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The Important Things and Advice to know that People Generally Aren’t Told about

The Important Things and Advice to know that People Generally Aren’t Told about

What are important things and advice to know that people generally aren’t told about? Here’s a great answer we found in Quora by Marcus Geduld who provides some valuable tips on life improvement.

1. Marry your best friend.

I am truly amazed that I have the most successful marriage of all my friends — going strong after fifteen years. Most of my friends are amazed, too, because, growing up, I was the geek who couldn’t get a girlfriend. I had almost no relationships until I was in my mid twenties. I got married at 29. I’m now 45 and still deeply in love. Meanwhile, I have seen so many of my friends get divorces and/or grind their teeth through loveless, combative relationships.

What I’ve noticed about these people is that, 90% of the time, (a) they got married really young and (b) they mistakenly thought that long-term romances work best when when they’re based entirely on lust and trivial shared tastes (e.g. “We both like the same bands.”)

Sometimes, I hear people say things like, “I’ve been dating this guy for a year. We get along okay, but sometimes I think about leaving… How do I know if he’s ‘the one’?” This makes me really sad, because it’s so obvious to me that my wife is ‘the one.’ Why? Because she’s my best friend. Whenever anything good or bad happens to me, she’s the person I want to tell! When I need advice, she’s the person I run to! When I need to laugh, she’s the person I joke around with!

If you don’t know that the other person is ‘the one,’ he or show is not. And though it sucks to be alone — believe me, I know: I was alone for years — it’s better than settling. Don’t settle. You’ll still be alone. It is very possible to be alone while being in a relationship. Many people are.

(Let me be really clear about what I mean by “don’t settle.” I don’t mean “look for someone who is perfect.” No one is perfect. I mean that if you feel luke-warm about someone, he’s not the one. If the person you’re with makes you continually unhappy, she’s not the one. Don’t settle for that because you think “it beats being alone.” It doesn’t. You evolved to think it does. Your selfish genes want you to mate. Your brain will continually tell you that nothing is worse that being alone. It’s wrong.)

The other sad thing I hear is “Bill is my best friend. We have so much in common. He’s always there for me. We talk for hours. I completely trust him and we have the exact same sense of humor … but … I don’t know … the spark isn’t there…”

When I hear this, I don’t say anything, because it’s none of my business, but I want to scream “GET OVER THIS ‘SPARK’ THING! STOP BELIEVING IN HOLLYWOOD VISIONS OF CATCHING SOMEONE’S EYE ACROSS A CROWDED ROOM! Jesus Christ! You found someone you connect with on so many levels, and you’re not getting down on your knees and proposing?!? Do you think you’re going to find 30 more people like that in your life?!?”

The “spark” doesn’t last, anyway. I’m not saying that sex dies or anything. I’m just saying that incredibly exciting, new romance feeling inevitably fades. But, if you’re lucky, what comes next is much, much better. You spend years in that loving, warm place with the person you know you want to grow old with. And if you have good communication with someone, the spark can come later, even if it’s not there at first.

Lots of people seem to learn this after a long time and a lot of pain. They marry the “bad boy” or the “hot chick” instead of their best friends, because doing so is more exciting. Then those marriages — which are based on nothing — fail. Sometimes, if these people are lucky, they later marry those best friends who they should have married in the first place. If they’re unlucky, they can’t, because the best friends have moved on.

See also:

— Marcus Geduld’s answer to Marriage: What are some tips for young people wanting to get married?

— Marcus Geduld’s answer to Marriage: What is the secret to a lasting marriage?

2. There’s no such thing as a “grown up,” and if you try to be one, you’ll wind up becoming a poser at best and a killjoy at worst.

First of all, if you’re waiting for that magic time when you’re finally there, give it up. As I ease into the middle age, I can see it will never happen. I will never have learned what I need to learn in order to be a grownup. I will never be 100% confident. I will never stop failing…

People who seem like they have it all together are either faking it or living such incredibly boring lives that they never face any challenges.

Let me be clear that I am a responsible person. So if all “grownup” means to you is “someone who does the dishes,” then — yes — I’m a grown up. But it’s not like when I was younger, I was a child … a child … a child … a child … and then I reached some particular birthday and — boing — I was an adult.

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God, I hate people who think it’s important to be grown up. They are no fun at all. They are the people who, if you show any enthusiasm that goes beyond what you have to do at your job, inevitably say, “Looks like someone has too much time on his hands!”

Don’t be that guy!

As you go through life — especially when you pass through your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s — continually ask yourself this: “When was the last time I played in the mud?”

It is vital that you play in the mud! You must do this or you’ll lose your soul! I am somewhat speaking in metaphor. If you don’t like mud, that’s fine. But when did you last finger paint? When did you last get into a pillow fight with your friends (or with your spouse?) When did you last sing a loud, off-key song where all the lyrics were nonsense words? What was the last time you did something utterly pointlessthat was great fun?

