How to deal with unhealthy family dynamics

Ruth Yeboah January 11, 2019
Unhappy black woman -- Stock Photo

My late grandma used to say “the friend who loves you cannot be compared to the sister who hates you”, translated from Fanti (Akan dialect spoken in Ghana). In our modern day language, we will say “blood is thicker than water”. I must admit though, as a ninth child of a family of ten, I beg to differ.

My grandmother lived an awesome 102 years on this earth. She was a very happy person who puts a smile on everyone’s face. She never held a grudge against her siblings who were all so mean to her. Yet still, she loved them. She lived happily and never experienced any major sickness.

Sometimes I wonder, did she live long because he had so much love to give? But then again, her time was different, thingswere not this complex with life, technology, and the accessibility we have toothers globally.

Tolerating unhealthy family dynamics is a detriment to self. Here are some unhealthy behaviors to beware of.

They try to control and manipulate you

There are those in the family who want to control everything, including your decisions.

They place blame, and play the forever victim

They are quick to dismiss your feelings about everything, especially since they are the ones who have hurt you. Somehow, they manage to make you feel bad for the pain they have caused you. You start to wonder, am I crazy? Was I overreacting? Am I being petty?

They threaten you

I don’t know about you but I have attended enough family meetings to try to resolve conflicts that end up turning into death threats. They wish evil on you and do all they can to sabotage you. They even turn other family members against you.

They are extremely critical of you and use you as a scapegoat

Nothing you do is good enough for them. I mean they just hate your guts. You are blamed for anything that goes wrong, just because.  

They over-spiritualize everything

Back home, there is a tendency to be more superstitious than necessary. People have dreamt about you and decide you are after them to cast a spell on them or to kill them. Not realizing that dreams can also be as aresult of our unconscious wishes. Some issues are mental health related likethey may be anxious or depressed but put the blame on you instead to feelbetter about themselves. But the truth is you can’t pray away things that youneed to apply practical methods to. You need action!

To survive these family dynamics you must learn to:

Set boundaries

Boundaries are important in any relationship. If you fail to set boundaries, you stand the chance of being a victim of abuse. Period. Ifpeople know they can get away with anything with you, believe me they will tryyou constantly. Know when to say no, and walk away from toxicity and not feelpressured to do it because it is family.

Cut off ties if needed

There are times when you do all that you can do and nothing seems to work. You speak with people and open up about your feelings, you even forgive and try to start over with them. The reality is the person that needs to start over is them not you. You must cut ties to maintain your sanity. It may not be forever but just until you learn to manage your emotions when around those family members.

Seek help

We Africans have made mental health a taboo. But in today’s world, we have moved from basic needs to social, emotional, and psychological needs. It is not enough to provide bread and shelter for your children, if you are emotionally unavailable to them, you are essentially neglectingthem. The neglect has long term impact on the child’s psyche. We refuse toacknowledge that because we are desperately trying to make ends meet beingabroad and forget that mental illness is a real plague in this society. 

I urge you in whatever stage you are right now, on the journey to survive your family, that you take time for yourself, love yourself enough to demand better. Stop believing their negative talks, and start walking in what you know to be true. It is possible they have hurt you, betrayed you, spread lies about you, let it go. You have a chance now to be good to yourself, so do it and let the past be gone!

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: January 24, 2019


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