Family Patterns…

T H E R A P E U T I C    T H U R S D A Y

I used to teach a 6 week emotional wellness workshop. The first class was always the same, it was the foundation for all future lessons. Here’s a portion of that class. (FYI – This is a serious post.)


Imagine, if you will, that there’s a continuum with an emotionally healthy family on one end and a toxic, dysfunctional family on the other end. All families fall somewhere along this continuum.  I’ll self disclose – my family family of origin was on the more toxic end of the line.


Family Patterns are multi-generational. It takes a very strong individual to go against a family dynamic and attempt to change the patterns and ways of thinking. Until that happens, members will always be attracted to other people who perpetuate the old familiar feelings that they knew from their childhood. PATTERNS REPEAT!!!! 

See if you can figure out where on the continuum your family falls based on the descriptions below. Remember, these are the two extremes.

HEALTHY FAMILIES (Think Brady Bunch)

  1. Open and Warm
  2. Maintain Healthy Boundaries
  3. Have a Sense of Humor – Able to Laugh at Themselves
  4. Encourage Independent Thinking and Individuality
  5. Use Assertive Communication – Demonstrates Feelings Openly
  6. Respectful of Differences – Free to Pursue Dreams
  7. Forgiving – There’s always Resolve
  8. Predictable and Consistent / Emotionally Safe Environment
Wouldn’t it have been nice to grow up in such a nurturing and supportive family environment? Maybe some of you did?


Ordinary People – Directed by Robert Redford
  1. Closed
  2. Fearful – Members Need to Be Guarded, Worry What Others Think
  3. Shame Based – Members Feel Like They’re Never Good Enough so they Create False Selves / This Family Judges One Another
  4. Unstable and Unpredictable – Never Sure What’s Going On Behind Closed Doors
  5. Poor Boundaries (Emotional, Physical, Mental, Sexual, etc.)
  6. Secretive – Family Uses Covert Communication
  7. False – Afraid To Be Authentic Self (Low Self-Esteem)
  8. Each Member is Part of the Family Ego Mass, members each play a role – individuality not allowed
  9. Communication is Aggressive or Passive
  10. Sense of Humor is Missing – No Light Heartedness
  11. Members use Blame as a Defense Mechanism

If you feel that this describes your family of origin, you’re not alone. A lot of adult self-defeating behaviors come from this family dynamic. Awareness is a huge part of breaking the patterns. Just remember that the destructive “messages” from your childhood were false. Go ahead and reject them. 

I would want you to know, that you’ve ALWAYS been good enough. You’re lovable and worthwhile. You have tremendous potential to become a whole and healthy adult.