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When There’s an Unhappy Home

Uncovering Dysfunction in Your Family Unit

“A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.” ~Buddha

Family is supposed to be our fortress - the cornerstone of safety, acceptance and validation. However, this isn’t always the case, which creates chaos and dysfunction. Facing unhealthy patterns and freeing ourselves from cycles of toxicity is crucial for our overall health and well-being. First, though, comes acknowledgement of the dynamics happening within the family unit. Without it, becoming a better version of self is much harder and may not be achievable. Personally, this was the scariest part of my healing journey. While I knew logically that my childhood home wasn’t a happy place, I was terrified to face certain truths that I’d allowed myself to bury for decades. 

Dysfunctional family patterns play out in various - and often confusing - ways, leaving us feeling emotionally manipulated, controlled, and not seen or heard. Unfortunately, because unhealthy family behaviors are often passed down from one generation to the next, it can present the issue of “acceptability” in the unhealthiness leaving families to suffer as children take on behaviors as “normal.” 

Living inside toxic family behaviors can make it difficult to become aware of the need for change making it nearly impossible for change to occur. But, leaving things unhealed results in a legacy of pain. 

The Cycle Breaker

I was so angry when my  therapist told me that I needed to face the problems inside my family. “They got me here,” I remember saying to her.

I didn’t want to face it. Why? Because I’d become the master of dodging it. 

It’s not an accident that my passion is now helping people overcome their disempowering beliefs that start in childhood. I had to unchain the pain in order to become Allyson. There was no other way. Now, I demonstrate to others how they can become more than the pain their other family members refused to heal.

Our family dynamic was that my dad worked tirelessly, played even harder and was never home while my mother took all of her rage, abandonment issues, and spite out on the kids with her fists, ugly words, and the combo of emotional manipulation and detachment. I knew it was sad, but as a kid there was nothing I could do about it. Life was all about survival of the fittest and staying hidden as much as possible. 

To say that I lacked emotional maturity and intelligence is an understatement. As a result, I clung to anything that even remotely felt like “love,” which meant my trust was placed in very wrong people for me. I found myself pregnant, homeless and living in my car while almost freezing to death. Even though I managed to manifest myself out of that situation rather quickly, I kept repeating horrible patterns of financial confusion, emotional torment, and relationship disasters. Life was a mess!

I craved normalcy, yet found myself surrounded by drama. I wasn’t alone. My siblings also kept repeating unhealthy behaviors to varying degrees. It’s easier to dismiss family dysfunction by labeling the entire family “crazy” or “nuts” and go about life. However, the way family members engage and communicate with one another can perpetuate the problems encountered and how they’re resolved. As an adult, if you’re seeing the same patterns on repeat, this can lead to even more trauma. Then what happens is that the most mundane family situation can blow up and become so mishandled that it further harms each individual member inside the family.

One of the biggest obstacles to creating better familial relationships is hoping and praying that others will change their behavior. “If only Dad would stop and talk to me, then…” Or, “If Mom was sweeter to me, I’d be able to….” By doing this, we are disregarding personal responsibility for our own healing. 

The first step is recognizing how dysfunctional relationships present themselves. Some of the most common manifestations of family dysfunction are below.

If you find that you’ve had enough pain, just know that your pain can be healed…completely. Right now, you need to become aware of some BASIC ways that family dysfunction presents itself. You could spend years researching and, yes, you would find much more than what’s provided here. The thing is, you have to start somewhere and that’s what I’m offering below. I’ve been sharing these symptoms for years because these seem to be the ones that help gain insight into your wounds, what was happening in your childhood home, and it all helps you feel less crazy and more empowered. Let’s begin.


To put it as simply as possible, enmeshment is an unhealthy lack of emotional and psychological boundaries between family members.

A family member may become overly involved in another family member's life; or two or more members can become consumed in each other’s lives, often experiencing reactions and actions that are similar, coerced, controlled, manipulated and they all lose any sense of autonomy.

