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Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

I don’t care who you are, there are moments in life where you just feel stuck; as though you were never moving in the first place. Those moments can seem to swallow your life and you often find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind trying to get out of that place, only to find yourself digging deeper into the mental mud of misery.

The best thing to do when you are feeling unhealthy, stuck and miserable is to take a moment to ask yourself some honest questions that will help you move forward and get you out of your rut. Here are 6 that should get you moving on the right path:

1.Are you making excuses?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Yeah. It is a hard question that can really sting, but if you are serious about getting unstuck in life you have to be brutally honest with yourself right now. You need to let go of the blame and the excuses and realize that your life is your life. You are in control of this and it is your responsibility. No one else is going to live it for you and if it is not what you want, no one else is going to improve it for you. I am not saying that you cannot or should not seek out help or lean on others when you get into a serious funk.

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What I am saying is that you can’t just wallow in your own misery, complaining about how you got a bad lot in life, and how everything is terrible but none of it is your fault. Sure, things outside of our control happen. Maybe it is even true that the reason you are stuck is not entirely your fault, but life’s crap storms happen to everyone. You need to learn how to accept that fact, realize that other people have it a million times worse, and that all change starts inside yourself with a healthy dose of personal responsibility. So drop the excuses, drop the “woe is me” mentality and accept that life is sometimes difficult and full of peaks and chasms, but there is no use feeling sorry for yourself because you hit a trench in your life.

2.How do you talk to yourself?

As you might be able to tell from, my inner voice is usually very demanding. He is like a drill sergeant that does not let me get away with anything, nor does he let me make excuses or feel sorry for myself. There is this notion in personal development that you should always be soft and kind and considerate with yourself. I don’t agree with this. I think that SOMETIMES you should be those things, because we all need a caring voice to comfort us when times are most difficult, but the people who accomplish the most, the people who are healthy, unstuck and moving forward in their lives, are typically motivated by an inner voice that throws some tough love at them most of the time.

You don’t want to go to the gym? Too bad! You are never going to drop those extra pounds by sitting there and binge watching Netflix! You don’t think you have time to make a healthy meal? That is a bunch of BS! Now get in that kitchen and throw together a salad and do it now! Sometimes you have to put yourself in your place and talking to yourself with a firm, disciplined determination is often how you can get unstuck. Just remember there is a fine line between being firm and being mean. Don’t beat yourself. Give yourself the internal motivation to do what you know you need to do to make things better. Accept no excuses and be relentless!

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3.What matters to you?

You need to seriously decide what is important to you in life and act in a way that shows that those things matter, because if those things are truly important, cherishing them and acting in a way that shows their meaning to you is going to make you feel amazing. We all say that friends and family and health and money and whatever are important, but do we always act in a way that highlights their importance? You say you value health, but do you eat healthy? Do you exercise? You say you value family, but do you tell them how much you appreciate them? Do you go out of your way to help them? You can say how much you value things, but if you act in a way contrary to that your mind, and the world, is not going to buy it.

You can say you want to be healthy and that you value your body, but if you are out there eating fast food and not exercising, then I am sorry, you don’t value your health and the guilt and shame you feel because you are acting contrary to what matters to you is going to make you miserable. So decide what matters to you and act in a way that shows that it matters.

4.Who do you want to be right now?

The question about who you are right now doesn’t matter. What matters is asking yourself who you want to be right now. Right now you are unhealthy, stuck and miserable, but who cares? That is obviously not who you want to be, so quit asking yourself who you are right now and starting asking yourself who you want to be right now. The truth is, we create ourselves in every moment. We choose activities that support or erode our self worth and confidence every moment. What you need to do is find someone or something that actively embodies the things that matter to you and choose to be that way until you don’t have a choice.

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You eventually just do it naturally and then that becomes who you are. You want to be happy right now? Then act like you are happy. Watch happy videos. Recall happy moments. Copy happy people. It sounds like new age, personal development crap, but it works. Every time I do it, it never fails me. The brain is easily fooled and I can almost guarantee that you will be happy and your happiness will be as natural as if it were always a part of you.

5.What small things can you change?

Often, when we are feeling stuck and miserable, we think we have to make some epic shifts in our life. Sometimes that is true, and I will discuss that in the last question, but usually great change in life comes from minor, incremental shifts that snowball into enormous, monumental movements.

The key here is to identify the little things you can do to improve the quality of your life right now. Meditate for 5 minutes a day. Eat 100 less calories per day. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Write a thank you card to a friend or family member. You get the point. It’s up to you to identify these small changes, but if you make a few of them, and build off of them, you will notice an increase in the small moments of comfort in your life and you will want to add more and more until those small changes add up to big results.

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6.What big thing can you change right now?

While small changes are great and they will add up over time, if you want a quick fix to get unstuck and feeling less miserable immediately, make a big change. The key here is to not make a bunch of big changes as that is often a surefire recipe for failure. So just choose one, realistic, big change you can make and jump in head first. You have to commit to it and just go for it. It will be hard, but you will get an instant burst of confidence and satisfaction that you are doing something to change your life for the better.

I cannot say what a big change is for you, but I can say it should be something realistic, doable and something that truly aligns with the things above that you value from question 3. Take a sudden trip to see a distant relative that you haven’t seen in a long time. Enroll in a night class at a local university. Throw away every bit of junk food in your house. It should be big enough to where it scares you a little, but not so big that you can’t start it right away. The instant gratification of moving towards this big change will result in a sudden shift of your mental state and get you instantly unstuck.

What you need to remember is that these questions can be asked anytime you feel like you are in a rut in your life. Even if you are not stuck, you can use these questions to keep your life moving forward and avoid those seemingly inevitable moments of feeling lost, unmotivated, and miserable. But also remember this, you can ask these questions all you want, but if you don’t do anything with the answers, nothing is going to change. The key to getting unstuck is to be committed and active in pushing yourself out. These questions are fuel, but the heavy lifting is all on you!

Featured photo credit: Victor Cristian Mitroi via Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 12, 2018

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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