Okay, we are live! What is up everybody, Happy Saturday! It is September 18th of 2021. Really happy and grateful to be back for another family education and support group with whoever is watching and listening. Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well. I’m looking forward to providing some valuable insight and information to you to hopefully help you in your recovery and healing journey. So this talk today is for anybody who has gone through family dysfunction, is going through family dysfunction, and how that can potentially have impacted their own upbringing and development. And not only that, but the upbringing and development of their current family. So we’re talking about family dysfunction and childhood trauma. It’s one of my passion areas to speak about so if you see me a little bit more lit up to talk about this topic today there’s a reason for it. Because as a mental health professional and someone that works in the field of addictions a lot of it goes back to trauma, a lot of it goes back to family dysfunction and my hope is that if this is something that you are interested in, you watch, you ask questions, you’re always free to ask questions. If you want to jump on and talk to me during the live, you can as well and we’ll go from there.
So let me tell you a little bit about myself. Whether you’re watching this for the first time or you’re going to watch this later on recording, my name is Parham. I have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy with an emphasis in child development, which is going to come handy in this one. I am a licensed advanced addictions counselor. Personally, how I got into this field was on June 13th of 2008 I found myself as a program participant due to my own drinking and using an addictive behavior. And I also coach high school basketball – this is our 14th season I’m there and really grateful to be a part of that. And hopefully today is going to be a valuable talk so that long-winded introduction was to allow anyone to come here. What’s up Julian, and anyone that’s with Julian – if I know you, it’s good to see you – it’s good to know that you’re on and we’ll go from there.
So questions – with all that being said let me start this off – I’m gonna share some questions. And by the way for those of you who have loved ones in our program, I did this talk, a very similar talk, this morning at 8 00 a.m to our program participants. And I’ll tell you, you couldn’t hear a pin drop in there because everybody was so engaged with this, because a lot of people who end up in sober recovery communities, to programs, all that kind of stuff they do come from some type of dysfunction in the home, they do come from childhood adverse experiences, and it’s just a part of the process, because addictions is one of the outcomes of family dysfunction – it’s one of the outcomes of adverse childhood experiences. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it always leads there but there’s a high possibility for it. What’s up Debbie? What’s up Lynn? So these questions are designed to help you gain a little bit of insight and understanding into the impact that potentially your family dysfunction may have had on your loved one or on yourself, and as growing up, and how that kind of continues to have consequences in your life, without treating it, without resolving it, without going back to the underlying causes and the roots of it and really addressing it. So this talk is just as important for the family members watching this as it is for anybody that’s gone through addictions or is going through addictions and so here they are. Okay, I’m just going to go through the questions very similar to what we did last week.
I got some really good feedback regarding the content of that talk, so this is a different version of it – just talking about family dysfunction and childhood trauma. And I do want to distinguish this real quick. There’s a difference between trauma and something being traumatic. Traumatic is an event – a traumatic event is something that happens, it’s something that happens. Trauma is the response of that traumatic event in the mind, the body, the spirit, the soul of the human being. So trauma is a byproduct of a traumatic event. Okay, so here are the questions that I would like to ask and again let me just preface this – if you are a family member and you have a loved one going through addictions, maybe as I’m going through these don’t think about your loved one for a little bit and just think about yourself and see if any of these land on you. And also if you did have a family unit yourself that had some dysfunction in it you could also think about how it possibly could have impacted your loved one. So there’s no fault here, there’s no blame here, this stuff, like I always say, is quite often multi-generational – it’s passed down and we’ll go from there.
So number one, do you constantly seek approval or affirmation? When you are a product of a dysfunctional home, when you experience childhood trauma, it’s very common that that individual later on in life is constantly seeking approval or affirmation. This is the person that gets in a relationship and is constantly asking the other person, “Do you love me, do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?” And here’s the thing – why would somebody have the need to continuously confirm if someone else loves them? It’s because at some point in their life maybe nobody told them they loved them. At some point in their life maybe they never experienced love. So now later on in life they’re an adult, they’re in relationships and they have that same adult-child mentality. “Do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?” See, all this is, is unresolved issues of family dysfunction and childhood trauma that’s now appearing and showing up later on in life. So if you have that you want to look and see why do I have this constant need? Why do I keep seeking approval? Why do I have this need to be loved? Where does that come from?