Think of the overbearing parent who won’t allow their adult child to make their own decisions through shaming and/or guilting them and that same child believing they can’t stand up for themselves. Married couples who fall into the trap of not making decisions independently of each other are also an example.

Left unresolved, enmeshment can prevent people from forming healthy, independent relationships outside the family. Often what I see is one person being aware enough to know it’s not healthy but then waiting for the other person to change which leads us to our next symptom. 


In these relationships, there’s often one person who SACRIFICES in order to care for others. Their own needs come last. This person’s entire identity is wrapped around being the Sacrificer/Rescuer. 

In codependent relationships, the Rescuer often enables destructive or even dangerous behaviors in others. My dad played this role as he allowed everyone to walk all over him. 

This is the mother who gets angry at the teacher when their child misbehaves. This is the spouse who makes excuses for their cheating partner. Both Rescuers in these scenarios would rather look like “the good person”  then take a stand for themselves. 

Emotional Abuse

Of all the abuses, Emotional abuse is the most  insidious because it can quietly infuse  itself into a relationship and masquerade as love.

Emotional abuse includes manipulation, verbal abuse, conditional love, constant criticism, controlling behavior, and more. 

Emotional abuse is THE abuse that harmed me the most. It lead to suicidal thoughts and a plan that thankfully I fully believe was intervened by one of my Angels. (Not even kidding.)


If any of these feel familiar, and your body is responding to memories or thoughts, then you’re probably a member of a dysfunctional family.

So, you’re ready to turn in your membership card! Now what?

Stepping Into Your Power!

Awareness is the absolute greatest gift we give ourselves. Why? Because you can’t change what you can’t see, feel and know. 

This is why paying attention to your behavior is the fastest way to your truth. Only you know if you’re breaking promises to yourself, spending money erratically, drinking in excess, and making other decisions that are sabotaging you. 

Start by making a list of the problematic patterns in yourself and in your family. 

The next step is to examine your past. You have to face your past to heal your present. 

Childhood Experiences

Select one thing that’s happening now in your life that brings you emotional discomfort. Think back to your childhood. Do you sense any of the same emotions? Does the present feel like the past, in other words? Herein lies a clue that you have an unhealed wound that needs your attention. 

Communication Patterns

How is your communication? Do you state your needs clearly? Are you able to address an issue calmly? Do those in relationships with you feel safe in your presence? Do you feel safe with them? These are all great questions to determine your levels of authenticity, autonomy, and safety. Again, better awareness brings answers.

Family Expectations and Your Perception

Expectations breed disappointment. We want so much to be accepted and validated without our family unit even when they have hurt us. It’s human nature to feel this way. However, the first thing you must accept in the healing process is that your expectations for your family are probably unrealistic and coming from your inner child wanting everything to feel safe and be okay. 

The best gift you can give yourself is to reflect on your own patterns. Your raw honesty with yourself is the gateway to personal freedom. 

Doing inner child work can bring up a lot of stuff! I’m not going to lie to you. Feelings that you’ve tried to skirt around, excuse, lock away all flood in like a tidal wave. This is why it’s so important to surround yourself with loving and supportive people who can hold space for you while you process your past. A skilled guide can assist you in being an observer of your past and not an active participant. This way, you can process the pain without reliving it. 

Anger wasn’t an emotion that was allowed with either of my parents. They divorced when I was ten and they both made it clear that I needed to be okay - all the time. So, as I worked through my past, I was enraged. I finally accepted that I was robbed of a healthy, grounded, and meaningful childhood experience. Instead, I grew up too fast and had to play a role for my parents so that they felt safe. 

I also finally accepted that my mother used me as a pawn and that was extremely hurtful. As I processed decades of disappointment and sadness, I had a revelation one day that I can’t change what happened anymore than I can make it rain. I realized that I was being a victim in my stories and that wasn’t okay with me. I’d become so familiar with my anger toward my parents, and even other family members, that I wore it like a badge. This was a hard truth to swallow, but again, we cannot change what we aren’t willing to face head on. 

