The Opposite of a Dysfunctional Family System ~ a glimpse of hope

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the oposite of dysfunctional family
Living life to the Fullest

The other night we had a birthday dinner for our oldest son. All of our kids were home as well as a few of their friends. The conversation was lively, everyone was included, there was laughter, jokes, intellectual conversation about the chemistry my son studies and the neuroscience my oldest daughter studies.  All kinds of information was shared and everyone had a voice. There were jokes and stories; everyone at the table was equally important. 

I love those family dinners. We were joking with our youngest daughters friend who had never had dinner with us before this evening; we were explaining during our laughter about ‘bathroom talk at the table’ that this is how we are sometimes and we hoped we didn’t scare her off. She felt comfortable enough to add a few of her own jokes and the next day she texted our daughter saying “your family is awesome”.  

I was thinking about our family dinners and how amazing they are. We talk to each other and we listen to each other. We are genuinely interested in each other! There are no cell phones or electronic media allowed at the table. We usually sit around talking about every subject under the sun well after the meal is over even when we don’t have company and it is just the 5 of us. This is incredible to me!

These dinners and this kind of communication are what make me feel the most successful as a mother.  I was saying to my husband that sometimes when we are all sitting around eating, talking and laughing that I feel as though I am in a movie! You know how it all seems so perfect in the movies; the beautiful people sitting around a beautiful table with awesome food and all kinds of love and laughter. Our family times at the dinner table seem so surreal, so unbelievable, almost too perfect! I guess that is because everyday family meals, celebrations, family get together events and holidays were NOT anything like this when I was growing up. If anything, they were stressful.

These wonderful mutually respectful and fulfilling family relationships are a bonus of healing! They are a direct result of doing the work and facing the pain. Sorting through the truth about all that was wrong in my family of origin, seeing how I was not regarded with equal value, accepting that I had not been safe or protected and that my feelings didn’t really matter is what helped me so much to create a different family environment for MY kids and in my own marriage. It was seeing how the damage from trauma and abuse and from being discounted and devalued in so many ways damaged my self-esteem so deeply, that I was able to see my mothering role through a new grid and I was able to make the necessary adjustments so that my kids always know they are loved and emotionally supported.

My husband and I focus on empowering instead of disempowering.  We lead by example. We believe that love is an action word.

I am grateful for all of my blessings and although I know that the road to healing is paved with bumps, tears and is full of gaping dark holes, I am here to tell you that there is freedom, wholeness, life and mutually respectful, healthy relationships ~ on the other side!

Please share!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! This blog is read in 132 countries so to everyone all over the world, happy holidays; persistence has been the key to my progress in this process of emotional healing. Gratitude, even for the tiniest things was always a little bright spot on some of the darkest days.

Much Love,

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts; Thanksgiving, Christmas and Dysfunctional Families

Thanksgiving and Gratitude ~ when the little voice rebels

86 response to "The Opposite of a Dysfunctional Family System ~ a glimpse of hope"

  1. By: sandra Posted: 13th December 2013

    I am sitting in a coffeeshop. Xmas music in the background, so soothing.
    Music has great properties.
    Just wanted to wish you a happy holiday season!
    I do not know yet what I will be doing this holiday, I might be alone, I might house sit for sb just to use the time I do not know.
    In any case, all the best to all of you here

  2. By: Kelly A Posted: 12th December 2013

    On rare occasions I can be in the presence of my mother and sister (who are both emotionally and psychologically abusive towards me) and have an evening where there are no ‘incidents’. Those rare occassions are always filed away too though in the minds of my abusers as ‘proofs’ that I am the problem and that on such occassions, I simply ‘chose not to start’ anything. They never chock it up to the fact that on such occassions, THEY are the ones who chose not to abuse and attack ME and as such, no reaction from me was warranted. I am seen as the ‘problem’ even during the times when I’m not being overtly called ‘the problem!’. Things are pleasant because I somehow ‘chose’ for them to be so. A veritable ‘SEE how nice things can be when YOU DON’T(stand up for yourself when we choose to abuse you).’ They don’t happen to notice that the reason I’m not yelling back is because no one is standing there AT THAT MOMENT invalidating me, devaluing me, attacking me, blaming me and otherwise making unreasonable demands of me (example: that I open the door during my shower to allow my also-adult-sister in to retrieve a can of hairpsray). As if it weren’t bad enough that I am blamed for all of the unrest, I must be reminded during times of peace that I am the ‘REASON’ for the otherwise unrest!

    I started to put ‘two and two together’ from about the time I was 14 and started going along with friends on their family vacations and spending holidays at their houses. There were family meals and genuine interest and happiness and equal value among parents, children and siblings at the homes of others. As a teenager and young adult all I knew was that I’d rather be with them. Once I became an adult this encompassed the families of boyfriends as well and when I’d make the decision to spend a holiday or an event (like my own birthday!) with their family instead of my own I would hear from my mother: ‘you always DID prefer STRANGERS over ME/your own FAMILY anyway!’. Apparently it never occurred to her WHY, other than that was ungrateful and this was just more PROOF! All these years I felt guilty and wrong for wanting, PREFERRING, to be with friends instead of her and she was right. It WAS proof. But it wasn’t proof that I was ‘bad’. It was proof that something was wrong with THEM! If I could blend in so well and so seamlessly with the families of friends, why couldn’t I win the approval of my own?

    Perhaps the first time I chocked it up to happy coincidence. Maybe these were just ‘my people’. Maybe they had similar interests and viewpoints…but that wasn’t the case. Friend after friend and boyfriend after boyfriend couldn’t all be the ‘one-off’ situation I’d thought. Maybe, just maybe, it WASN’T ME as my mother had tried for so many years to get me to believe.

    I truly believe that my social interaction with others is the only reason that I started to see through the fog. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t broken, I wasn’t bad. It was my family of origin all along. It IS them still today. I have been able to get along wonderfully with so many strangers and their families all these years yet not with my own? It can’t be me, I’m the common denominator in all of those relationships and there is only ONE where I am seen as the ‘problem’!

    I feel sorry for my sister who never exposed herself to friends the way I did so she never had the opportunity to see that the way our family was (and still is) is unhealthy and dysfunctional and that my mother is sick. My sister is also the Golden Child though and at present, that serves her emotional needs more than finding the truth and whole happiness does. My mother didnt give her a sense of personal value either. Her sense of value now comes from getting to have more ‘stuff'(material possessions) by staying at home and living with blinders on and she has the added bonus of winning even more favor by hopping on my mother’s bandwagon and abusing me; the ‘bad one’, the ‘broken one’, the ‘unloveable, disagreeable’ one who ‘deserves’ what I get. For so long I was the little boy in the crowd who shouts that the Emperor is really in his underwear but always wondering if what I saw was even real!

    This blog has given me so much comfort and validation. It breaks my heart to see that there are so many of us here seeking the same but at the same time it also gives me hope for the future. Hope that OUR families will be different and that by the same course, our children’s families will be different.

    Afterall, even the biggest avalanche starts with a single snowflake.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th December 2013

      Hi Kelly A
      My family is totally different now! (and two of my kids are young adults, already out on their own) There is hope, that is for sure!
      Thanks for sharing. I am going to share your snowflake quote on the FB page.. (I won’t use your name)
      Hugs, Darlene

      Sandra
      Thanks for your best wishes!
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Amber Posted: 9th November 2013

    When I was in High School I was often invited to sleep at my best friend’s house. I remember how much I loved the breakfasts over there. The whole family ate together on those weekend mornings. It was a relaxing and fun meal. We’d talk about school events and my friend, her two brothers, her parents and I all participated. There was a lot of joke telling and laughter as well. The parents were clearly interested in the kids’ school, sports and social activities, and included me in this as well. They knew who my latest crush was on, and called me their second daughter. I was always welcomed there. At my own home the kids ate dinner before my father came home. We often did not eat together for weekend breakfasts either. When we did eat with my father it had to be completely silent. He didn’t enjoy our silly chatter or laughter. The only conversation he would initiate was if we spilled something or otherwise demonstrated some poor table manners. We would be sharply criticized. No conversations about school or anything else we were involved in. My friend’s family knew much more about me than my parents did!
    So I did have a glimpse into what a healthily functioning family was like. Unfortunately, it was not my own, at least not my family of origin. Meals in my family of marriage do involve having conversations. (That took some getting used to!) as well as joking around, talking about everyone’s days and we all participate. So perhaps that glimpse did have a positive effect on my future family!