Playing Scrabble doesn’t count. (I say that as a huge Scrabble fan.) Playing tennis doesn’t count. Those activities are great, but they’re too regimented. They are too much about rules. They don’t involve cutting loose, letting go and being vulnerable. (By vulnerable, I mean doing stuff that may lead other people to say “Act your age!”)

Getting drunk or high doesn’t count, either. If you can only dance around in your underwear when you’ve had three (or ten) drinks, you’re doing it wrong. One of the reason drugs don’t count, is because they put you in an altered state that is disconnected from who you are when you’re not drunk or high. Your goal should be to become someone who always has a little bit of play in him — not someone who is super-stern and serious and needs chemicals to unwind.

I know that letting go this way is really, really hard for some people. If it’s hard for you, ease into it. No matter how hard it is, surely you can finger paint when you’re alone in your room! Make yourself do it until you can do it without shame — until you can let go and enjoy getting paint on your nose. You will wind up living longer and having less stress in your life.

And though you can start this in private, try to work towards doing it in the company of someone else. Play is fundamentally a social activity. You will never feel as close to another person as you will when you roll in the mud with him.

Despite the way I sound, I am a very shy person. I don’t, as a rule, go dancing in the streets. But I have a few close friends (and a really fun spouse) with whom Ican do those things. Those friends keep me alive! I wouldn’t trade them for ten million dollars!

One last thing: if you have kids, what’s your relationship to them? Are you very much the mom or the dad. Do you feel like they are the kids and you are thegrownup? Or do you feel like they’re your friends and you enjoy playing on the floor with them? Of course it’s important to be the grownup for them sometimes. But see if you can ease yourself into a different kind of relationship with them? When did you and your kids last have a snowball fight?

3. Most grownups stop learning. Don’t.

I spent many years as a teacher, mostly teaching computer classes to adults. These were folks who were being forced to adopt new technologies for their jobs. They were very unhappy. They would say, “I don’t understand this stuff! I’m just not one of those computer people.”

What I gradually learned, via long discussions with many, many students from many different occupations, is that this wasn’t true at all. Their problem — though very real — had nothing to do with computers. It had to do with the fact that this was the first time they’d been asked to learn anything new in years. They would have had just as much trouble if their boss had forced them to learn how to knit, juggle, or play the guitar.

Even many people we think of as smart do very few new things every day — things that stretch them. Here’s an example: I used to work for a large auction company (think Sotheby’s or Chirstie’s.) This company employed a lot of “experts.” An expert was, for instance, someone who has spent decades studying French ceramics. Having done a lot of studying, he can now look at a vase and instantly tell you when and where it was made, what it’s worth, and whether it’s an original or a reproduction. I am not making light of this skill. I certainly couldn’t do it.

But let’s take a look at what it involves: the expert had to spend decades cramming information into his brain. He had to get to a point where that information wasn’t just in his brain but also instantly accessible. Doing all that grunt work was an incredible feat, and the expert has good reason to be proud of what he accomplished.

But if he’s like most of us, he learned most of his knowledge in his 20s. Starting in his 30s, he began coasting. Coasting feels really good and most jobs are built to let experts coast. You know you’re coasting when you can go to work and instantly know how to fix any problem. You’re coasting when you can look at the vase and instantly know when and where it was made.

You’re coasting if all your problems at work are things like annoying co-workers and long hours. If you never (or rarely) need to do exhaustive research or work out complex problems on paper or white boards, you’re coasting.

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I’m a computer programmer, which means my job is pretty intellectual, and I coast way less than a lot of people: but I still coast about 75% of the time. A lot of the code I write is boilerplate stuff. I’m “solving” problems that have already been solved, and all I need to do is copy, paste, and make a few tweaks.

Doctors coast a lot of the time (at least general practitioners do). They hear the same symptoms over and over again, and in most cases, they can do their jobs very well by doing mental “database searches” and regurgitating answers that worked in the past. This is also the case for non-trial lawyers.

If you’re a “smart person” like me, and if you work in an “intellectual” field, it’s humbling to ask yourself, at each point in your day, “Am I stretching my intellect? Am I coming up with a new solution? Am I facing a new problem that I’ve never faced before?” How much of the time do you do this? 10% of the time? 5% of the time? 1% of the time? How many years have gone by without you having to face areal intellectual challenge?

Incidentally, the jobs that we think of as intellectual tend to be the least intellectually demanding (with some exceptions, such as Mathematician and Brain Surgeon). The “dumb jobs,” such as auto-mechanic and football player tend to involve a lot of continual, on-your-feet thinking.

