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How To Break Free From Unhealthy Family Patterns

Written by: Carlotta Elle, Guest Writer


The family we grow up in can shape our personality, our belief system, our outlook on life, our communication habits, our ability to negotiate needs and boundaries, our sense of self-worth, and our personal relationships. That is because observing and experiencing family patterns as children, causes us to unconsciously internalise them.

All of these beliefs, whether positive or negative, have been passed down from generation to generation. We learn thought patterns from our mothers and grandmothers, our fathers and grandfathers, and so on. Whatever we saw, felt and heard in our childhood, went directly into the subconscious mind and was accepted as fact. At times, even the people who have had our best interests at heart may have unintentionally failed to provide the affection and support that we needed, and they may have taught us unhealthy thought patterns that can affect how we see ourselves and the world around us throughout our lives.

How did your family impact you?

Every family occasionally goes through times of disagreement, stress, and even pain. Lack of communication, affection, criticism, empathy, and excessive high expectations are just a few patterns that may be observed in a dysfunctional environment and lead to unhealthy patterns. The effect that your family has had on your life and place in the world is something only you are aware of.

Examples of how family dynamics may have led you to develop unhealthy patterns.

  • If you were raised by a parent who did not show you the amount of care and affection that you needed, it may have led you to struggle with showing affection in your adult relationships.

  • If you grew up being told throughout your childhood “being successful is just not us”, you may have internalised the belief that you will never be good enough to achieve your goals.

  • If you weren’t allowed to show challenging feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, and you were told to “stop crying”, “don’t be silly”, “it’s nothing!”, you may have grown up feeling paralysed by the idea of showing, or even feelings those emotions, as with time, they eventually became ‘forbidden’ in your emotional repertoire.

  • If there was a lack of trust within family members, you may struggle now as an adult to trust your own judgement and actions, as well as not trusting others, alongside questioning your self-worth.

Therefore, it's critical to identify any patterns of unhealthy family dynamics and work to prevent them from getting in the way of your life. This is the first action you can do to break the chain of an unhealthy family cycle.

It’s important to mention that sometimes unhealthy family patterns persist because they become the normal way of living and thinking. In fact, change can be seen as scary and overwhelming. Therefore, even though change can be an appetising solution, our minds are drawn to what feels comfortable, and what we have experienced in our past is comfortable even though it doesn’t take us where we would like to go.

3 tips to break unhealthy patterns

1. Become aware of your patterns

Consider any challenging events that occurred during your childhood. Examine the impact that these experiences had on you and how they may have influenced your view of the world.

What patterns do you recognise that are not serving you?

What recurring themes, although silent ones, did you notice? Is there a sense of unworthiness within yourself? Is there a fear of being abandoned/rejected/judged by others? Is there a fear of commitment within your relationship because your parents had a difficult marriage? Is there a fear of showing affection? Do you find yourself criticising those who are affectionate because you weren’t shown much affection yourself? Is there a fear of being criticised for sharing your opinions because you were laughed at by your caregivers for speaking up? Is there a belief that you ‘can’t say no’ to others because you learned that others’ needs always come before yours? What can you discover about yourself, your relationships, love, success, sex, and money?

When you can recognise unhealthy patterns that you want to release, you can stand in your own truth, and decide where you want to go from there.

Each of us possesses unique patterns that have been handed down through the generations. These patterns keep happening until someone decides to shift them. Knowing your patterns enables you to recognise when a pattern occurs and prevents you from being caught off guard. Additionally, it encourages you to accept responsibility and start making long-term changes.

If you fall back into old patterns, don’t give yourself a hard time, it is part of the process. Working on shifting old patterns is a lifelong process, the important thing is becoming aware whenever you get triggered, so that you can quickly change to the way you respond to it.

2. Heal your unmet needs

Most frequently, shame, abandonment, rejection, and other unpleasant experiences are the root causes of unhealthy patterns. Learning to reparent your inner child is a great way to heal emotional wounds and meet your needs that weren’t fulfilled by those around you. You can access a vulnerable and receptive part of yourself when you connect with your inner child. Being both the ‘adult’ and the ‘child’ allows you to give yourself unconditional love, compassion, and support to both parts.

When you begin working to heal your inner child, you take an emotional and mental journey back in time, to the event that made an impact on you. From an adult's perspective (yours), you can understand how your inner child feels. Therefore, your adult self can start to unravel what patterns have been developed as a result of internalised beliefs developed in childhood.

Your child self is a part of your subconscious mind. When the inner child is not healed, it carries the suffering and unhealthy patterns from the past.

There are three general steps to working with your inner child: connect, communicate, and nurture.

  1. Acknowledge that there is a child within, as you can't start the healing process if the inner child goes unrecognised.

  2. Communicate with your inner child. Ask your inner child questions such as ‘How are you? How are you feeling? Do you have everything you need? Are you feeling safe/happy/loved?’ Let your inner child speak about their feelings and needs.

  3. Become a loving parent to your inner child. Provide your child self with whatever they need from your adult self. What does your inner child need? Love, comfort, safety?

If you find this step hard, ask yourself, what can I give a child who is emotionally wounded?

How can I comfort a child who feels unloved/unsafe/rejected/abandoned? How can I comfort a child who has been bullied?

3. Practice being patient with yourself

It's normal to want to remove unhealthy family patterns from our lives as soon as we become aware of them. This is totally understandable, but some patterns evolved over countless interactions; therefore, it's important to understand that change requires mental and emotional effort, and it takes time.

There will be days when you see improvement and days when you grieve because of what you have missed out on in your childhood and how much work is involved to shift those patterns. It's all okay; it's all a part of getting better.

Be kind to yourself while you work on this. As long as you move at a steady but gradual rate and commit to healing these patterns, you will continue to evolve and expand.

It's crucial to understand that you cannot change other people. Your parents' attitudes and actions are beyond your control. Whether they intentionally or unintentionally taught you an unhealthy thought pattern or behaviour, it is up to you to identify, heal and change what is holding you back in life. You can use what you know of your family background and patterns, and decide where you want to go from there.

You may have inherited some patterns and mind programming from your parents, and you may have absorbed some patterns of behaviour as a child, but with commitment and the will to change, you can break this cycle.

Knowing that you are not "stuck" in your family patterns is the first step in the direction of breaking the cycle, achieving freedom and liberation, and making the most of your life.

For more info follow me on Instagram, YouTube and visit my website!


Carlotta Elle, Brainz Magazine Guest Writer

Carlotta has been an integrative therapist for over ten years, trained in EFT, NLP, Bach Remedies, Kinesiology, and is currently furthering her skillset by completing a degree in Psychology. She supports clients who have experienced childhood trauma, self-sabotage, anxiety, low self-worth, and negative thought patterns, helping them to release painful emotions whilst guiding them to break free from past trauma and live a more fulfilling and positive life.



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