  4. By: Nicole Posted: 5th January 2013

    Darlene, I found this site on a very challenging day and I want to thank you for your courage and taking the time to share your knowledge and experience. I find your insight to be very comforting and validating. It’s given me some strength today when I’m feeling like I’m free falling. This paragraph below in particular was very meaningful to me and it actually made me feel like my feelings really are valid when others have and still tell me they are not. I didn’t really that I’m still struggling with so much. It’s been a long while since something I read really helped me have some hope and this was it. Thank you again so much for helping others.

    “Sorting through the truth about all that was wrong in my family of origin, seeing how I was not regarded with equal value, accepting that I had not been safe or protected and that my feelings didn’t really matter is what helped me so much to create a different family environment for MY kids and in my own marriage. It was seeing how the damage from trauma and abuse and from being discounted and devalued in so many ways damaged my self-esteem so deeply, that I was able to see my mothering role through a new grid and I was able to make the necessary adjustments so that my kids always know they are loved and emotionally supported.”

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th January 2013

      Hi Nicole
      Welcome to EFB!
      I am so glad that you are finding some comfort here! That is why I do this!
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Kimberlee Posted: 12th December 2012

    I had a glimpse of this on thanksgiving day. My eldest daughter, son and eldest grandson came for dinner. We had a lovely couple of hours. My daughter even remarked it was the first time in more than a decade there was no fighting. It was only when we went to my parents for dessert that it took a dramatic turn for the worse. My Mother and father tag teamed for humiliating stories and comments and soon my daughter joined in with them. I tried my best to stay emotionally detached and tune them out..I did notice my grandson and son took long turns in the bathroom hiding from the situation and/or played on their phones and iPods. It was quite weird to watch this as sort of an outsider and yet not. I felt powerless to stop and was relieved when my daughter asked if I was ready to leave in 1.5 hours. It meant spending the rest of the day alone but was better than that situation. Besides I had a glimpse of a real family and a happy time for two hours in the early part of the day! So obviously I was not the ogre and freak they made out to be later!

  6. By: Amber Posted: 6th December 2012

    This was my first thanksgiving without my FOO, I will admit that it was so peaceful.. no extra negative/judgemental comments were being made.

    I spent it with my future husband.. it was just the two of us but I know next year it will be the same with my daugther and his son because we already are starting the journey to peace!

  7. By: White Fly Posted: 1st December 2012

    thank you to aurele and to all those who responded positively to the poem by kahlil gibran. it is bitter sweet to read it. bitter because it always reminds me that my mother’s bow was not stable and thus i did not go far, and sweet because it is validating of my personal sense of what is right and just between children and their parents. i had this translated into my mother’s language of origin after reading it for the first time. i thought it would have some kind of transfomative effect on our relationship and that things would possibly get better. truly magical thinking. she received it like she would have received any old dimestore greeting card, said it was nice and never looked at it again, much less allowed it to inform her attitude towards me and/or our relationship. such is life.

  8. By: Aurele Posted: 1st December 2012

    And I am glad other people know it !
    I have known this poem since 4 years ago and I just love it.

    Hugs

  9. By: Aurele Posted: 1st December 2012

    Hi white fly,

    Thank you for the poem, which is just magnificient, it is sooo true.
    I put this poem on my wall.

  10. By: Aurele Posted: 27th November 2012

    Thank you for your answers :).

    Have a nice day.

  11. By: Kate Posted: 26th November 2012

    Good (realization) for you, Sophia!!!

