Toxic Family and Holiday Visits
: Don't want to visit family on Father's Day.
: anxious, discouraged, hopeless
: 8--High level of distress
: “My family is always mean to me. I can't stand going to family events. They put me down and ignore my children. They're probably right about me. I am a loser. My friend says I don't need to go and put up with such treatment. But if I don't go, it will make things even worse. They will talk about me and my parents will be angry with me. They are my family. I should love and respect them. I should go to keep the peace. It's only one day. I'll just take extra medication and I'll get through it.”
CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE?
There are at least 4 irrational beliefs.
HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING?
What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and hopelessness?
The Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help app helps you to determine
some ways to challenge the irrational thinking.
Once you have done that, it is important to read
the rational challenges frequently until they
automatically come to mind rather than the
1) Labeling Self
This person has been listening to her family's criticism, blame, and labels of her for so long that she has come to believe them. She has been brainwashed by frequent repetition throughout her life of negative descriptions about her until she also labels herself as a "loser" and probably other negative statements about herself. As a result, she believes that she deserves this type of treatment and can't imagine anything else.
To manage this situation, this woman needs to change her self-concept. She needs to recognize that her beliefs about herself were instilled in her through toxic parenting. As such, these beliefs are not true. She needs to fight these beliefs with every ounce of her being.
When her friend suggests that she doesn't go, she catastrophizes that it would get worse. However, when you are already being abused, how much worse can it get? Especially if you refuse to be a party to it. What can her family really do to her? Is anything worth continuing to allow such treatment? Even if they do become angry with her she won't be around to listen to it.
I find it interesting as a therapist that the only time I hear the words "I SHOULD love and respect my family" is from people who have dysfunctional families. Love and respect cannot be a should. Love and respect is earned through treating others with consideration, love, and respect. However, dysfunctional families emotionally (and sometimes physically) beat this concept into their children: "You WILL love and respect me. I am your father (or mother)!" As adults, these individuals believe they should adhere to the family rules and expectations for no other reason than this demand. They don't even realize they have a choice. And may not even understand what real love and respect is. A loving parent respects the child's choices even if it means sometimes the child may not spend holidays with the family. A toxic parent expects the child will always do what he or she demands.
4) External Control
This woman has given up control over her life. She doesn't believe she has a choice so she uses an external agent (medication) to cope. She sees taking a stand against her parents as making the situation worse which means she is the bad person. As a result, she doesn't have any choices open to her.
Instead, she needs to recognize that she has choices as her friend pointed out to her. The choices may sometimes be difficult because she needs to go against all the brainwashing from her family throughout her life. But she doesn't need to continue to give up her control to them. In the long run she will feel more in control of her life and better about herself.
How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
"My family is wrong! I am a loving person deserving of better treatment. I will not put up with being treated this way. If I don't go there is nothing they can do to me. So what if they are angry and talk behind my back? It is better than listening to them put me down and mistreat me. I don't have to love and respect them because they have done nothing to earn that love and respect."
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by Excel At Life, LLC
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