Monday, December 17, 2007

Can You Change Dysfunction?

Little Miss Sunshine

Excerpts from

Resulting Problems

Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children's trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of selfworth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.

Making Changes

Sometimes we continue in our roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us "permission"; to change. But that permission can come only from you. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you "change back." That's why it's so important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. Some specific things you can do include:

Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood. Make a list of your behaviors, beliefs, etc. that you would like to change. Next to each item on the list, write down the behavior, belief, etc. that you would like to do/have instead. Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behavior or belief. Choose the easiest item first.
Once you are able to do the alternate behavior more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too. In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a group of people with similar experiences and/or with a professional counselor.

Special Considerations

As you make changes, keep in mind the following:

Stop trying to be perfect. In addition, don't try to make your family perfect. Realize that you are not in control of other people's lives. You do not have the power to make others change. Don't try to win the old struggles - you can't win. Set clear limits - e.g., if you do not plan on visiting your parents for a holiday, say "no," not "be." Identify what you would like to have happen. Recognize that when you stop behaving the way you used to, even for a short time, there may be adverse reactions from your family or friends. Anticipate what the reactions will be (e.g., tears, yelling, other intimidating responses) and decide how you will respond.

Final Note

Don't become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns of behavior. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they will begin to become part of your day to day living.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children


Anonymous said...

Dear C--Your words are very encouraging and a reminder to me to not be disappointed or anxious if I feel myself slipping. I developed OCD as a result of my parents alcoholism and our dysfunctional home. It flares-up from time to time. I need to accept my parents for who they are, love them despite their flaws, accept the fact I can't change them, and have no expectations that they will ever change

Anonymous said...

I still have a great deal of anger about how my parents failed and deprived me of a normal chilhood. As an adult, I now understand alcoholism was the cause, and they remain alcoholics to this day despite my efforts and confronting them about their problem. I try not to have expectations, yet I do subconsciously and when they're not met, I react the way I did as a child, I'm plagued with excessive thinking. Most recently, I visited my Mom on her birthday and had cards and a gift sent. 5 days later, my parents forgot my oldest son's birthday. I remeinded them of it a few days later, and they apologized. There's still residual anger because they fail, time and again, to meet the most basic expectations. The reality is they're as bad as grandparents as they were as parents. I have to accept they'll never be the parents I want them to be. They had the capability to do so, but alcoholism took that away. I remain determined to be the parent they weren't and to provide to my children the parenting and chilhood they deserve, which I wasn't provided. I've broken the cycle, and I'm very proud of that. D.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing!