Family of Origin Issues
Family Therapy and Childhood Trauma
Many of us grew up in ways that hurt us in some ways, due to dysfunctions in the ways the people in our families related to each other. These patterns of relating are very powerful in our lives, because this is how we learned about relating, when we were so young we didn’t even know we were learning anything. Over and over again, our parents or our siblings acted in the same way toward us or said the same things in the same tone of voice. And, if there were some hurtful things done or said, we needed to find a way to survive emotionally. This is all done unconsciously, without anyone in the family being aware of what they are doing. In this way, family of origin patterns are created, and out of this we develop our belief systems about the world around us and about how relationships work. For more information, please read my blog posts on Family Therapy
Belief Systems from our Family of Origin Become Our Reality
The belief systems don’t necessarily reflect any objective reality, but they are “reality” to us and stay with us into adulthood. Later, in adulthood, when friends, colleagues, romantic partners say things or act in ways that are even slightly similar to the words and actions of our family members, we assume it means what it meant with our families and we react in the same ways. This often creates trouble in relationships because neither we nor those around us know our assumptions. Out of our unawareness, cycles of conflict arise.
Childhood Trauma and Family of Origin Patterns
We might feel:
disconnected from people
fear in relationships and in our interactions with the world
I can bring awareness to the beliefs and automatic emotional reactions resulting from family patterns or childhood trauma and help you change them so that your relationships become more fluid, more “reality based” and happier. Working on family of origin issues can also ease emotional pain and help you, individually, live more freely and happily.
Family of Origin Roles
There are certain roles that seem to be inherent in families—or any group—and they crop up powerfully especially when there’s stress and anxiety. These roles are passed down from generation to generation, unconsciously being assigned to family members. Some roles are easier to inhabit than others. It would be great if parents were to choose the hard ones and leave the easier ones for their children. But this isn’t what tends to happen—at least in part because the process of choosing and assigning roles is unconscious. As an EFT Psychotherapist, I help you discover which role you were “assigned” and help you to move out of being trapped in the role to being able to choose how you want to relate to others so that you feel more fluid and free to be yourself.
I work with family of origin issues in a number of ways, including using EFT. See EFT Case Studies to see how I use EFT Tapping to work with family issues.
As a therapist, I support each person in the family, help each one acknowledge their culture and the strangeness of bringing in a new person; to create a combination of individual value and belonging for each person, and to help each family member welcome the others while still allowing for the unique closeness that children and parents feel with each other.
Family Therapy is Effective for Interpersonal Issues
Often people come for individual psychotherapy when their problem is actually a problem in the relationships among family members. Individual psychotherapy can help an individual act and react differently when, in the present, other family members say or do something painful, and this can create some change. However, sometimes changes can happen more quickly when various combinations of people in the family or the whole family come in for family therapy.
Issues that Call for Family Therapy
Let’s say that, in a family, the children saw one parent being emotionally or physically abusive to the other parent. This pattern of behavior affects each person and begins to create patterns of dysfunctional relating. For example, one child tends to show the pain more openly while others try to be more stoic. One child often grows up taking on the pain for the whole family and expressing it while others either try to pretend it’s not happening or go numb. Often, people in the family learn to relate to each other in ways that don’t work for anyone, but one person seems to be the “problem” because they’re always upset by various members of the family.
Transforming Painful Family Patterns
The person coming for individual psychotherapy will often be the one who expresses emotions most openly or the one who seems to be the problem. However, in all these situations, family therapy can ease not only the individual who holds the pain for the family—because that’s often what’s going on—but will ease the family as a whole. An easy example: a teen is angry all the time and the parents react by trying to exert more control over his or her actions. The other children are angry at the teen because he is creating trouble for everyone. Often, in family counseling it will emerge that the teen is overtly reacting to a pattern that is hurtful to everyone while other members of the family are avoiding confronting the issue. Bringing the issue to the surface helps everyone by changing the family dynamic.
Step-Parent and Blended Family Issues
Becoming a stepparent is about the hardest thing many of us ever do. Being a divorced parent of children and deciding to bring another person into the “family” often feels like being torn in two. Finally, imagine being a kid in this situation. “I never asked for any of this! I don’t want to live with her/him, and I’m going to let you know it in any and all ways my imagination can dream up.”
Step-parent and blended families are created because two people fall in love, but complications can soon set in. Often, there’s a lot of emotional pain: children have their basic sense of safety knocked out from under them; parents are overwhelmed by their children’s emotional pain and by their sense of loss and failure; stepparents come into an established family with high hopes for love and friendship and fears of being rejected. To make it work, everyone needs to create an entirely new model of “family” that is most likely not going to feel like what “family” has always meant before.
Bringing Together Two Different “Cultures”
One of the reasons that step-parent and blended families are so difficult to create and maintain successfully is that each “natural” family has a culture, a whole environment that’s unique to them. Outsiders don’t automatically fit in. And the outsider comes from a family with a culture, too, and finds it difficult to embrace another family’s culture.
Contact Zoe Zimmermann, MA, LPC, Certified EFT Practitioner
Office Address: 75 Manhattan Dr., Suite 206, Boulder, CO 80303
Ph: 303-444-1195 E: firstname.lastname@example.org