What Does it Mean to Have a Dysfunctional or Toxic Family?
Families are supposed to be about love, caring, compassion and taking care of each other. In an ideal world yes, that is what a family is about. However, research shows that between 70% to 96% of people are growing up in dysfunctional families and 45% have been exposed to some form of alcoholism or alcoholic behavior. Let those numbers sink in. Is it any wonder we have such an alarming suicide rate in our young people? Is it any wonder that people are so unhappy? What that means is that most people have grown up in some type or level of dysfunction. Growing up or living in a dysfunctional family is painful and causes emotional pain for the family members that can sometimes leave them feeling lonely and isolated or angry and some filled with rage.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can leave people with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, chronically feeling overwhelmed with life, drug and alcohol addictions, obesity or eating problems, and a host of extremely negative impacts. People who grow up in a dysfunctional family often don’t learn how to take care of themselves or self-care and often have a harsh inner critic so they lack self-compassion. Another core issue is that the net result of a dysfunctional family can leave a person lacking the emotional abilities to identify, process and manage their emotions, which falls under the category of emotional intelligence.
What is the answer to healing from dysfunctional or toxic families and people? The answer lies with healing yourself, which can be done through growth and development. This is what all of my blog posts and YouTube videos are about. It is also the theme of my Year of Freedom campaign – freedom from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and all of the negativity that comes from being wounded or hurt by dysfunctional or toxic people in your life and stepping into love, happiness, joy, freedom, vitality and all of the good stuff. Speaking of good stuff, you can enter to win free stuff in my giveaway. The giveaway ends in July 2021 and you can see the rules here.
You didn’t get to choose your family. You didn’t get to choose the circumstances of your birth or events that happened in your dysfunctional or toxic family. It is predictable that you learned disempowering attitudes and beliefs growing up. It’s predictable that you didn’t learn assertiveness skills. It is extremely predictable that you did not learn how to identify, process and manage your emotions. It is likely that you didn’t learn the skills to have difficult conversations. Regardless of whether your parent(s) played favorites or perhaps your siblings were not nice to you, or you just had a bad family, you probably feel like you were not well loved. Starting now, however, you have a choice. You can choose to learn new skills, take on new practices or habits, learn empowering attitudes and beliefs. You are not stuck with the past. You can create a brilliant future for yourself.
You can let go of the past, the hurts and the wounds and take on your own personal growth and development and heal. It is entirely possible for you. I am here to help you get there because I want you to have a happy, healthy life where you are well loved.
What Causes a Family to be Dysfunctional?
Mental health issues in a parent or both parents
Lack of emotional abilities
Lack of personal awareness/healthy functioning abilities
Lack of boundaries
Low functioning of parents (GAF scale)
Repeating cycle from the past
Poverty or financial problems
Low self-esteem in one or more parent
Signs of a Dysfunctional Family
Abuse of any kind: physical, emotional, sexual
Domestic abuse or domestic violence
Neglect: inactive harm; not meeting the needs of the child
Secrets, lies, denial of problems
Lack of emotional abilities: don’t deal with feelings; don’t talk about our problems; don’t trust outsiders
Lack of boundaries
Mixed messages; Criticism; Conflict; Ridicule
Lack of love, compassion and closeness
Denial of spiritual focus
Exploitation of children: having to cheer a parent up; having to protect a parent; having to take on parental responsibilities at a young age
Children who are forced to take sides between parents
False reality: pretending something bad was actually good
Overly intrusive, overly involved or protective parents
Distant or uninvolved parent(s)
Playing favorites or rejecting a child
Rudeness or contempt
Lack of communication
Lack of empathy
Lack of trust
Use of guilt or shame
Double bind situations
Impacts of a Dysfunctional Family
This is compiled from a variety of sources. This represents the possible problems that someone growing up in a dysfunctional family might or could end up with. One of the resources I used to come up with this list is from Erik Bohlin, M.A., LMHC and he has a handout on this subject.
Harsh inner critic
Serious temperament or difficulty having fun
Difficulty with intimate relationships
Overreacts to changes they can’t control
Constantly seeks approval and affirmation from others
Feels different from others (people don’t understand me)
Very responsible OR very irresponsible – OR both
Very loyal even if it is not warranted
Strong independence (I can take care of myself)
Trouble taking praise or compliments
Black and white thinking
Compulsive need to be right
Depression – from repressed or unrecognized anger turned inwards
Fear of being authentic
Repeat the cycle in adult life with spouses/children
Self-destructive behaviors or self-harm
Prone to addictions: alcohol, smoking, drugs
Mental health issues- like anxiety, suicidal thoughts, paranoia
Loss of childlike innocence
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you. I am not a licensed mental health professional or in the field of medicine. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Although my posts are research and experience based, they do not constitute medical advice since I am not a medical professional in any capacity.
