71
            Rafiniposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Can you imagine being so alone in the world, that the feeling of misery is the only thing you have to hold on to, and you can't stand to let it go, because you'd be completely bereft and without purpose?

            Um, I fight these feelings on a daily basis. lol  Plus, I feel I have a better purpose to serve.  I just have to find it. smile

            1. kalixao profile image61
              kalixaoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              Have you gone through the whole depression diagnosis routine? And if so, have you tried anything you feel has really made a difference? Welbutrin seemed to make a difference for the writer I spoke of.

              1. Rafini profile image71
                Rafiniposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                (oh yeah, I've been through plenty of therapy and I'm tired of it - no amount of therapy is going to change the past or make it go away) 

                Being off meds works best. yikes  But I've been taking supplements that work pretty well when I remember to take them. big_smile  (st. johns wort, fish oil, ginseng)

                1. kalixao profile image61
                  kalixaoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                  That's great! Try Black Cohosh, as well, for women.

            2. Pearldiver profile image69
              Pearldiverposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              Wow.... I thought that you had realized that you have Rafini hmm
              That certainly comes across from this side of the world...
              Take a Look and See For Yourself! smile

              1. Rafini profile image71
                Rafiniposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                (um, uh-oh.  what do you mean?  I don't get it.  hmm  lol) 

                I honestly don't know what my purpose is, I'm searching, still, while going to school and trying to find time to write.

    2. schoolgirlforreal profile image80
      schoolgirlforrealposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      having a crappy family sux
      but there are good points, at least in mine, i try to see them smile

  4. kalixao profile image61
    kalixaoposted 12 years ago

    Thank you for your comments and I hope you can make use of the life history prompt here - journey in a houseboat. If anyone wants to actually give it a shot for themselves, let us know how it's working for you. Post your journal entries about your own houseboat journey. The site is meant for jump starting your creativity, and has frequent tasks to try for yourself.
    The hardest thing in dysfunctional families is that the denial is so thick, the children inherit neuroses like they were genetic traits, perpetuating generational trauma and cycles of abuse. What seems normal, never is; promises are never kept; no single simple gesture is completed to its rational conclusion. Eventually, the children in such families no longer know what's real and true, in themselves, in the world, or in others. It's like living behind a glass wall, looking at the world like it was a menagerie, and shattering it every time you reach for something.

    1. Glenn Raymond profile image60
      Glenn Raymondposted 12 years agoin reply to this


      This is an excellent forum topic and I am proud to have read it.  There are so many people out there that need this type of information.  My wife does a lot of journaling.  I keep telling her to just write her story.  Perhaps then she would not feel so stuck all the time.  Who knows, maybe it could be a great book.  Blessings.

      1. kalixao profile image61
        kalixaoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Thank you for reading. Please feel free to post insights into journaling or even excerpts, if you'd care to. we're going to be publishing a manuscript on a personal journey of self-discovery from the canoe prompt suggested here, if anyone wants to undertake it themselves.

  5. mrod profile image60
    mrodposted 12 years ago

    And then after all is done and said comes forgiveness, a hard to swallow word, but so essential to the self healing process. Without forgiveness, there is no real cure, for sooner or later the phantom of revenge will appear to show its ugly face again. See forgiveness is not condoning a behavior. It is just a way of letting go of the resentments tied up in an experience, and letting God. Forgiveness liberates us from the horrible chains of hatred, and the ill effects it produces in our minds and bodies. To be unforgiving is to kill ourselves slowly. I hope the person you are referring to, has found it in his heart to forgive his family members and who were probably victims of child abuse themselves.

  6. frogdropping profile image81
    frogdroppingposted 12 years ago

    Assuming the boat was equipped to live in, nothing would be thrown out. I'd navigate it through calm waters and refuse entry to no one other than my mother, ex and my two very silly brothers.

    I'd think it would be an enjoyable trip smile

  7. Disturbia profile image61
    Disturbiaposted 12 years ago

    "Can you imagine being so alone in the world, that the feeling of misery is the only thing you have to hold on to, and you can't stand to let it go, because you'd be completely bereft and without purpose?"

    I don't have to imagine being alone in the world. I grew up without a father and lost my mother at age 11. But I have never clung to or wallowed in misery. I was always too angry to be miserable, and too busy trying to survive in the real world. I didn't have much time to worry about the world inside my head.

  8. Jaggedfrost profile image60
    Jaggedfrostposted 12 years ago

    lol I have been lonely for a very long time and I had a run in with depression. I still get weird when I get tired or stressed out.  The hand I was dealt works like that.  The question I had to ask myself was, "Is there more I could do with the hand I was dealt?"  Almost every time I found that the answer to that one was yes.  I ended up finding that as I invested my soul, tattered as it may have been at one time, into another person's fight for sanity and happiness, that I found my own along the way and in many ways was able to both deal with my fits of depression and my sense of loneliness.  I am still not extroverted in the general sense but as I have taken an active interest in the wellbeing of my fellows I have found that they enrich my life and energize me when nothing else can.

  9. Tony DeLorger profile image64
    Tony DeLorgerposted 12 years ago

    Had a good family but inherated a depression disorder from my father. Thirty five years of dealing with it, CB Therapy and MBC Therapy and lots of courses, writing two books on the subject and helping people with similar problems, I conclude this. How we respond to our given lives, whether it be from a disfunctional family or psychological disorders or whatever, we must choose to be either a survivor or a victim. This is a clear cut decision that the rest of your life projects outwardly from. So, if you need professional help to put some experiences in the past where they belong- do It! But always remember, it is our decision to push on regardless and have a positive life, that will open up the opportunities that will transform you.

  10. know one profile image59
    know oneposted 12 years ago

    The two very best books I have read on this subject are by Alice Miller 1)Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child; and 2) For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence.  The upshot presented by the author is that a child learns to suppress feelings for its survival. The internal betrayal, rage, unfairness, and pain gets buried and later manifests in depression, violence, addiction, etc as a teen/adult. Only when the teen/adult is able to fully express the extent of the truth of their experiences as a child with someone who does not stand up for the parents but rather acts as an advocate for the inner child can they heal and move on with their lives. Otherwise, they are bound to repeat the mistakes or wreck their lives further. Denial and suppression is out.

    imo, forgiveness is just another (impossible) burden on an already overloaded and damaged soul. I don't believe it has that much merit - in my mind, it's just another cover up which benefits the parents.

    Kalixao, I thought your post and your approach was excellent. I just don't believe any are doomed... they can take control of their lives and resurrect the innocent soul into the body of a high functioning adult. But it is the hardest thing they will do beyond their first overwhelming challenge of merely surviving their parents' process of child raising. And they need that advocate.


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