The Power You Have to Heal Family
Who says you can’t change family?
While it’s true the only power you have is in changing yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t effect change. When families are dysfunctional, learning healthy relationship skills doesn’t happen. Family connections are often strained and sometimes even unsafe.
Without intervention, the family dysfunction continues and being with family becomes a task to avoid instead of the safe haven it’s supposed to be.
While many families never get the professional help they need, one person’s growth can alter the system and create something new. This blog shows what you can do to change and possibly create healing for the entire family.
Assuming Nothing will Ever Change
Many of us come from families where personal growth is considered weak or for the mentally ill. Maybe you’re the only one in your family who is interested in healing. Even if your family never wants help, don’t underestimate the power you have to change the situation. New behavior often provokes a new response. At the very least, by shifting your behavior, you can form a healthier connection to your family of origin.
When you make a change, some family members may react because it’s unfamiliar. Predictable behavior, even when it’s unhealthy, is more accepted because everyone knows what’s coming. On the other hand, new behavior can be perceived as a threat because it goes against the family rules. Some resistance is normal but unless you feel unsafe, don’t let that stop you.
So where do you start?
Tip: Look at how you’ve contributed to the dysfunction and you will see what to change.
For instance, if you’ve always complained to a family member about your mother, handle your frustrations directly without putting someone in the middle. Or, if you’ve always criticized your father’s drinking, practice detachment and remove yourself before it gets too painful.
By taking care of yourself first, you start to heal instead of expecting others to change. When you become accountable, you are no longer participating in the dysfunction.
Utilizing the Power Within
By making small but meaningful changes, you bring change to the family system. The once predictable outcome can shift. This requires putting yourself out there in a way that feels more vulnerable. Having the courage to do something different invites others to make a different choice as well.
But it won’t matter. Nothing ever changes in my family.
Nothing changes until one person decides to start. Expecting others to be different creates resentment. Taking responsibility for your needs and behaviors can be powerful ways to change the system! You set the example and even if they don’t follow, you’ll be healthier for doing it!
Positive Change Starts with You
Here are two powerful examples of how to create healing in the family. One woman talked about being 17 years old asking her father for a hug on Christmas. It was the first time they had ever hugged. Because she took the risk to ask, hugs became a normal part of their relationship. All because she dared to be vulnerable and ask for what she wanted.
Another friend shared that he had finally gotten the courage to tell his father he loved him - no one ever said those words in his family. Now, because he was willing to be vulnerable, it started a trend. Now everyone in his family says “I love you.”
Many years ago, I confronted a family member who raged at me when I was a kid. Because I spoke up about how the behavior impacted me, our relationship totally transformed. All because I was willing to do something different. She didn’t have to change because once I spoke my truth, we could both move on and create a new connection.
It’s important to note that in certain families, where there is abuse or mental illness, these tips are not recommended. Practicing detachment can keep you safe.
These situations had positive outcomes because each person decided to risk addressing their old behavior. The intention was to create positive change not to manipulate others to change. By taking care of ourselves and confronting old patterns, we can show our family how to heal.
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