Benefits to Healing
There are tremendous benefits to healing from dysfunctional or toxic families and people. These are the top benefits:
Improved immune system
Increased sense of peace and contentment
Less aches and pains
Feeling more connected with people (less loneliness and isolation)
Feel more in control of your life
Less annoyed by other people
Improved mental health
Increased satisfaction with life
Increased energy and vitality
You will have more love available to you
It will lengthen your life span
You will feel better
It can help lower your healthcare costs
It will build resilience
You will have increased motivation
You will have more friends and social connections
You will be better able to deal with stress
You will have richer and more meaningful conversations
You will take better care of yourself
You will be more functional in life
You will have more fun in life
You will have healthier relationships with people in your life
You will feel more optimistic
You will have more self-control and self-mastery
You will have a clearer mind and thinking
You will have greater wisdom
You will have more curiosity about life
Steps to Deal with Dysfunctional & Toxic Families and People
Become Awake and Aware: Because we are not talking about the commonality of family dysfunction or toxicity, people are hiding or masking the damage they have endured as a result. It can be painful to admit that your own family treated you badly. Becoming awake and aware to the nature of your dysfunctional family is the place to start. Own it and claim it even though it is painful. Truthfully, it has always been painful. Now you are giving language to it and acknowledging what it is. That is the beginning of freedom and power.
Own the emotional pain and use it to your advantage: Learning how to deal with, process and manage emotional pain is an extremely valuable skill set to have in life. Pain is simply a part of life because things happen. Begin to grow your skills in this area and you will never regret it.
Commit yourself to healing: With a firm commitment and the proper actions, you can heal from any wounds, trauma, or negative situations. You can heal from anything if you put your mind to it AND do the work.
The umbrella for healing falls under growth and development: Growth and development is a broad category containing all kinds of actions, materials, habits, practices, attitudes and beliefs. All of my blog posts and YouTube videos are about growing and developing yourself so you can be happy, healthy and living an empowered life. If you are new to this concept, I believe that you will find it to be the best investment that you could ever make on yourself.
Grow your emotional skills and abilities: One of the best areas to work on in the growth and development genre is emotional intelligence. This is an absolute must for a happy and healthy life. Not being able to identify, manage and process your emotions leaves you bankrupt in life. I am not kidding. This is a must have skill for a great life.
Look for, identify and process any anger, which can be hidden: It is very reasonable to feel anger if you are among the majority of people who grew up in a dysfunctional or toxic family. Anger is an emotion that society is simply not good at. Most of people are extremely limited in dealing with anger. Anger can destroy your life if you don’t deal with it. You will reap great rewards for learning this skill set.
Set up a personal reward system: I recommend a personal reward system because change is not easy for most people. If you are committed to healing yourself from your dysfunctional or toxic family or people then you are talking about change. Get a reward system and use it to stay motivated. It works.
Self-Care: This is what I call a foundational building block for life. It is a must. You want to take care of yourself and have fun doing it. Why not? The benefits are tremendous and you will definitely feel better by doing it.
Assertiveness Skills: Another skill set sadly lacking in society is assertiveness. This is a very helpful set of skills that anyone can learn. It will help you in every area of your life – for the rest of your life. I am grateful that I learned assertiveness skills in high school. Thanks Mom!
Self-Compassion: We don’t talk about self-compassion but we most certainly should be talking about this. Put this on your list as an area to grow and develop. It took me a good while to learn this skill, which I did with help from my children and friends.
Be a person of character and integrity: There is absolute joy and magic in integrity. The same goes for having character. Go to work to keep your promises and your commitments and you will start to feel better immediately.
Make really great friends: The research is compelling on the benefits of having great friends and social connections with respect to human health. Having really good friends is not optional for a healthy and happy life. I know that making friends is difficult for many if not most people, which is why I have written about it and made videos with tips. This is a must for you to heal and be well loved.
Use affirmations to rewire your brain: To properly heal it is necessary that you get ahead of negative thinking, catastrophizing, over-thinking, and anything negative. Affirmations use the concept of neuroplasticity of the brain to create new pathways in the brain. Negative thinking has to go simply based on the principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Set goals and go to work on them: To heal you are going to have to get into action. Healing is an active process. Set goals and then get to work on them. You will feel better as you see yourself making progress. I am a big fan of having a life plan, a purpose or a vision for your life, which hopefully will be your end goal because you want to be the one driving your life – not just letting life happen to you.
Forgiveness is gift you give yourself: Healing from a dysfunctional or toxic family or people will involve forgiving. Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. It has nothing to do with the other people. Put this on your list. Your family or whomever did the best that they could even if it was really awful or traumatic. Eventually, you will want to forgive them, which does not mean that you will continue to tolerate bad behaviors or maltreatment from them.
Learn the skills to have difficult conversations: It is always powerful to have skills for having difficult conversations because they are also a part of life. This is going to come in handy not just in the healing process but all through your life.
Consider distancing yourself or removing yourself: Often the dysfunction of childhood continues into adulthood meaning the dysfunctional behaviors are alive and well in the present time. At some point it might be valuable to consider either distancing yourself from family members or removing yourself altogether, which can be difficult and painful. You have to consider what is best for you and your wellbeing since it is unlikely that they are going to change.
Be well loved: The most painful part of growing up in or in having a dysfunctional or toxic family is that many people end up feeling not well loved. This is tragic and heartbreaking. At the same time, people can still grow and develop and be well loved in life. This is my wish for all of you – that you are well loved.
Understand that this is a process and it takes time: The more you understand that this is a process that takes time the better this will probably go. Realistic expectations are always helpful in life.
Call to Action
With the majority of individuals growing up in dysfunctional or toxic families, we have a majority of our population walking around wounded in life and not fully functional. We have limited abilities in skill sets that are critical. To have a happy and healthy life healing needs to take place. Are you ready to heal from your dysfunctional family or toxic people? What do you need to get going on your journey? How can I help you? What do you need? Are you excited to create a happy and powerful life for yourself? Are you ready to be well loved? Please let me know how I can support you!