Families are places where loving relationships and trust are meant to flourish. However, in reality, destructive patterns abound in families, and some get passed down from one generation to the next. Tragically, dysfunction in one generation can beget dysfunctions in the next.
Unfortunately, the human community continues to produce fractured families. However, this does not mean that there is no possibility of change. It takes both self-knowledge and determination to put a stop to the vicious cycle. Generational dysfunction can stop with you.
First, you need to look at these traumas and become aware of the root causes and patterns. Then you need a medically informed plan to implement changes, which should always start with yourself. Within a family, transformational change can start like dropping a stone into the lake, with rippling effects that are likely to impact all.
Understanding How Family Dysfunctions Happen
Every family has its own culture and way of doing things—these range from habits, routines to the use of words towards each other and boundary-keeping. Family dysfunctions usually happen in these areas.
The most common family dysfunctions include verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. The root of the problem is almost always about not having clear boundaries. Parents impose their will on children. Siblings encroach on each other’s privacy. And they all tend to have lasting impacts on children. Often children repeat what was done to them intuitively in adulthood.
Families are composed of intimate relationships, meaning the impact of each member’s personality weaknesses gets magnified. Pessimism, selfishness, greed, anger, laziness, and defeatism are all displayed within the family theatre stage. When these form negative interaction dynamics, a family culture can become deeply entrenched in divisions and tensions.
In the worst scenario, relationships become destructive and sabotaging. Families become dysfunctional in various ways but often have a lot in common:
- There is a lack of empathy and sensitivity towards members of the family
- Even when abuse is the elephant in the room, there is always denial
- Boundaries are missing or inadequate
- Conflicts can become destructive
- Controlling behaviors are high
- Children are afraid to talk about their family dynamics
- No or little quality time together as a peaceful family
- Some family members are unfairly treated
- Generations may struggle with emotions or mental health issues
In short, the cost of growing up in dysfunctional families can be very high. And the repetitive cycle is almost too stubborn to reverse.
The Cycle of Trauma
This cycle of generational trauma is hard to break because, as a child, you tend to absorb all social cues from family members. Parents or guardians model a specific behavior, and that is all you have access to.
A child might grow up in a toxic family environment without even being aware of it. Then the abuse becomes ingrained. The lack of recognizing abuse and trauma keeps the cycle going.
To break free from the cycle, you need to recognize generational trauma. You can start by asking yourself a few questions, including:
- Are you repeating any of your family dynamics?
- Do you have effective ways to get out of that pattern?
- Are you ready to own these problems as your responsibility?
- Can you build healthy boundaries in these relationships?
You Can Implement Change
You have to be the person who is brave to take responsibility and determined to bring change. Yes, you need to understand the problem as having a generational feature to it. Family traits are sticky, and they do pass down.
However, you don’t have to be fatalistic about it. It is not your parents’ responsibility to change. You need to take control of the wheel, and your agency matters. Think of it this way: by starting the change, you benefit future generations in your family.
Healing Starts With You
Can this cycle of trauma be broken? Yes, it can. And it has to stop with you.
If you are aware of dysfunctional patterns in your family, you have put on a new lens of awareness. Most likely, your other family members do not have this realization. For you and your family, this self-awareness is a big part of making changes. Healing cannot happen until you are aware of the dysfunction.
When starting your journey to healing, you may want to consider:
- Examine your family history and identify dysfunctional relationship patterns. Awareness is always the first step towards healing.
- Observe more intentionally how you interact with your family members, and be aware of dysfunctional patterns. This is also a first step towards detaching yourself from these issues.
- Own your behavioral problems. It is easy to trace family dysfunctions and blame them on your parents or grandparents. However, you are an independent human being who is capable of accountability.
- Build in clear boundaries for yourself when interacting with family members.
- Observe families that have healthier relationships and learn best practices from them.
Do you find your mental health problems related to family dysfunctions? Are you troubled by how generational dysfunctions are hard to reverse? Do you want the cycle of trauma to stop with you? At Laguna Shores Recovery, we understand how hard this is. Awareness of the problem is the first step towards healing. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we provide treatment and therapies that help you build relationship skills to help you learn to improve your health and your family’s health. Our mental health professionals will work with you and guide you throughout the process until you are confident to handle such challenges on your own. We make sure you grasp the practical skills necessary to live your best life through our life skills groups. We tailor classes to what you want to know, so you are prepared to handle the things that sober adulthood throws at you. Call us at (866) 906-3203 to learn more about our program.