Survive Your Dysfunctional Family This Holiday Season

Published on: 09 Dec 2015
dysfunctional sad gingerbread family holiday

“No family is perfect… we argue, we fight. We even stop talking to each other at times. But in the end, family is family…The love will always be there.” – unknown author.

For those who grew up in dysfunctional families, even this quote might seem too optimistic. After painful childhood experiences, there are only idealized images of loving families in your mind.

We all have an idea of what family should be: we should unite, make up and love one another like that Hollywood family does at the end of each episode. Then you look at your own family and realize just how far you are from that ideal image.

Each year, the holidays can be a difficult reminder of this truth, and maybe you use the natural human defense of denial to cope. Here are few tips and ideas for you to begin healing. It starts with finding new ways to cope with family at the holiday time, with acceptance instead of denial.

Redefine What Family Means to You

Rather than looking to the ideals others have set as an example of a loving family, your healing can come from deciding for yourself what family is. Maybe there was abuse in your family and you have set emotional boundaries with them to protect yourself from additional harm.

You can choose to send them a good cheer message rather than joining them for the holidays. Surround yourself with friends, co-workers or neighbors who create more feelings of connection for you. Your family can be defined as those you connect with the most, and this does not mean only those related to you.

Reinvent Family Traditions

You can begin to have your own holiday traditions that give you choice to celebrate on your terms, not that of your family. This allows you to express values and create a holiday that you feel hopeful to have rather than dread.

Redo Your Negative Life Thinking

Your feelings will follow your thoughts. So, it makes sense that if you want to feel better, you have to think better!

There are small wonders all around us each day. If you take a few moments to stop and acknowledge or write these wonders down, you will be much more aware of what you do have, versus what you are missing in life. Even if you do not have the ideal family, you still have an amazing life that is waiting for you to see it.

You Can Only Change You

If you find yourself in this place and want to experience a different kind of holiday season this year, remember the only person you can change is you. You are allowed to accept that the ideal family is not part of your life, and you have control over what you want to experience. Remember, healing is not selfish; it is self-love.

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.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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