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Addiction & Recovery – Family

Tips and coping strategies from week 5 of the Addiction Recovery workshop with therapist Nicki Line.

Family

Here are a few concepts that may be relevant to some of your experiences.

 

Differentiation of Self v Fusion

Differentiation of self– The ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still remain independent in your thoughts, feelings, and emotional functioning. People who are well differentiated from others are able to face difficult, emotionally charged problems, and not feel compelled to preach about what others should think, feel, not rush in to smooth the problem over immediately, and not pretend to be attached emotionally.

Fusion– This is essentially the opposite of a well differentiated self.  People who lack differentiation typically set aside individual choices, thoughts and feelings in order to achieve or maintain harmony in the relationship system (this can be a family system, friend system, etc). Fusion occurs when people form intense relationships with others, and their actions depend largely on the condition of this relationship at any given time. When experiencing fusion, an individual’s decisions largely depend on what others will think and how others will react, and if the decision will upset the intense bond of the relationship. People who are not well differentiated may feel that everyone in a relationship system needs to think and feel the same way or else the bonds will be broken. So either they must mold themselves to fit others, or pressure others to think feel and act the same way they do.

 

Transgenerational Trauma

We briefly discussed how trauma can be passed down through our families. Here is a brief overview of transgenerational trauma in families if this feels relevant to you, or you’d like to look more into it.

Transgenerational trauma refers to trauma that passes through generations. The idea is that not only can someone experience trauma, they can then pass the symptoms and behaviors of trauma survival to the next generation, who then might further pass these along the family line.

Transgenerational trauma can negatively impact families as a result of:

  1. Unresolved emotions and thoughts about a traumatic event
  2. Negative repeated patterns of behavior including beliefs about parenting
  3. Untreated or poorly treated substance abuse or severe mental illness
  4. Poor parent-child relationships and emotional attachment
  5. Complicated personality traits or personality disorders
  6. Content attitude with the ways things are within the family

 

Family Genograms

We discussed that not only trauma, but certain patterns of behavior and interaction can pass through families and influence families. One way to take a closer look at patterns in your own family is to construct a family genogram.  A family genogram is structurally similar to a family tree, but it includes information about relationships, interactions between family members, mental illness, substance usage, and more information.  We typically take a look at three generations using a genogram.

 

Here is a guide on family genograms:

https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-guide/genograms