When I first became aware of the toxic patterns and behaviours in my family of origin I knew that changes had to be made. However in the beginning I put so much power outside of myself, and whilst I knew that I had to make changes, I believed that in order for those changes to be effective, the people around me would need to change also. I thought that I could help others to see the benefits and importance of changing their ways, but this was a complete waste of time. The only person that you can attempt to change is yourself.
Changing family patterns involves first identifying the behaviours within your family that are toxic and then secondly seeing which of these behaviours you may be unconsciously repeating. It is important to accept the fact that if you have been brought up in a toxic or abusive family that you have learned habits that may not be in line with your true self. It is not always easy to see the behaviours that you are repeating because they have become a part of you, but discussing with a close friend that you trust, sitting and reflecting on situations that recur in your life, or speaking to a therapist can all be beneficial.
Growing up in an enmeshed family I had to realise that being enmeshed and codependent on someone else was not true intimacy. I had to learn a new love language and know that love does not mean having no boundaries with someone, or putting other people’s needs in front of my own. This also led me to look into the importance of self love, because as your self love increases, you begin to value your time and your interests and you are not as willing to allow another person’s needs to just throw your plans for the day off on a whim.
Below I have given a lost of things that really kick start the journey of ending toxic family patterns:
- No longer keeping secrets– Within families it is not uncommon for there to be some subjects that are difficult or get brushed under the carpet, but within toxic families the amount of secrets that are kept can be excessive. Family members are often sworn to secrecy about abuse or unsavory behaviours that take place, there is a lot of emphasis placed on what other people will think.
- Have Healthy Boundaries- Without having healthy boundaries the pain that is in your family of origin will continue to flow to you. Your boundaries do not have to mean that you distance yourself from your family, although this may be something that you want to do, but it allows you to know where you end and others begin.
- Stop Attending Holidays or Functions out of Obligation– During the healing process you may find that you need space, and attending family functions may trigger you or even slow down the process. This is a decision that you will have to make for yourself but it is always best to be true to your feelings and ensure that you are not attending because you feel obligated to, or because your family will guilt trip you.
- Do Not be Afraid to Drop Habits that no Longer Serve You– When you change your behaviour and show up in a different way it can feel threatening to your family, especially if you are confident and unapologetic. You can sometimes hear things like you think you are better than everyone else, or who do you think you are? You may also find that there is passive aggressive behaviour that is not verbalised. This can be hurtful but rest assured in the fact that you are doing the healing work to improve your life and if others cannot accept that it is up to them.
- Stay Out of Judgement- When you find a new way of doing things it can be easy to judge the old way, this is a trap and does not really serve a purpose. As Maya Angelou says “When you know better, you do better” and you appreciate that everyone is on their own journey. Waking up to toxic family patterns is a blessing but it is best not to judge those who do not have the same realisation, they are walking a different path and have been through different situations. There is no shortcut to the work but for some people the work is too painful for them to face and that is their choice. Always keep yourself in mind and do what is best for you.