Do you fail to recognize your own accomplishments? Failure to recognize accomplishments: so this happens all the time in the program. Someone graduates – “oh it’s not that big of a deal.” Someone gets a bachelor’s degree – “I should have got that a long time ago.” Someone gets a job – “anyone can get a job.” Someone gets clean and sober for 30 days – “yeah, it’s not that big of a deal, I should have done this a while ago.” People who fail to acknowledge and recognize their own accomplishments, at some point in life growing up family dysfunction, maybe when they achieved something and accomplished something, nobody was there to support them, love them, pat them on the back, and it seemed like it’s not a big deal. Accomplishments need to be celebrated – there is no such thing as a small accomplishment. All accomplishments are beautiful, they need to be celebrated, because small accomplishments accumulated on top of each other become big accomplishments. So there’s no such thing as a small one – you can’t have a big accomplishment without minor daily accomplishments.
So the next one is, do you fear criticism? If you’re a byproduct of a dysfunctional home, or you have childhood trauma, you’re terrified of criticism because oftentimes what is one of the characteristics of a dysfunctional home? Maybe there’s highly critical parents there, maybe there’s a highly critical environment that no matter what you do isn’t good enough. So you go on this lifelong pursuit of perfection, and when someone wants to criticize you, you are terrified of it. Because you see that as a personal attack to your character, not what you’re doing. You feel like you’re not good enough and there it is one more time, they stick the dagger in, they turn it around a little bit and one more time, you’re not good enough.
So the next one here (a lot of family members are going to identify with this one) is, do you overextend yourself? Overextending yourself – do you overextend yourself? So this is the classical doing a lot to make up for lost time, this is the classic taking on everyone else’s stuff and feeling overwhelmed and then saying, “you know I got too much stuff going on and I can’t do this anymore,” and you wave the white flag, and then again you repeat the cycle again. So why does someone overextend themselves? Because they’re trying to compensate for a lack at some point in their life. All of this stuff – by the way I’m not putting fault or blame on any of this stuff – I’m just saying if you know that you come from dysfunction or childhood trauma.
And by the way some of you might be wondering right now, “Parham what the heck is family dysfunction? What is childhood trauma?” I’ll give you some of them. If you grew up in a home that there was psychological, physical, emotional, sexual abuse, if you grew up in a home that there was neglect, if you grew up in a home that there was abandonment, if you grew up in a home that mom or dad or primary caregiver was addicted to drugs and alcohol, if you grew up in a home that they had mental illness, if you grew up in a home that a parent or caregiver all of a sudden died or there was divorce or separation, if you grew up in a home that their one family member had to go to a jail or institutions for their mental health or jail for their behavior, and if you grew up in a home watching physical abuse and domestic violence inside your home, these are all classified as family dysfunction and childhood trauma. So those are the things that impact us later on in life when they are unresolved. Those are the things that impact your loved ones when they are unresolved. If you’re watching this and your kid’s gone through a bunch of treatment episodes and you knew that a lot of those things existed inside your home I’m not saying it’s because of those that they’re drug addicted with drugs and alcohol. But I’ll tell you this: those things influence their internal world and what they think about themselves and what they feel about themselves and who they are. It disregulated their emotions, it caused them to need to regulate their emotions with something external: drugs, alcohol, behavior, people – you know, all that kind of stuff.
So the next one is, do you have a need for perfection? So this doesn’t say do you like perfection? Need for perfection – do you want perfection? Do you have a need for perfection? A need is like water, shelter, food, safety, love. Why would someone have a need for perfection? It’s because of family dysfunction and childhood trauma. The home life was so messed up that the only way to survive it in the mind of a child was to show up perfectly. Children try that when they’re young, by the way, and then later on you know what, that becomes a significant fear of failure, a significant fear of success, crippled mental paralysis, self-sabotaging behavior, starting things and never finishing them. Sound familiar? So why would someone have a need for perfection? It’s because they feel that who they are and how they are isn’t enough, they need to be a different way. And I always share this quote that I love, they say “Expectations are the root of all heartbreaks.” So when a person expects themselves to be perfect, and by the way if you have an expectation for yourself to be perfect, guess who else you have an expectation of to be perfect? Everyone you come across, everyone you meet you set a bar and that’s where they’re supposed to meet, and when they fall short of that bar, because guess what they will fall short of that bar because we’re human beings and human beings change through the different times and situations and circumstances and everything going through them you’re going to constantly be disappointed. When you’re constantly disappointed it’s a lonely way to live life. You know, I believe that all human beings are perfect exactly as they are and exactly how they’re not. People are perfect for who they are and who they’re not. There’s eight billion people in this world and there’s eight billion thumbprints and no two people need to be the same way. You know the comparison, oh my good god, does that hurt people.