What’s wrong with coasting? Nothing, necessarily, if it makes you happy. But we’re moving into a time period where it’s harder to get away with it. The pace of change has quadrupled and we’re getting hit with new technologies daily.

But the bigger problem is that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” You need to continually give your brain a workout or it will grow sluggish. We all know those people who have retired at 65 and then spent twenty years sitting in front of the TV. What’s sad is that we accept that people in their 80s are going to be sluggish. But that’s not a given. They don’t have to be! You don’t have to be. If your job isn’t challenging you, find ways to challenge yourself.

Note: most people get frustrated when they fail. This is one of the reasons why they quit trying new things. Trying new things inevitably leads to failure. But understand that, if you’re trying anything challenging, it’s going to take you at least a month to succeed at it. A month is the minimum. It’s more likely that it will take you six months.

So if you, say, try to learn the guitar but “fail” at it after a few hours, you haven’t failed. You can only fail at the guitar if you try to play it for six months and, during all that time, make no progress.

See also:

— Marcus Geduld’s answer to Education: How much does grading matter or motivate students to learn?

— Marcus Geduld’s answer to Mathematics: Why do so many people hate mathematics?

4. If you’re an artist or “creative person,” stop trying to “be original.”

Your goal should be to tell the story you’re trying to tell. (Or play the melody or fill the canvas with color or whatever.)

When I’m not programming computers, I spend my time directing plays. I run a classical-theatre company. Here’s the main lesson I’ve learned over the years: if I’m directing, say, “Romeo and Juliet,” my job is to tell that story. Let’s say that, in order to make the story clear and exciting, it turns out that Juliet should be wearing a red dress in a particular scene. But I go see another production and notice the actress in that production is wearing a red dress in the scene in which I was going to put my Juliet in a red dress!

I will feel that very human urge to make my Juliet wear a blue dress, because I don’t want to be accused of copying or “not being original.” I need to get over it.It’s not about meIf it happens to be a case that a red dress tells the story better than a blue dress, then my Juliet needs to wear a red dress. Art is best when the artists serves the art rather than the other way around.

This general rule applies to many things besides art.

See also: Marcus Geduld’s answer to Research: How do I overcome my thought that there are so many people smarter than me?

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5. If you focus on what’s fair and what’s unfair, you’ll stagnate.

John: Someone keeps stealing pens off my desk! Whenever I need a pen, I can’t find one!

Mary: Well, pens don’t cost very much. Why don’t you just buy a bunch of them once a month? Just think of them as perishable items that have to be replenished.

John: I shouldn’t have to do that! It’s not my fault the pens go missing! People need to stop stealing my pens!

Mary: Okay. What can you do to stop them from stealing your pens? Do you have a cabinet or something you can lock them in?

John: No!

Mary: Can you tell your boss? If there’s a security problem in your office, maybe he can…

John: I’ve tried that. He doesn’t care! He says it’s just pens. That’s not the point! It’s stealing. Stealing is wrong!

Mary: You’re right. It is wrong. It sucks that your boss isn’t going to do anything about it, but I guess that’s the way it is. And it seems like it’s causing you a lot of anxiety. Wouldn’t you feel better if you spent $2 on pens once a week? You could just assume they’ll get stolen and get new ones when you need them. That way, you’d know you’d always have a pen!

John: Why should I be the one who has to buy new pens?

Mary: You shouldn’t be, but you are.

John: That’s not fair!

There’s nothing wrong with striving for fairness and justice. But if that’s not possible, it’s pointless to fall into a mode where you’re constantly stressed out and throwing your hands up in disgust. The pen problem literally used to drive me crazy. Then I took Mary’s advice. The truth is, I earn enough money that buying pens a couple of times a month is no big deal. I wish people wouldn’t steal from me, but I’m just not going to worry about it. A couple of dollars a month let me check a worry off my list. That is money well spent!

6. If you’re not failing, you’re doing it wrong.

We need to raise our kids so that they expect to fail and so that they understand that after failing they should keep going. I have finally gotten to a place where I dislike not failing. I am suspicious when I don’t fail. Not failing generally means I’m playing it too safe. It means I’m not growing or learning. It means I’m keeping myself from finding all sorts of solutions I could be finding. But the only way to find them is to play past failure.

I recommend keeping a Failure Diary. When you fail at something, try writing it up the next day. Examine the failure in as much detail as you can. Make sure you use failure as an opportunity to grow. I publish excepts from my Failure Diary here:Failures: On Stuff I Did Wrong

7. You can’t reason with a lizard.

If someone is hysterical or angry, it’s pointless to reason with him. Don’t try. The “lizard brain” can’t use logic. Understand that you’re dealing with a cornered animal, not a calm philosopher.

