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Edition Twenty One

Dysfunctional Internal Relationships


Growing up in less than perfect families, most of us have learned dysfunctional relating to some degree.

We treat ourselves as we were treated within the family, in school, in church, and by peers.

We relate to ourselves as we learned to relate to the people around us.

For example, if someone had frightening emotional explosions, and my whole family was afraid, then I am liable to be afraid of my own feelings today. In this way, the atmosphere of early childhood is carried forward into adult life.

Now that I've painted such a grim picture, what do I have to offer as a solution? Plenty! The key to solving the problem is in creating a functional system. I believe that healing begins within the individual.

The first step is to correct our internal dysfunction: that is, to learn to deal with ourselves directly and honestly, face our internal truth. The human mind is very beautiful, very complex - nothing short of a miracle. Our thinking is so complex, that it is possible to have several "voices" inside, each holding different opinions simultaneously!

Most of the clients who come to me have a virtual battle going on inside. Blaming, defending, making excuses, resisting, are all going on at once within a single person's mind. All of these "voices," these varying levels of thought and opinion, must be sorted out. They each need to be heard individually -- so you can find out what the fight is about. Then you must act as a

mediator for them, getting each "voice" to be a part of the whole, so that all your varying opinions of what must be done are working together. Often, this takes the help of a therapist or a support group.

As you do this, you'll recognize the source of some of the "voices." Example -- "Oh yeah, that's my Mom, criticizing everything I do, never satisfied. Wow, I didn't realize I was doing that to myself! She's been dead 10 years!" Understanding that the running commentary in your head is not actually your Mom, just your learned imitation of her, is very important.

Once you realize the source, the "voice" needs to be corrected. It's necessary to have a self-examining voice, it will keep you growing and learning. However, the voice doesn't need to be hostile, demanding, or relentless. It can be kind, encouraging and supportive. For example: "I did a good job at work today. I'm getting better and better at sales. When I talk to Joe next time, though, I'm going to be a little more low key, ask him about his family, I think I overwhelmed him by coming on too strong."

The goal is to create a functional "committee" out of the mental struggle. When this is achieved, it is then possible to feel upset about something, sympathize with the part of your mind that's upset, and still be thinking calmly about the solution to the problem. Amazing!

Advertisement: It Ends With YouHaving YOURSELF to talk to about your problems is a true blessing. How often have each of us wished for "someone to talk to" about something? How often have we been willing to be that "someone" for another person? Just as an experiment, try getting your capacity to listen and support together with your need to be heard and supported. You'll find out it works!

I know, it sounds, well, weird. That's the dysfunction in the society talking. It's not weird , it's healthy. Knowing I can and will BE THERE for myself is at the heart of self-esteem. a drop as I achieve functional relating to myself, I have a role model for healthy relationships with others: friends, family, lovers, business associates.

An added bonus to this is, as I achieve functional relating to myself, I have a role model for healthy relationships with others: friends, family, lovers, business associates. I recognize the people who are willing to relate to me in a healthy manner, and I'm capable of relating to them in the same way.

As I become totally honest with myself, I don't allow nasty surprises into my life any more. I instinctively know when I'm being lied to, and it won't work on me. I recognize the difference between love and dependency, and I choose to love and be loved. I stay out of Persecutor, Rescuer, Sufferer triangles, because I know that healthy people can ask for what they want, and if they get "no" for an answer, they can find it someplace else.

As I become a self-supporting, functional person, I do not lean too heavily on anyone else. Relationships become mutual, with a balance between supporting ourselves and each other. No one needs to run away from me because I do not demand what others are not prepared to give. I can get what I need from me, and I can enjoy what others want to freely give.

Does it sound good? To create this change, begin by rebuilding the "mother" voice in your head, until it's the kind of Mom you always wanted, the one that loves and supports you.

Take your real mother off the hook, and you'll be free to have a new kind of relationship with her. As you see her more objectively, and less from the perspective of your needs, you'll see her differently, and love and forgiveness will become available, for yourself and for her.

From It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction © 2005 Tina B. Tessina

By Tina B. Tessina