Impact on family units. So the next one is this. Now we’re getting a little bit deeper into family dysfunction, how it shows up later on in life. This by the way isn’t just about your loved ones who have drug and alcohol problems – this is about you and your upbringing and how your upbringing impacted the family unit that you’ve created. Trust me, those things are all connected. Being a therapist working with thousands of people, I have yet to meet a person that creates their own family unit, gets married, has their kids, creates their own family unit and the impact that their childhood had on them doesn’t show up later on in life. I’ve yet to meet one person. Now it doesn’t always have to have a negative impact: you could be rooted in love and a good family and a good upbringing and all that stuff and bring all that in a relationship. But if you come from dysfunction and you never worked on it there will be dysfunction inside your home. Not maybe, not might, there will be dysfunction in your home. If you experience certain things as a child with stuff like the alcoholism, the addiction, the divorce, the separation, there will be some of that same stuff repeating itself again. Remember, hurt people hurt people. We say this almost every week and I say it for a reason. Because there’s no fault or blame here. People that are hurt when they don’t work on their stuff, they hurt the next generation. The next generation, if they don’t work on their stuff they’re going to hurt the generation that’s not even here yet.
So the next one is, are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly? Continually anticipating problems? So why would someone continually anticipate problems? Why would someone get uneasy if everything’s cool and calm and collected? Again, it has nothing to do with the present moment. At some point in their life when they were younger in a dysfunctional home there was constantly some chaos, some problem, some challenge, something to overcome, some barrier that they could never be comfortable and just sit in peace. So the brain is wired for that, so now in life if everything gets cool, calm, collected, they feel that something is about to happen, the shoe is about to drop, the calm before the storm. These reasons, these things all exist is because their brain is wired that way. So many human beings that go through the recovery process, in the beginning of the recovery process when their life starts to get calmer because the consequences of their using are no longer happening, they start to get uneasy – they are addicted to chaos, the brain through years of living in a chaotic experience, dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, has been addicted, wired to deal with chaos. You know what they do when things get calm? They go and blow it all up, they destroy it all to create that chaos, and then they put it all back together. This happens with a lot of chronic relapses – if you ask them they say they just get too uncomfortable when everything’s okay. They’re more comfortable when things are a mess. I know that sounds completely counterintuitive to what you know of normal rational thinking, but to them that’s rational to them, that’s comfortable.
Do you feel responsible for others as you did for the problem drinker or the person that was dysfunctional in your home? So today we had a talk… What’s up everyone? Everyone’s saying hi right now. You know there’s three of you guys, Tony, Jose, Marina, what’s up everyone? So do you feel responsible for others? I was just doing this talk this morning for our program participants about responsibility and one of them said that when they were six years old (I can’t really say guy or girl), when they were six years old their family was always working and they were the primary caregiver. You know, this kid was a primary caregiver for like the two-year-old brother. And there’s nothing wrong – I mean, I get that people go to work and they got a kid and say, “Hey, take care of your little brother,” but in the mind of that six-year-old, that six-year-old starts to think that “I am responsible for others, I am responsible for the safety of others, I am responsible for taking care of others.” Now again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but what happens there later on when that six-year-old becomes 20 years old and gets in a relationship and hasn’t worked on all of that? They start to become responsible for other people in relationships. When they’re dating somebody they’re going to find someone, not that’s healthy and good and doing okay, they’re going to find someone that they can show up as that caregiving role, they can be responsible for. It develops codependency, it develops getting into jobs and careers and fields that they become caregivers in. You know a lot of nurses – by the way if you don’t know this – a lot of nurses come from some type of adversity, childhood dysfunction, family dysfunction, that they were the primary caregiver at a really young age, so they become like this person that takes care of other people. And guess what, later on in life they’re like, “Yeah, you know, I got into nursing because I like caring for other people, taking care of other people, this and that.” So they believe that who they are and what they’re doing is who they are – it is an adaptation of their childhood. All it is, is they took on a role as a child and they continue to live it out as an adult and so that’s just an interesting fact right there.
