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Making Positive Changes

Behaviour learned in dysfunctional families can be overcome and more adaptive and constructive behaviours put in their place.

Sometimes we continue in our familiar roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us "permission" to change. But that permission can only come from you. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you "change back." That why it is so important for you to trust you own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. No matter what happens, trust that what you go through will enligthen you. Don't be discouraged. Change doesn't happen overnight. It comes little by little, more and more, deepending your ability to love, create, and make a difference personally and in society. The most important thing is a dedication to trying something new and learning from your experience.

Some specific things you can do include:

~~ Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood.

~~ Make a list of your behaviours, beliefs etc. that you would like to change.

~~ Next to each item on the list, write down the behaviour, belief, etc that you would like to do/have instead.

~~ Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behaviour or belief. Choose the easiest item first.

~~ Once you are able to do the alternate behaviour more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too.

In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a trained therapist or counsellor. Participating in a facilitator-led group of people with similar experiences can also be a rewarding and valuable experience.

Special Considerations:

As you make changes, keep in mind the following:

~~ Stop trying to be perfect. In addition, don't try to make your family perfect.

~~ Realize that you are not in control of other people's lives. You do not have the power to make others change.

~~ Don't try to win the old struggles; you can't win.

~~ Set clear limits -- ie if you do not plan on visiting your parents for a holiday, say "No", not "Maybe."

~~ Identify what you would like to have happen. Recognize that when you stop behaving the way you used to even for a short period of time, there may be adverse reactions from your family or friends. Anticipate what the reactions will be (ie tears, yelling, other intimidating responses) and decide how you will respond.

Don't become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into the old patterns of behaviour. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviours, they will begin to become part of your day-to-day life.

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