Many people think that once they move out from their family home, they’ll also be moving away from dysfunctional family patterns and childhood pains. This is not always true. Many people who have ‘unfinished business’ from their family of origin often find themselves troubled by the same sorts of harmful patterns and relationship hurts long after they’ve left their childhood behind and moved into their adult years. Unspoken rules about emotions, closeness, control, roles and birth order of siblings all play a role in developing our personalities, habits and beliefs. In our adult years, our relationships with others often reflect the legacy we received from our families of origin. Unfortunately, not all of these legacies are healthy or positive.

In an ideal world, we would all grow up in homes with parents who have a healthy ability to nurture and meet our emotional needs, providing clear boundaries and develop our emotional health, in turn facilitating us in making good choices for a life time ahead. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. Not all parents were parented well themselves and parents often struggle to model good communication skills and to nurture their children into adulthood with confidence and stability. Insecurity, doubts and low self-esteem take root in childhood environments of fear, shame, abuse and neglect.

Examples of Dysfunctional Family Patterns

  • Authoritarian, permissive or neglectful parenting.
  • Unspoken rigid rules about the expression of emotions like anger (“don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust”)
  • Addictions in one or both parents (eating, alcohol, spending, sex, workaholism etc)
  • One or both parents over or under functioning
  • Coalitions and triangles
  • Unhealthy fusion
  • Irrational beliefs
  • Spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical/sexual abuse
  • Physical violence
  • Emotional blackmail – power and control issues

Resulting Problems

If we grow up in families of origin where there is neglect, abuse, poor modelling of communication, fusion, coalitions, violence, addictions – if our emotional needs are not met, then we will be greatly impacted as adults and often find ourselves repeating patterns of dysfunction in our own families and lives; the cycle continues.

Changing Old Habits

It takes humility and courage to consider making changes. It’s not easy work, but it can be done and begins with insight and understanding of your family of origin. It is often useful to have a trained therapist or counsellor to guide you through this process and support and facilitate you in this confronting work. At Bethesda Counselling, we are experienced, skilled, caring and passionate about supporting you in your healing and growth.