So this next one is huge when it comes to relapse and recovery the question is do you isolate yourself from other people? So one of the most common things – I know we got some counselors watching this, you’ll hear all the time – they just started isolating, they just stopped hanging out with people. Isolation leads to relapse because you’re stuck with your own thoughts. So if the question is, do you isolate yourself from other people, I want you to know this: that alone is a very odd thing for human beings. Now, I understand we have something called extroverted, I understand we have something called introverted. I understand some people when they’re by themselves they charge their batteries and they’re uncomfortable being around a group of people, when they’re around a group of people they feel like their battery gets sucked and when they’re by themselves they recharge it. However, isolation is a completely different phenomenon. Isolation is really linked with depression. And I’ll tell you this because in isolation when you’re by yourself your batteries aren’t charging, you’re staying drained. And human beings, since the beginning of the human story, since the beginning of human history, we have been labeled as communal beings. We work in groups, we gather together, we do things together. Human beings are meant to be together and connected. So when someone is isolating that goes opposite of our true essence. So the question becomes, why does one person isolate? Why does someone isolate? I’ll tell you this – it always goes back to childhood and early development. Why does someone isolate? If you’re coming up in a home with a lot of family dysfunction, if you’re coming up in a home with childhood trauma and again psychological, physical, social, sexual, abuse, neglect, parents drinking, parents fighting, domestic violence, people with mental illness that’s unchecked, people going in and out of hospitals. in and out of jails, separation, divorce, abandonment, that’s what I’m talking about. When you’re coming up with that, that’s not a fun environment for a child to go connect to. That’s not conducive to them. It’s not like I don’t want to go connect myself to this chaotic world so what does a kid do? They isolate for survival. They go in their room, they put their headphones on as loud as they can and they play their video games. They go in their room and they paint and they draw. They go in the room, just get lost in TV, they eventually start running away and doing things, climbing trees, just getting away from people, doing whatever the heck they can do. They isolate to cope with dysfunction. Now if you’re isolating to cope with dysfunction and for self-perseverance and for safety, and you’re doing this at a time in your life that you’re developing in a moment by moment interaction with the environment, five years down the line, 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line, you’re isolating. You’re isolating because you found safety at some point and now you’re no longer finding it. We see this all the time with people in sober living. There’s someone that isolates all the time and the challenge that I gave to the program participants today was: I said, “When you see a guy or girl isolating walk up to him and say, hey you want to go sit outside and talk for a few minutes? You want to go walk to the beach? You want to go spend some time? You want to go do something?” Because in that moment that’s exactly what that person needs but they don’t have the words, the vocabulary, or the language to ask for it. Because at some point in their life when they needed to ask for it they weren’t able to and you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, they’re not a kid anymore, they’re grown now, they should know better, they should do better.” That’s not the way human beings work. Just think about your own behavior. Do you ever do things that you wonder, “Why am I still doing it?” Do you ever do things and you wonder, “Why am I still doing this? I know better,” but despite knowing it you still do it. Everybody knows you’re not supposed to isolate, it’s bad for your mental health, it’s bad for depression, yet people still isolate. So these things are all rooted in childhood. I’m glad you identified with that, Russ, good to see you on this man, thanks for your support all these weeks.
