THEY DESIGNED MY STRAIGHT JACKET –
I’m gonna need some help getting it off!
PREVIOUS: Healthy Helping (Part 2)
SITE: Dysfunctional Family (Wikipedia)
RULES: No matter what kind of family environment we came from, all ACoAs have gathered a litany of TOXIC RULES, which we follow ‘religiously’, even well into recovery – but hopefully less so with growth!
The BE and DON’T lists are the short form, & just mirror opposites. Below is the more expanded one. This is by no means complete. Each of us can have variations or additions. If you think of any, <Please let me know> & I’d be happy to add them.
INVENTORY: How do we know what our rules are?
✶ We can ask ourselves, our siblings, therapists … for suggestions
✶ Do a Life Inventory, in 5 yr increments, listing all the major events we can remember – things that were important, relationships, when we started & stopped things, schools, moves, births, deaths …. choices we made, opportunities we didn’t take, etc.
✶ Don’t go into detail. Just list things in one sentence each
✶ Pick out recurring themes, patterns, avoidances…
✶ Ask: which rules might these patterns represent?
• Take one of these words of phrases, & write as much about it as you can. Where did you learn this? Who in your family exemplifies it? How do you act it out in your life? How do your friends, lovers, bosses… express it?
• Take it slowly. Spread this exercise out over months & years, if needed. Maybe just write a little & go back to it when you have more info about yourself & your history
• Know the toxic family rules we’ve been following SO WELL that we won’t be fooled any longer into thinking they are legitimate!
• Slowly disobey them by changing our behavior patterns, an action at a time, a day at a time
• Pick out Healthy Rules that fit us, & mindfully, deliberately, use at least one every day
✶✶ Breaking family rules can create a lot of anxiety, as the Negative Introject will try to guilt us into returning to the fold – like good sheep – so it needs to be a slow, gentle process, with lots of support (Al-Anon is one of many resources)
If you read my other posts, you’ll see references to Toxic Rules over & over, & it’ll give you a context for thinking about them & working with them (see post “Why Are You Stuck?“) .
NEXT: the HEALTHY Rules (Part 1)