  12. By: DarleneOuimet Posted: 26th November 2012

    Hi Sophia!
    These are excellent comments and insights! That is exactly right; that until we see what motivates our choices, the freedom of choice is not really attainable.
    I can understand your freind saying and believing that she chose to be in the commune that in truth was more like a cult and that she was ‘free to leave’ anytime. So why did she stay in an abusive place? That is where so many survivors are stuck; asking themselves WHY they stayed or why they chose to stay. The answer to those questions is the beginning of the path to real freedom.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts and breakthroughs!

    about cults, I watched a documentary about 2 cults the other night. I was stunned by how much they are like a dysfunctional family system. I am going to write about this subject in the future.
    Hugs, Darlene

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th November 2012

      Hi Everyone!
      I just published a new post about the origin of self blame using an example from my adventures driving in the snow! It’s a day in the life of Darlene complete with what goes through my mind and how I do self talk and turn things around for myself today!
      Please read it here; “A day in the life of Darlene ~ Recognizing the origin of self blame”I am looking forward to the conversation!
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Sophia Posted: 26th November 2012

    Hello all,

    I have been faithfully following discussions here, but I have such limited access to computers right now that I can’t participate in conversations as much as I’d like to. But I must say that I continue to be inspired on a daily basis by the insights and sharing that goes on here.

    I wanted to mention a couple of insights I’ve had lately. I’ve been thinking lately about the fear of abandonment I’ve had for most of my life: the belief that if people got to kmow me they would see how “wrong” I was, and that they would reject me. For a long time I believed that this belief stemmed from my mother dying when I was so young. Yesterday, however, the thought popped into my head that it may have more to do with my father’s EMOTIONAL abandonment of me and his refusal to protect me from my stepmother’s attacks as well as other situations he put me in which were hurtful. Even though he always talked about how much he loved and supported me, his actions were not consistent with this.

    This was a real aha moment for me!

    The other insight came yesterday when I was online chatting with some friends who used to be in a commune with me. It became obvious to many of us that the place had more in common with a cult than a true commune, and we were being used and abused by the leaders. I heard confusion in some people’s comments, such as “But I chose to be there and we were free to leave at any time, so weren’t we responsible if they abused us?” Well, I can see now that “freedom” and “choice” are illusions if we are not aware of the root of our belief systems and the truth of the abuse we suffered as children. When I was doing my own self-therapy, I came to see how the leaders of this commune had much in common psychologically with my parents. I stayed there despite my unhappiness because I believed this was how people should treat me. Another real aha moment.

    So that though, that freedom of choice is not attainable unless I understand what truly motivates my choices, is really going through my head today, and I wrote about it privately to some of the former members. I think is another thing we have to remember when we feel tempted to blame outselves for the abuse we receive from others when it seems like when should have “known better.”

    Blessings and hugs to all,
    Sophia

  14. By: SMD Posted: 25th November 2012

    Kimberly,
    If you are reading this, I can understand your feelings of rejection & anger. I once said something to a client of mine, that I was not suppose to say. I truly made a mistake in judgement & I was blamed for this client’s behavior. I realized I made a mistake & it got back to my immediate supervisor. I had crossed a boundary by giving out info that wasn’t mine. My intention was not meant to harm either. I was called on the carpet for it and believe me I felt so ashamed & cried. This supervisor was reacting out of fear, since I found out the client was stalking her. I’m not responsible for the client’s wrong behavior. Yet, I was responsible for saying something I wasn’t suppose to. I beat myself up over it, however, I had to forgive myself & accept that I made a mistake. My situation was a little more complicated, because this supervisor had burdened the client, with her problem, prior to my slip/mistake. I believe now, she was diverting the blame onto me, for something she had started with this client.
    Anyway, I got off track here. My situation was different & more complicated, yet I was mad at myself & my supervisor. I ended up putting this incident aside & continued working there. Although, I soon realized it was not a healthy place for me. Too many triangulations & control tactics & this was in a mental health position. Trolls everywhere! Kimberly, I just want to say that you do not come across as a mean person at all. Hope you stay here 🙂
    Sonia

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th November 2012

      Hi Sonia
      Thanks for your comments. I agree with you that Kimberly didn’t come across as a mean person at all, and I didn’t think that she was trying to cause any trouble. As for the trolls thing, I have never had one here for long.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Theweirdphilosopher
      Thanks for the nomination! That is cool!
      Hugs Darlene

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