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I’m gonna need some help getting it off!

PREVIOUS: Healthy Helping (Part 2)

SITE: Dysfunctional Family (Wikipedia)


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 forms, & 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?
a. Overview
✶ Ask yourself, & then siblings, mate, friends, therapist … for suggestions
✶ Do a Life Inventory, in 3-5 yr increments, listing all the major events 12065669231219144528Anonymous_work_in_progress.svg.medyou can remember – things that were important, relationships, when you started & stopped things, schools, moves, births, deaths …. choices made, opportunities we didn’t take…..
✶ 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?

b. Detailed
• 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

• See the toxic family rules you’ve been following – so clearly – that you won’t be fooled any longer into thinking they’re legitimate!
• Slowly disobey them by changing your behavior patterns, an action at a time, a day at a time
• Pick out Healthy Rules that fit you, & 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 the work needs to be a slow, gentle process, with lots of support (Al-Anon as one of many resources)

If you read many other posts on this blog, you’ll see references to Toxic Rules over & over, which 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)

5 thoughts on “ACoA : TOXIC Family RULES

  1. Oh-My-God! Thank you! “I don’t belong – anywhere”. The words “you have no family” were said to me as late as last year, and I’ve been an adult for a long time now. The idea behind the message was that “I don’t belong – anywhere”. I suppose if I belonged, then the person who uttered the statement would somehow belong less? It is oddly comforting, in a very sick way, to know that most abusers act this way, that my experience was not unique.

    BTW, just about 100% of the statements fit, not just that one. I must be the cookie-cutter ACOA they made the mold after :o)


  2. It’s good to remember that the disease is the same in all of us – but our true self is unique. It is a comfort to know there’s a clear outline to ‘what’s wrong’ with us – so we know what to change.

    As painful as ‘you don’t have a family’ is – it actually frees us up! We can stop trying to get their approval & work on connecting with people WHO FIT US. I just re-wrote an early post “What others think of me is none of my business” where I say that one reason we can’t connect is that we’re in the wrong environment.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. “I caused & therefore deserve all the anger & abuse my family dished out to me“When I was little, I felt dead pretty much all day long, so I used to say to myself people could hit me or say bad things about me because I wouldn`t break and the pain would make me feel alive… Oh my, HELL I WAS DUMB!


    • NOT dumb – just an abused child. That’s what we think when the people who are supposed to care for us the most treat us the worst!
      Please love yourself now – every day, the way they never did!


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