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How To Handle Your Dysfunctional Family (And Let Go Of Your Past)


Nearly everyone claims like they belong to a dysfunctional family. We also blame our families for our present troubles to the degree that we are not responsible for our actions. Our past interactions with dysfunctional families sometimes can affect our behavior. You can learn some more about a dysfunctional family and the ways to cope with growing up with a dysfunctional family.

How do you know if your family is dysfunctional?

According to the McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine, a dysfunctional family is “a family with multiple ‘internal’ conflicts, e.g. sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, or ‘external’ conflicts, e.g. alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment-influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit.”

A dysfunctional family has constant tension and chaos. Parents may harm or neglect their children, and they often expect other family members to tolerate and allow harmful behavior. Dysfunctional families may sometimes be the product of addiction, codependency or undiagnosed mental disorder.

An argument or unintended provocation does not count as familial dysfunction. Dysfunction will only become obvious when harmful actions make it impossible for individual family members to work, survive, and grow.

Even though in mainstream media the word “dysfunctional family” may be used flippantly, growing up in such a family has a profound effect as children grow up into adulthood. Family therapists and counselors can address some common problems with dysfunctional families, helping their clients overcome any problems and trauma.

How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family

Growing up in a dysfunctional family may have had long-lasting and debilitating effects on you. Know how to recover. Here are a few ideas to help you manage your family’s cycle of dysfunction.

See Your History As An Adult

From your adult point of view, you can conquer the lingering emotions from life in a dysfunctional family. You are not a child who cannot learn and recognize dysfunction for what it is.

Do not make excuses for any dysfunction or allow a dysfunctional parent or sibling to not acknowledge it.

Let Go Of The Past

Remember that you can’t undo your family history.

There will always be turmoil within the family. People are hard to change, and sometimes you need to put up some boundaries and get away from them. Try not to compensate for the past or recover time lost by trying to save past relationships.

Instead, you can create your own loving family with healthy relationships and protect your well-being.

Don’t Have The Victim Mentality

Your family may have robbed you from a happy upbringing, so do not let the victim’s mentality affect your adulthood.

Do not let your experiences affect your present life by not becoming a well-balanced adult.

Create a new identity that does not remind you of your past and seek to find the strength to forgive whenever necessary. You do so on your own terms and just let forgiveness help you let go of your past.

Define Your Own Person

Be mindful of who you want to be and work towards becoming that person. This can require some time based on your family’s dysfunction.

Understanding your primary family’s emotional abuse and dysfunction can help to identify what you do not want to be. Become the parent you wanted to have so that your children can grow up in a healthy and caring atmosphere.

Create a healthy and supportive relationship by becoming a spouse or a partner you wanted to see with your parents.

Get Family Therapy

If your family’s dysfunction is serious and you feel you cannot move past your past trauma, you may need counseling for healing and committing yourself to changing your life.

Work with a licensed therapist who specializes in family dysfunction, family counseling, childhood abuse, and addiction (if appropriate). To book a session, call us today at 919-647-4600 or visit

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