See also: Marcus Geduld’s answer to What Would You Do If X?: What would you say if someone said that you were fat? and read the comments, e.g.http://www.quora.com/What-Would-…

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8. Stop reading the newspaper.

You don’t really have to stop. If you enjoy reading it, by all means read it. But if you’re one of those people who gets deeply stressed out every time you read the paper or watch CNN, consider stopping. Why are you constantly putting yourself through this stress? Because it’s one’s duty to stay informed? Why?

Okay, I understand why. We live in a Democracy and blah-blah-blah. Fine. But you’re not required to live a life of stress. It doesn’t help you or anyone else for you to be stressed all the time.

And just knowing that there are starving people doesn’t help those starving people. If you have a plan of action, by all means carry it out. Otherwise, give yourself a break. If you feel terribly guilty when you’re not informed, then just give yourself a two-week break. You don’t have to stop reading the papers for life. But get out of the habit of being addicted to stress and sorrow. Your blood pressure will go down.

9. Do something that’s not for money.

Make sure there’s something pleasurable in your life that is completely disconnected with money. In our culture (in all cultures?) money comes with all kinds of baggage. Find something you like to do that will never make you any money.

If you’re a waitress who longs to be a professional actress, acting in plays for free doesn’t count. It’s great, but it’s not what I’m talking about, because you’re hoping to one day quit waitressing and make money acting. Keep that dream alive, but find some other activity to be your non-money-pleasure. Say, “I like sketching (or whatever) and it will never, ever make me any money. And if someone offered me money to sketch, I’d turn it down, because I want one thing in my life that is forever disconnected from money.”

And it can’t be something connected to duty. Yes, you don’t get paid for raising your kids, and, yes, a lot of that job is fun. But parts of it are a duty. So it doesn’t count. Knitting counts. Playing basketball with your friends counts.

Hanging out with friends doesn’t count. It’s fun. It’s not about making money. But it’s not a specific activity. You need something that will jolt you out of the belief that most of us have — that anything you spend time and energy on must be about money.

10. The hour before bed is for you.

Don’t work right up until bedtime, even if you “have to.” Take half an hour — even 20 minutes if it’s all you can spare — before you go to bed to unwind in an engrossing way. (Do this even if you’re really tired and would rather not stay up an extra 20 minutes.)

By which I mean don’t just sit on the sofa with a glass of wine. If you do that, it’s too easy to start thinking and worrying about work. Spend that time reading a chapter of a fun thriller (not a “classic” that you think you “should” read) or watching an episode of a sitcom that makes you laugh.

Think of this as your duty. It will help you get your work done better the next day. It will help you get to sleep.

11. There is no such thing as highbrow and lowbrow.

Or if there is, who cares? School has bamboozled us into thinking Shakespeare is superior to “Gilligan’s Island.” As someone who directs Shakespeare plays and reads “King Lear” for fun, I’m here to tell you that the only great art is the art you love. 

Life is really fucking hard. You have to deal with losing jobs, getting divorces, paying taxes and fixing the toilet. Don’t add to your troubles by telling yourself — or letting someone else tell you — that you’re a moron because you prefer beer to expensive champagne.

If something is beloved by experts, “refined people” and scholars, there probablyis something wonderful about it. If you want to spend an hour with me, I’ll explain to you why Shakespeare is wonderful and what you’ll get out of his plays if you spend some time studying them. But it’s not a requirement. You’re not in school any longer. (Or if you are, you soon won’t be). There’s no teacher waiting for you to turn in your homework.

I am not a better person than you because I read Shakespeare. I read Shakespeare because I enjoy it. If I read it because I “should,” I’d be a fool.

Art is primarily sensual. It can sometimes politicize people or give them intellectual ideas, but what art does best is feed you: it feeds your eyes with colors; it feeds your ears with sounds; it feeds your nerves with “what’s going to happen next????” Life is short. If “Star Wars” feeds you more than “Hamlet,” enjoy your feast!

If you feel guilty about watching “American Idol” when you “should be” watching “Masterpiece Theatre,” then agree to challenge yourself once a month. Once a month, you’ll go to a museum or watch a foreign film. The rest of the time, watch and read and listen to whatever makes you sit on the edge of your seat. Whatever makes you sing and dance.

If you’re an “intellectual” like me, take a break from the Bergman films and Shakespeare plays once in a while. Sure, sure. “American Idol” is the death of American culture or whatever. But a couple of episodes of it. It’s pretty engrossing and fun.

Get out of the habit of labeling things as high and low. There’s stuff that feeds you and stuff that doesn’t. There are acquired tastes which don’t feed you now but which might feed you in the future, once you get used to them. As soon as you get the urge to categorize one thing as “art” and the other thing as “just entertainment,” try to stop. There are different sorts of meals, and it’s great to live in a world with both caviar and Pop Tarts!

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Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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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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