Autobiography Exercise – write out or share with someone an abbreviated version of your life story. Instead of pushing down feelings, amplify them. This may feel very uncomfortable. May feel very vulnerable afterwards. Remember that feelings are your friends – they are there to guide you to a healthy life.
The key to emotional health is to break o your logjam of unprocessed emotions until the river runs free and clear.
o Be patient with blocked feelings. To unlock buried emotions, encourage them whenever they begin to surface. When you are in a safe place, try to amplify the feelings.
o If you tell your autobiography to a friend, they should not offer suggestions or interpret.
o See outline for autobiography on pate 144.
o Family Interview – to gain additional insight. See list of possible questions starting on page 150.
Family Genogram or Political Map
o What would an impartial observer say about your family genogram?
Do the problems in the family seem to be increasing or diminishing over time? To what would you attribute the change?
Summarize what you have learned.
o What has affected you most deeply about the recovery process to date? Have your feelings changed about certain family members? If so, how?
o What feelings have been stimulated by this process?
Making Peace With Your Parents
Your relationship with your parents is very important because it influences the rest of your relationships. Becoming more objective. You know you have achieved some degree of this when:
o You can interact with your parents without being unduly upset or disappointed.
o You assessment of your parents tends to correspond with others’ assessment s of them.
o You see positive and negative traits in both of them. You no longer blame them for all of your difficulties.
Accepting your parents’ negative traits. They are not going to change. Understand that the traits we find most difficult to accept are those that caused us the most damage in childhood. Accepting them doesn’t mean approving of their hurtful behavior. It means giving up the fantasy of whom you want them to be.
o Identify a most hurtful aspect of the parent’s personality style.
o How much of the time (%) does he or she act like this? Guestimate. Tell yourself that __% of the time, it would be unrealistic of you to expect any other behavior from this parent.
Affirm a Parent’s Positive Qualities. Talk with friends or siblings about what the parent’s positive qualities are.
List 5 admirable qualities. The next time you visit with this parent, see if you can see these qualities.
What positive qualities do you share with this parent?
Setting Limits – it is reasonable that parents and adult children are obligated to keep each other apprised of certain things, such as illness, family member death, job change, divorce or marriage, change of address.
Also, adult children should in some manner see to the care of aging parents.
Beyond this, relationships involve choice. Healthy relationships involve celebration, history sharing, sharing rituals, and affection.
Examining your reasons for staying enmeshed. It is probably not all them. You may allow enmeshment out of guilt, feeling responsible for a parent, to hold on to advantage of being the chosen one, fear of making waves.
The 10 second confrontation – when the parent steps over the line, state your position clearly and briefly. Strive to keep the rest of your interactions as normal as possible. You don’t have to disown them because you are placing clear boundaries.
o It may be helpful to rehearse your confrontation with a friend. You know what they will say that will upset you. Rehearse your response.
o Get the help of a professional if you need it.
o Create a more positive relationship with your parent.
o Fake it til you make it.
o Do something different. Break old, dysfunctional patterns. If you feel like a 12 year old when you go to your parent’s house, then ask them to meet you in town for dinner.
o A formal reconciliation meeting – this will only work if the parent has insight. Also, for it to work you must have a realistic attitude.
See suggested outline for meeting on page 178.
Resolving feelings about a deceased parent – see model for letter on page 180.
Making peace with your in-laws – if your spouse was the Chosen child and continues to be enmeshed. Whose problem is it? If the parent is violating your rights, then you talk with him/her. If the parent is violating your spouse’ rights, then it is up to them to do the talking.
download the document to link to pages here The Emotional Incest Syndrome