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How to Move Away From Dysfunctional Patterns in Your Life

In another article we have talked about generational trauma and how it comes trapped in our lifestyle patterns and habits. In turn, these inherited beliefs and behavior systems can cause problems in our own lives.

Once you acknowledge that this is the case, the next question is clear: how do I fix it?

It is possible to move away from dysfunctional patterns and generational trauma. But “possible” does not mean “easy”.

First, you have to being to see the parts of the family system that can carry this dysfunction.

What are the elements of a family system?

The family system is the name for all the parts that work together to help form the values and shape the behaviors of everyone in your family.  In order to think about how they work, and understand how to address them, you must understand their names and roles.

This is not a comprehensive list, but here are some of the important elements of a family system:

  • Family members – these are the people who, because of their connection and importance to your family, help shape your values. Note that blood relationships are NOT as important here as the impact the person has on daily life.
  • Beliefs – Your beliefs are shaped in deep ways by the people with whom you grow up. This can include formal religious or spiritual beliefs, as well as informal opinions your family might hold about how the world works and how to make your way in it.
  • Roles – the role you play in your family impacts the entire family system. This is affected by birth order, personality type, interpersonal capital and skill, and more. It shapes who you trust and who you don’t, which shapes your interaction in the world outside.
  • Boundaries – every family establishes its own set of boundaries. These include topics that you are mandated to have an opinion on, as well as topics you aren’t allowed to talk about. It also includes issues such as personal privacy and your possessions. Some families may feel a child has no right to privacy, and others might strictly enforce this right.
  • Subsystems – every major system has a series of smaller systems that work within it. In some families, a family member may act completely differently depending on who is in the room. Each sub-group has a different dynamic based on experiences, roles, and relationships.

Once you understand these items, you can begin to examine your own family’s dynamics.

Then you need to start questioning them.

A new life, a new start. How can you keep from passing on generational trauma? 

Understand the system so you can question it

The reason it is important to understand the system is so you can interrogate it. this interrogation does not even require other people to be present.

By asking the right questions, you can start to and identify generational patterns.

One way to do this is to identify a troubling pattern in your own life, and start to ask questions about it.

For instance, if you shut down when you try to think about money, or can’t even concentrate long enough to balance the checkbook, the solution is not to throw up your hands and pronounce yourself “bad at math!” It could instead be a learned pattern (and might or might not be the result of trauma.)

Instead, ask questions about your family system. They might look like this:

  • How did my family members deal with money?
  • What are the beliefs about money that I learned from my family?
  • Did my family’s actions around money match their stated beliefs, or were there hidden forces at work?
  • What are some positive ways my family dealt with money?
  • What are some negative ways my family dealt with money?
  • What money patterns (if any) do I repeat?
  • Which money patterns (if any) have I broken?
  • What change would I like to make?
  • What is one step I can take today to make that change?


Questions lead to answers

Asking these questions seems, on the surface, to be a mere exercise. However, simple questions, used again for different problems, can reveal profound patterns.

One woman asked these questions and found that she never heard anything about her family’s money problems, though she remembers their car being towed away and her father yelling at the tow truck driver. She realizes now that it was being repossessed!

Then she realized that she also was hiding her finances from her own children, in part because she hated to think about them at all. She even kept her checkbook where her mother did –  in a bucket under the sink!

Her patterns were entirely learned from her family, and she was in danger of passing them on.

By asking and answering these questions, she was able to SEE the pattern.

And once you SEE the pattern, it is easier to break.

Of course, this kind of investigation can reveal dark secrets from the past. This is true if you know that abuse or other deep trauma is at the root of your problems.


In that case, you likely will want to have a therapist who can help guide you through the inevitable difficult emotions that will rise to the surface.

Sakina Issa provides workshops on identifying and treating generational trauma. She can also help individuals deal with generational trauma in person or via tele-health options. Simply click the red button above to find a time to see if she can help in your situation.

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