Dysfunctional homes are a breeding ground for psychological and emotional problems, leading many people to carry troubling questions throughout their lives, such as:
- “Why can’t I ever be close or vulnerable with people I love?”
- “Why am I constantly testing the limits of my relationships?”
- “Why am I so bad at confrontation?”
- “Why do I find it hard to believe that people can love me for who I am?”
Residual or unresolved 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 begin your journey to healthier life chapters.
#1. Take care of the child in you
Growing up in a dysfunctional environment forces children to mature earlier than they should. An unstable home lacks healthy communication and fails to take care of the child’s emotional and psychological needs.
This teaches the child to take care of themselves. Inevitably, they also internalize this dysfunctional dynamic and repeat it in future relationships.
For example, if you feel like your partner will leave you because you fought with them, it could be your wounded inner child reliving the trauma of being abandoned.
For this reason, it is important to examine the emotionally atrophied part of yourself. Practice kindness with yourself. Seek therapy. Learn to forgive the child in you who hasn’t received the unconditional love and support it takes to trust people at face value.
When a child freaks out, you don’t expect them to solve all of their problems on their own. You ask them what they need in that moment and try to understand the root of their pain. Once they feel safe, you can redirect their focus to the problem that originally triggered them.
“Inner Child Healing” falls within the larger framework of self-care known as self-compassion, which involves listening to yourself with patience and objectivity. Being kind to yourself instead of dismissing yourself is a great way to change the narrative your inner child is used to hearing.
#2. Rewrite your inner (and outer) dialogue
When we grow up with a distorted view of family and relationships, we also grow up with a distorted view of ourselves. We tend to blame ourselves for things that are not our fault, indulge in self-criticism, and defend those who hurt us.
It’s hard to accept that the space you have in your family is not the space you have in the world. However, this realization can be incredibly liberating. You don’t have to dismiss what you’ve been through, but you can realize that you have more to offer.
Instead of trying to undo your experience, try changing your perspective. One technique you can use is to take the consistency out of your past as you describe it. For example, you are not “damaged goods”, you are “work in progress”. You’re not ‘weak’, you’re ‘learning to show up for yourself’.
Reassuring yourself that the past is in the past can help you regain your power. This will also keep you from making yourself and your current loved ones miserable for mistakes neither of you have made.
#3. Remember that all families are flawed
Being constantly exposed to the dysfunctionalities of your own family can make you feel isolated in your suffering. It can make you believe in the fantasy of a perfect family existing somewhere out there.
The shortcomings of your home can lead you to make “fixing your family” a personal project. This is often more harmful than helpful.
While some dynamics are more severe than others, it’s important to realize that all families have their ups and downs. Every family deals with its own type of dysfunction. The best thing you can do is learn from your own mistakes and those of others.
It’s hard to be optimistic about relationships when your family has been failing you your entire life. However, emotionally and physically detaching yourself from your past—and leaving your fantasy of the “perfect family” behind—can help you see yourself and your family in a new light. It can even bring you one step closer to forgiveness.