A sort of miracle happened when I allowed myself to finally feel. The anger stopped. I broke a cycle within myself. The other surprise was how easily forgiveness came to my heart. I didn’t have to intend it, or even decide to forgive, it was simply there inside of me as I naturally released blame and accusations.

You’re allowed to be happy! 

Your happy life won’t just happen. No one is coming to rescue you and no matter how much money you earn, how many friends you have or how amazing your ass looks in your jeans, none of that matters if your heart isn’t free. That is the definition of happiness, I believe. 

You’re going to have to embrace your personal responsibility - period.

Once you understand what dysfunction looks like, how it manifests in your relationships, and the awful way it makes you feel inside, you can take the next steps toward change.

1. Decide to change and forget about anyone else changing with you or agreeing to your changes. This is for YOU!

Because you can only control your own actions, understanding what you need to do personally is crucial. Sadly, family members often aren’t ready to admit the need for change, or participate in it even if they do.

To start, accept that you may not be listening very well. So, seek to understand what your family is trying to tell you. A great technique is to repeat back what you believe you heard, “So what I hear you saying is ________________.” They will either tell you that you understand or they will repeat their response. Warning: Dysfunctional people aren’t fond of this practice but you can set a boundary that you must have this type of conversation because you don’t want to pretend to hear people any longer. Just the practice of setting the boundary will begin your process of taking back your life. 

Next, begin the process of establishing other types of healthy relationships.  When you can see yourself connecting with others in a healthy way, you can have breakthroughs about yourself. You’ll begin to see that people can have healthy families, marriages, and work relationships. This will allow you to become more of yourself as your vulnerability opens and you step more fully into your truth. Hopefully, you’ll be able to share this new version of you with your family, but even if you can’t, you will heal in what will feel like miraculous ways. 

Lastly, I want to speak to you deeply from my heart. The worst thing I see people do is stay in toxic relationships. Please be willing to step away from a situation where you’re being mistreated and there is no hope left in the situation. Your mental health is THE priority. Regardless of what your relationship is, if anyone is standing in your way, your best option is most likely to cut ties. 

2. Give people who want to change a chance to thrive with you. 

  • Regular communication where everyone is seen and heard is mandatory.

  • Each person is contributing to healthy decision-making.

  • Clear and healthy boundaries are established quickly and the limits on behaviors, emotions, and communications are being met. Each person clearly knows what’s expected, what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable. An example of a healthy boundary is this, “I accept you being upset, however, what I don’t accept is you calling me names, dominating the conversation, and belittling me. If this happens, I will end our talk and leave.”

3. Consider professional help if you feel stuck.

Breaking the cycle of dysfunction is not a quick fix. In our society it seems that we all want instant gratification. This is NOT that. Grace, patience and empathy are needed in the process of change if it is to be lasting. You will need to embody new ways of feeling, thinking and behaving in order to become a healthier version of yourself. 

While some people thrive on their own journey, most people need therapy, cognitive coaching or a combination of both to navigate the sometimes complicated process of what is transformation.a gradual and ongoing process. 

It’s also not linear, meaning that you’ll believe you’ve worked through something only to have it surface again. For me, in the beginning of my healing journey, this is the thing that would confuse and dismantle my progress the fastest. I would feel so defeated and I don’t know what I would have done had I not had capable people in my corner to hold my hand through the process. 

Here’s what I know. You can go through life mindlessly repeating painful patterns for the rest of your life. Or, you can choose right now to begin the process of change so that your life can feel different, and your aspirations for better living can actualize. 

Today my relationships are healthy, my goals are clear, my inspired actions are undeniable, and I don’t follow the dysfunctional patterns I grew up with—I chose to be a cycle breaker and have a better life.

Maybe you’d like to live a different life. If so, we need to talk. You’ve made it all the way to the end of this message written specifically for you.

Your next logical step is to email me at Tell me that you’re ready to heal your past. I will take it from there. Believe me when I say that it will be the BEST decision you’ve made in awhile. I’ll speak with you soon.

All my love and support,


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