Rules of the House

As a psychotherapist, I work with many adults who are still struggling with their childhood “programming.” These are the rules and beliefs that your family of origin used, often unconsciously. It is very easy for someone who grew up in an abusive household to think that abuse is “normal.” Then the cycle continues.

One very common “program” is the “Don’t Rock the Boat” rule. This means that no matter what, family members either act like a dysfunction isn’t there, or try to “sweep it under the rug.” For example, a family with an alcoholic mother may never talk about the subject and may even step over her and keep walking if she was passed out on the floor.

Another common “program” is the, “Everything is Fine” rule. With this belief in place, each member of the family puts on “masks” when they have to interact with other people. For example, the mother and father could be going through an ugly divorce, but the children are all smiles and act as if everything is great. The parents do the same thing when in public.

What these programs have in common is untruth. These families don’t want to express their pain and dysfunction, so they never give themselves a chance to work through their problems. When they get to my office, they can be holding a lot of anger towards their parents, children, siblings or other family members. These folks have a choice: anger or forgiveness. As Kambri Crews, author of Burn Down the Ground says, “Forgiving others and making peace with the cards you have been dealt is within all of us. Generally speaking, people aren’t purely evil or good. Life is much more complicated than that. ” Well said, Ms. Crews.

2 Comments »

  1. my childhood was very painful. As an adult I realized that my parents just like me were products of their up-bringing so forgiviness was the only option. I believe it made us much closer although the pain never went away It helped me understand and made the struggle my own with self-esteem. My children had a very different childhood from me because I actively worked towards learning to break that cycle.