Family (and therapy) Frustrations

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I’ve been in and out of therapy for 3 years.  It’s not that I’ve suffered any serious abuse.  No one ever beat me or sexually abused me. My family just wasn’t very sophisticated in the way they raised me.  I know that they did the best they could.  But now I’ve had 3 years of therapists validating my feelings about why I feel the way I feel and most of it stems from my family, and I’m becoming more and more angry with [my family] the longer I’m in therapy.  Some of them…well, most of them are ‘emotionally toxic’ for me.  But I don’t want to lose my family – I don’t want to write them off.  But I’m becoming more and more angry with them the longer I’m in therapy.  I’ve heard you say a million times that we need to take more responsibility for our lives and not expect others to change.  Well let me tell you: They are not changing.  Ever. So what do I do with this anger?  Is therapy supposed to just make me more and more angry?

ANSWER

And this is the problem with therapy, Folks.  You’ve got professionals who were taught to encourage their clients to speak, ad nauseam, about anything that’s on their minds, whether it’s purposeless or purposeful, all the while validating their clients’ feelings, thinking that this process in and on itself facilitates healing.  The problem with this is that in many cases it does not facilitate healing.  Often it promotes a sense of victimization among clients, and guess what?  If the therapist does not transition the client out of a phase of endless bitching about the same people, places and things, the client can become stuck in a pattern of anger.  Sadly, most therapists are never trained in this transition.

You don’t have to write off your family.  You have to write off the way you think about them, how you interact with them, and your expectations of them.  It’s all about you.  The process of doing this involves significant shifts in the way you perceive your role in relation to each of them.  You need to see how you play into the toxicity that you find yourself drowning in.  As you become more aware of the fact that the problem is not all theirs and that you absolutely bare some responsibility for these relationships, your anger towards them will diminish.

In order to be angry, you need to believe that you were wronged.  Presuming that the majority of your anger stems from everyday interactions you have with your family members (and that it doesn’t date back decades), the shifts that I described above will underscore your responsibility in this mess, thereby eliminating any basis for the continued belief that your family wrongs you.  And as this concept begins to resonate with you, your anger will go away.  What I’m suggesting is not easy work.  It’s much easier (for you and for a therapist) to continue operating under the misconception that everything is their fault and none of it is yours. But when everything is someone else’s fault, you lose all power to change things.  Take responsibility and you empower yourself.  Don't write off your family.  Write off your shrink.  Email me for names of new therapists.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight