Now that we are well out of the holiday season and in full swing of the new year, let’s talk about dysfunctional families. I spend a lot of time with clients and friends, talking about our messed up families. Apparently, we all think that others have normal families and that we don’t. I’m pretty comfortable saying that dysfunctional is the norm!
Here’s the thing about crazy families. We need to learn how to either leave them or live with them. If your family, or any member in it, is abusive to you in any way, you must leave. Abuse will NEVER be okay for any reason. You can go back once (and if) the abuse stops, but you must teach an abuser that they cannot abuse you and still have you in their lives.
We need to stop fighting the madness and learn to enjoy it.
Assuming that most of you just have normally dysfunctional family members, how can you manage to spend time with them without losing your mind? A few years ago it came to me. We need to stop fighting the madness and learn to enjoy it. Yep. We need to learn to enjoy our dysfunctional family for exactly who they are and not who we want them to be.
Most of us have a relative that struggles with addiction or mental illness. We also usually have a relative that apparently doesn’t have any type of filter and feels comfortable commenting on our appearance. What about the relative who loves to give us parenting advice? Do you have a family member who critiques your cooking at every event? Anybody have family members who won’t host holidays, but are happy to tell you how you’re doing it wrong? If so, welcome to the club!
My point is, we can’t choose our family members (except for a spouse or partner), so maybe we should stop fighting it and just embrace them for exactly who they are. What if we let Aunt Mildred comment on our cooking without getting defensive? What if cousin Bob, who has no children of his own, decides to give us some parenting tips and we put on a smile and pretend to listen? What if we actually found some humor in all of the insanity?
What if we all decided to vaccinate ourselves from annoyance and defensiveness?
What if we all decided to vaccinate ourselves from annoyance and defensiveness before we go to family events and put a thicker skin on and enjoy ourselves? Trying to change the behavior of others is often a big old lesson in futility. Changing our own reaction into an accepting and joyful response is actually far easier and much more enjoyable.
So who is with me on my mission to fully embrace and love dysfunctional relatives? I’d love to hear your stories about how you manage the madness in your own family!
Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. PCC
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by Dr. Lisa Kaplin
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About Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D, PCC
Certified Life Coach and Psychologist at Smart Women Inspired Lives.
I’m the proud owner of Smart Women Inspired Lives, where I help overwhelmed and exhausted women move from the feeling of being “stuck” into a life filled with calm, confidence, and joy. In addition to the posts and articles I write, I offer individual and group life coaching sessions, classes and speaking engagement opportunities.
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