So the next one that I have is, do you respond with fear to authority? Do you respond with fear to angry people? So this is a straight conditioning – it’s a straight conditioning 101. If you grew up in an environment that someone was explosive, whether it was a mom or dad or sibling or grandparent, foster parents, adopted parents, if they’re explosive and you’re a child and you get terrified, you get terrified from the sounds, you get terrified from the sights, someone’s angry, you know children aren’t comfortable around that. And later on in life someone’s yelling and screaming around you and all of a sudden you revert back to a childlike state – you could be 45 years old but if you watch someone yelling or screaming the way someone yelled or screamed and you haven’t worked on your issues and your trauma, it’s going to trigger you and take you right back to that. So if you’re ever wondering that it happened as a child and as an adult you should get over it, that it shouldn’t happen anymore, just think about yourself when you get triggered. And this is by the way, some of you might be saying, “Hey, yeah, I experienced all that but I worked on myself,” this is for people who haven’t addressed all these issues, this is for people that are like a raw nerve, people that don’t have coping skills, people that don’t know how to regulate their emotions.
And the next one (so now we’re getting into relationships, I think that’s where it gets important) – do you have trouble with intimate Intimate relationships? So intimate relationships – when I bring this up at first, the first thought is always like talking about intimacy: physical, sexual, that type of relationship that is an intimate relationship. That’s one version of an intimate relationship but an intimate relationship could also be, if you have a problem with allowing other people to know what’s going on inside of you. Do you have a hard time opening up to people? Do you have a hard time expressing your internal world to others, allowing other people to see you, to hear you, to connect to you? Do you have trouble with intimate relationships? And here’s the thing: where do we first get our first intimate relationships? Home, family unit, mom, dad, siblings, grandparents. Now, if you had dysfunction in that first impression of what it means to be intimate to human beings, if that whole system was unhealthy and dysfunctional, and now later on in life you’ve never resolved it, you never worked on those issues, and now later on in life you’re wondering, “Why can’t I just get close to people? Why do I have intimacy issues? Why is it so hard for me to allow other people in?” It’s because at some point in your life you never developed it. At some point in your life when you allow people to come in and guess what, sometimes the people that are supposed to teach you those things are the ones that take advantage of you and hurt you and now it also develops what we’ll talk about this in a second – it develops trust issues. So people that have trouble with intimate relationships have nothing to do with their current relationships they’re in, it has to do with unresolved relationships in their past, whether it’s platonic relationship, business, romance, all that kind of stuff unresolved. When there’s wounds and scars in the past and you don’t resolve them they’ll continue to show up in today’s relationships.
So the next one says, do you attract compulsive and abusive relationships? Or seek people who tend to be compulsive and abusive? I talked about this one in the morning and so many program participants identified with this one. It’s kind of like you get in a new relationship with someone and it happens to be a different name and a different person but all of the same characteristics and features are the same as the previous relationships. Why? So many other hands went up when I said, “Do you attract or seek people who are compulsive or abusive?” All the hands go up and I ask them, “Okay, this is really odd if you think about it, my friends, because we have 350 million people in America, 8 billion people in the world. If you keep getting in the same relationship with the same type of relationship with just a different person then maybe it has less to do with the person and more to do with yourself and how and why you keep attracting the same person into your life?” When they start thinking about that a little bit they start to realize that, “Hey, what about my past, what about my upbringing, what impact has it had on me that now I need that other piece to be able to feel whole and complete?” And they don’t want to be in these abusive relationships, by the way. People that are in abusive relationships it’s not like they say, “Hey, I can’t wait to get another one,” but unresolved issues attract it back into the world. It’s like two magnets and the other person by the way has their own stuff too. Anybody that’s abusive continues to be that same person in every relationship they show up in. And so that’s a huge one. Abusive relationships, by the way, don’t always have to be physical abuse. If your loved one, if your child continues to abuse you and take advantage of you and manipulate you and psychologically destroy you, that’s an abusive relationship. And if you’re wondering why this keeps happening to me it’s not just love my friends, not just because I love my kid, love’s not supposed to hurt like that. It has to do with your own unresolved issues from your past.
Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone? Now, this is another one – being afraid of being alone. Boredom is defined as the inability to sit with oneself, the inability to be alone with oneself. And why should someone be unable to sit with themselves? Why should someone be unable to to just be? Because at some point in their life when they were alone they were afraid, they were uncomfortable, they were scared and they went on this lifelong pursuit to do whatever they can do, however they can do it, to not be alone. So as I told you guys, I coach high school basketball – this is like an age demographic of like 15 to 18. And when we’re not obviously playing these kids are all on their phones. I know you see this all the time and I’m not trying to give you a cliche but they’re all on their phones and so they’re text messaging but they’re also on multiple different apps, like they’re TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, and they’re also messaging and they’re direct messaging each other and they’re communicating and talking. So they’re constantly connected to people because they don’t want to be alone. I’ll tell you that if we’re ever going to a game we’re traveling on the bus (doing this soon) and we take away their phones they all get uncomfortable. It’s a very abnormal state for them to be in because the cell phone is the new smoking. Okay, I want you guys to hear this. Whenever I see a person with their cell phone in their hand I just visualize someone that’s smoking. So have you ever been in a line anywhere, have you ever been to a restaurant, have you ever been to the airport, have you ever been to watching people drive on the roads prior to like the early 90s or 80s and 70s, stuff like that? You know what people would do? They would smoke in all those places – every one of those places – people would smoke as soon as they were uncomfortable for a second. They would smoke sitting in a car by themselves, they would smoke. One of them is because it’s so damn addicting. Number two, it’s because it was just a pacifier – smoking was like a pacifier, like a baby pacifier, that’s what smoking was. And then they said all these studies came out about smoking, it’s bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your health, it causes obstruction of the veins, it could lead to stroke and heart attack. People said, “Okay, well we can’t do this one that much,” so now with the cell phone they say scrolling up and down on your phone is the new smoking. Just watch people in social settings – their cell phones are out and they’re doing the same thing. If you watch them in airports, you watch them in their cars, you know in their cars people are just going, you watch them in restaurants people are just going and scrolling – it’s the new smoking. Because when you scroll up and down there’s also dopamine – really, it’s highly addicting. I mean people always joke around with these apps. I don’t have TikTok but there’s like all these jokes about how when you go on TikTok it’s like daytime and it’s nighttime and you’re still scrolling up and down. You guys really think the only reason that’s happening is because there’s entertaining content on it? No, the brain – neural chemicals of the brain – are involved in this thing that produces dopamine. It produces addiction, hence people do it for longer periods than they actually wanted to do it. Instagram has the same concept to it – all these endless scrolls that are happening – all they’re doing is fighting for human attention. They’re fighting for your attention. They’re getting your receptors hooked in, addicted to this stuff, so people that cling to relationships (going back to the topic) are afraid of being alone. There are so many people that just tolerate and put up with relationships or they can’t be single because they just can’t be with themselves and the only reason they can’t be with themselves right now is because at some point in their life they couldn’t be with themselves because they were scared, they were terrified, they were afraid, usually their childhood has nothing to do with right now but it’s unresolved issues that show up in life later on.
The next one says, do you mistrust? Trust issues. Your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others. So pretty much a short way of saying that is, do you have trust issues as an adult? And if the answer is yes I’ll tell you where the roots of this comes from. So if you’re coming up in a family dysfunction home were you able to trust the environment? Were you able to trust what’s happening when you come home from school? Were you able to trust when mom and dad said I’ll be there on the weekend, I’ll be there for the holiday, I’ll be there for your game and they didn’t show up? Were you able to trust the fact that let’s just say dad was drinking or mom was drinking and they got sober for a little bit and then they come home, one of them is drunk, the other one’s threatening to leave? Instability. Were you able to trust the things they told you, we’ll always be there for you, you know all that kind of stuff? And later on in life do you have trust issues as a result of that stuff? And can you trust yourself? By the way, how many times have you said I’m going to do something and then you didn’t do it? How many times did you say I’m going to start something and you didn’t start it? See, we do to ourselves what other people did to us – that’s the whole mystery of life. We do to ourselves what other people did to us. When other people hurt us later on in life we hurt ourselves and if you don’t resolve it, my friends, you will hurt someone else down the line exactly the same way you were hurt, exactly the same way you were hurt. Even if it was the most painful thing that ever happened to you, you’re gonna do it to someone when it’s unchecked, when it’s untreated, when it’s unregulated.
