Dr. Diane Sanford, author of Stress Less Live Better. NOW available from Praeclarus Press.

I work with many adults who are still struggling with their childhood “programming.” These are the rules and beliefs that your family of origin used, often unconsciously. It is very easy for someone who grew up in an abusive household to think that abuse is “normal.” Then the cycle continues.

carnival-mask-2597304_640One very common “program” is the “Don’t Rock the Boat” rule. This means that no matter what, family members either act like a dysfunction isn’t there, or try to “sweep it under the rug.” For example, a family with an alcoholic mother may never talk about the subject and may even step over her and keep walking if she was passed out on the floor.

carnival-mask-2597304_640Another common “program” is the, “Everything is Fine” rule. With this belief in place, each member of the family puts on masks when they have to interact with other people. For example, the mother and father could be going through an ugly divorce, but the children are all smiles and act as if all is well. When in public, the parents do the same thing.

What these programs have in common is untruth. These families don’t want to express their pain and dysfunction, so they never give themselves a chance to work through their problems. When they get to my office, they can be holding a lot of anger towards their parents, children, siblings or other family members. These folks have a choice: anger or forgiveness. As Kambri Crews, author of Burn Down the Ground aptly puts it:

Forgiving others and making peace with the cards you have been dealt is within all of us. Generally speaking, people aren’t purely evil or good. Life is much more complicated than that.

Watch Dr. Diane Sanford in conversation with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett:

Diane Sanford
Dr. Diane Sanford

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