Dear Therapist: My Family Did This to Me, Right?

Published on: 10 Jun 2015
Dear Therapist My Family Did This to Me Right

As my therapist and I dig deeper into my past to figure out what needs to be addressed for a better future, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my family.

– by Talkspace User

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t help but think that my family is one of the biggest reasons I ended up in therapy to begin with. No, I was not abused, neglected, or harmed in any way. But despite its best intentions, my family didn’t succeed in teaching me the necessary life skills I needed to stand on my own two feet, embrace my individuality, or defend my decisions.

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Then again, maybe it wasn’t my family’s job to teach me that.

We are all born into families with their own unique set of circumstances, characters, and temperaments. Some families are more nurturing than others – some are by far less so. For the most part, we can’t really choose which family will be ours, or what it will teach us, or how it will raise us. So, from that perspective, we all have to do diligence and try to be as responsible for our actions and decisions as humanly possible. It also means using our family in any excuse to be less than all that we can be is not a great way to go through life. Every person gets to decide who he or she will ultimately become, and I’m not any different.

That being said, what we learn and experience as children inarguably shapes who we become as adults. And I am very much a product of my upbringing.

My family has had a tough run. Over the years, it’s faced a series of unfortunate events that occurred in very close proximity to one another. This left certain members of my family in some sort of suspended state of worry and apprehension, as well as defensiveness and distrust. So, as a young person, I was taught to trust no one, value secrecy, and to keep people at a considerable distance. And although I was always rational and logical enough to understand that these are not values at all, they still somehow became engrained in my personality.

As a result, I am always facing an internal battle when it comes to making choices, independent of how big or small they are. Which is really frustrating.

Until recently, I never realized how easy it is to mistake intrusive thoughts for instincts. Furthermore, based on what I am able to understand from several weeks of therapy, our instincts are actually directly tied to our values. And because my family bestowed its “values” upon me, as families often do, I now have a lot of work to get through in therapy. The fact is I had no idea what my values are, but I am slowly finding them out.

My family may have raised me, but I am the one who gets to decide how much influence their values will hold over my life.

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Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

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