And the next one (there’s only two more here) that I have: Learned behavior. If you have any questions, by the way, about anything that I’m saying, yeah absolutely! Tony just said it is learned behavior, and the beauty of it is (and Tony knows this) anything that can be learned can be unlearned. And we can relearn something and maybe we’ve never learned it in our life, maybe nobody ever taught it to us in our life and that’s the thing about being human. We don’t just learn behavior when we’re children we can learn behavior later on in life. One of my favorite quotes, and I might completely butcher this thing they say, “The illiterate of the future is not someone that can’t read or write. The illiterate of the future is someone who can’t unlearn and relearn what they’ve learned in life.” What they’ve experienced in life has nothing to do with reading or writing. Can you unlearn what’s not serving you and can you relearn something that’s going to help you move forward? Here’s the thing: I’m not saying family dysfunction and childhood trauma is a death sentence. I’m not saying it screws you up for the rest of your life. For a lot of people family dysfunction and childhood trauma is the catalyst for who they are and allows them to transcend into somewhere that they would never have gotten to without it. You know, our pain becomes our greatest asset but there’s no value to any of that stuff if we don’t channel it and process it and use it for the positive. I mean, with family dysfunction and childhood trauma because one thing that I love to highlight is, when you read the autobiography of really successful people or musicians or athletes or entrepreneurs or you know those kind of people you’ll notice really quickly, their childhood wasn’t that good. They had a lot of dysfunction in their home but what they did with it, how they used it, how it served them, that’s where the beauty comes from. And there’s a lot of people that have family dysfunction, childhood trauma and they just repeat the same cycle over and over again because they didn’t do anything with it. And so again, a lot of the traumatic events I went through in life are the reasons why I am who I am and I’m totally cool with that, but at some point in my life when I was still drinking and when I was acting out and doing all that kind of stuff, that was my wound and that was my pain. It wasn’t helpful to me at that time. It didn’t serve a purpose to me at that time.
The next one says, do you find it difficult to identify and express your emotions? Identify and express emotions. So there’s two different things: identifying emotions is one thing, expressing them is another thing. Before you can express your emotions you have to understand and identify what you’re experiencing. A lot of people have a hard time expressing their emotions because they can’t identify what they have, they only identify with two feelings: pissed the hell off, or completely down. Like really really up here, really down here. There are thousands of emotions that happen in between, but when you can’t identify them when you don’t know what they are, how are you going to express them? See, the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know. The eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know. So if you don’t know what it is you’re experiencing, how can you see it, how can you articulate it, how can you express it ? So that’s why, for example, counseling, therapy, group therapy and support groups are helpful because you get to talk and in that talking you start to identify, “Oh, that’s how I’m feeling,” or someone identifies something and says how they felt and you’re like, “Ding! That’s it right there, that’s exactly what it was for me.” And that helps for people that can’t identify their emotions. And then there’s expressing it. Expressing is a whole different thing. You’ve heard me say this before and I’ll say it again. When I speak words to you every word that I’m using is being selectively picked and chosen in a way to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about, to hopefully keep you engaged, to make it sound like this is a valuable talk. It’s going through the filter of my mind so every word that I’m saying right now is being filtered for you. However, the hand is directly connected to the heart. That’s why I can write things down on a piece of paper that I could never say to another person. It bypasses that filter of judgment. There are so many things you can write down on a piece of paper that you won’t just sit in front of me and tell me. So the first homework assignment for anyone that has a hard time identifying and expressing their emotions is to grab a piece of paper and pen and start writing and start writing and start writing and start writing. I don’t even care what you do with it – it’s called stream of consciousness writing – just write, write, write, write, write, write. You can take it and burn it in the backyard if you want, you can light it on fire, you can do whatever you want with it, you can tear it up and throw it in the trash can, but do something to be able to write because it gets it out, it creates the psychological and emotional muscles to be able to articulate it one day to somebody. Because we’re going to need to. This is huge, Eileen, I want you to know that this really is huge because she wrote, “It takes courage to delve into the roots of our behavior patterns.” She knows they’re patterns – that’s wonderful that you know that – and courage is – what the definition of courage is (and I know a lot of you know it but), it means the ability to take action despite of fear, despite of discomfort. So when someone says it’s a courageous act to dive into the roots because there’s fear in those roots. And why is there fear? Because when they developed originally in the onset then and there back then whatever that was for you they were covered in fear, because kids get afraid, people get afraid, and dysfunctional people get afraid in trauma. That’s why it takes courage, so absolutely, I hope that made sense – it made a lot of sense to me.
Do you think your upbringing in family dysfunction and childhood trauma affected you? The last question – this one’s just very generic but it says, do you think that your upbringing in family dysfunction and childhood trauma may have affected you? I know that sounds like a very simple question but here’s why this is important. We know it affects us when we’re children. Everybody knows that you can’t look at a child – go look at a 12 year old and just say – if the family’s going crazy, if there’s abuse, psychological, emotional, physical, if there’s alcoholism, you know that kid’s getting impacted, you know it for a fact. You saw those kids are innocent, they’re vulnerable, their minds are impressionable, you know that kid’s getting impacted. But later on in life you just minimize it, you dumb it down, you just say, “you know what, yeah, it happens to everybody.” First of all, no, it doesn’t. Family dysfunction and childhood trauma, to this extent that I’m talking about, does not happen to everybody. It might happen to the people watching this or the program participants we have, but it’s not a universal experience. Second of all, later on, “you know that I was a kid when that happened, it’s different now, it’s over now.” No, it’s not. Unresolved issues, the roots lead to these behavior patterns that we have to this day. And I’m telling you this as a therapist, as an addiction specialist, as a counselor, if you don’t address the roots it will continue to grow. If you don’t address the underlying causes of this stuff when it happened, even if it happened when you were a child, it will continue to grow, it will continue to grow, and it will continue to show up, and it will continue to rear his ugly head, and manifest itself in your own life, in your own relationships, at work, with your children, with your neighbors, with your friends, with your peers. It’s not just something that happened when you were a child. It’s something that is happening to you right now, until you say, “You know what, I need to change the story, I need to change this narrative, I need to get what was good from that experience, and process the rest of it, because I don’t want to continue living this way.” If that’s the case there are programs for this. I’ll go with the free of charge programs – we talked about Al-anon last week, there’s another program that’s really wonderful, more on the emotional healing side of things, it’s called Adult Children of Alcoholics or Addicts. And it doesn’t always have to be drugs and alcohol, remember you can have a workaholic parent, you could have a parent that was a gambler, you could have a parent that was promiscuous, you could have a parent that just constantly left. If you had dysfunction in your home you’re an adult child right now. Why do they call them adult children? It’s because they’re adults but their emotional development has stagnated to when they were a child going through dysfunction. There’s a program called Adult Children of Alcoholics free of charge – support group, local communities, free literature – you just show up, you listen, you hear people, you identify and you get to those roots. And if that’s not enough because that’s just paraprofessionals and support group, get with a therapist, get with someone, get with a counselor, you can do so many different options right now, get on telehealth, do something to say, “Hey, I’m a grown adult right now but my childhood keeps sticking its head up in my life. I want to do something about it.” And by the way, all the unresolved stuff for those of you who are watching this, and you have loved ones and children and spouses going through addiction, it shows up in that relationship too. If you think your loved one getting clean and sober is going to take away your own childhood issues that is factually false – it’s not gonna happen – all that’s gonna happen is they’re gonna be sober and you’re still gonna be you – you’re still gonna be stuck with whatever it is that you’re stuck with. Your peace of mind is not contingent on their sobriety. They’ll get sober and you still won’t have peace of mind. You’ll have peace of mind that they’re sober but that’s about it, you know, that’s about it.
So today was another heavy talk geared to the family members as human beings, because I do consider you as an independent entity than your loved one. I do believe that you’re unique and special for who you are. It’s so easy to get caught up in, “I want to go help my kid,” that you forget the most important person in the room is yourself, and helping yourself is always primary, number one. So thank you so much everyone for this talk. Yeah, you’re welcome guys, the last three – Eileen, Lynn and Dan, I’m glad this was excellent – I appreciate that word and I get prepared you guys know. And if there’s any topics by the way right now since I have some of you returners (if you will) – I call you guys my loyal returners – if there’s anything you want to hear about just write it in the side chats – I mean I read all those myself – so if there’s a specific topic, if there’s something that you want to hear about again, I do have a broad range of mental health topics, so it’s not just addictions, but if there’s anything you want just write the topic and I’ll go ahead and create a whole talk for you on that topic. And I would gladly do that, so love and appreciate you guys, have a wonderful weekend, I will see you back in the same place, same time next week. Thanks everyone!