How to Heal Family Wounds

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:10
On the one hand, addressing old rifts and frayed relationships in the family can be painful. On the other hand, letting past wounds go untreated means you risk losing valuable, long-enduring family bonds. So, rather than allowing them to...
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On the one hand, addressing old rifts and frayed relationships in the family can be painful. On the other hand, letting past wounds go untreated means you risk losing valuable, long-enduring family bonds. So, rather than allowing them to fester and worsen, learn how to repair the damage and come out of it even stronger than before. While it may seem like confronting family members and addressing the issue outright is the most logical way to do this, there are in fact other options you can choose, such as writing a letter, extending a direct apology, or practicing more productive and open communication in the future.

Method 1
Method 1 of 4:

Talking it Out

  1. Step 1 Find a time to meet in person.
    Confronting past grievances in a face-to-face meeting can help bridge old rifts and improve communication. If you have ongoing conflict and you're a tight-knit family, you might even want to arrange a standing weekly or biweekly family meeting where everyone gets together to talk. This will help to keep everyone abreast of current issues and give everyone the opportunity to express themselves.[1]
    • Many families are dispersed across wide-ranging geographical boundaries, so getting together in person can be a somewhat rare occurrence. It may be necessary to talk over the phone or video chat.
    • Even if the next such occurrence is a few months away, you can use the intervening time to organize your thoughts and plan your peaceful confrontation.
    • If the only time your family gets together is the holidays, try not to use this as a time to work out your problems. People put a lot of expectations of magic of the holidays, and they can become more emotional and irrational when they feel that their holidays are ruined and become resentful of whomever they feel is responsible. Also, it can make people start to dread the holidays, as they come to associate them with stress and fighting. Reserve the holidays for savoring family time and find another time to talk about serious issues.
  2. Step 2 Establish ground rules for the discussion.
    Since the conflicts you're addressing are deeply personal, discussions can get heated quickly. Excessive emotion can derail the conversation and make it almost impossible to reach a productive resolution, so you should try to keep things calm and controlled. Do this by establishing a general code of conduct which forbids certain destructive behaviors, such as interrupting, bringing up unrelated quarrels, and name-calling.
    • It can be helpful to enlist the input of the other party in formulating these rules so they don't feel like you are just parenting or lecturing them.
    • Regulating the discussion can be easier if you have a disinterested party like a family friend or level-headed relative to mediate your discussion.
    • If you have a big family but your lingering resentment involves just one or two other family members, you'll probably want to carve out a special appointment or time when just the aggrieved parties (and potentially a mediator) can meet and talk. This will avoid unnecessary interference from well-meaning relatives.
  3. Step 5 Agree to move on.
    Perhaps the most important part of healing interpersonal conflict is coming to a mutual, explicit consensus that you're all going to make an effort to move forward. This agreement shifts the emphasis of old wounds to the future: you're all acknowledging the hurtful past while also recognizing that this past cannot be changed. The only things you can control are your actions and words going forward, so say something at the conclusion like, "Now that we've talked about this, let's agree to let this issue go and concentrate on improving our future behavior and relationship."[3]
    • It can help to write out a list or “contract” of behaviors and words you both agree to avoid or follow in the future. Things like “no passive aggressive texts,” “everyone must extend invitations to all family events—no petty exclusions!” and “no venting to mutual friends or family members” can help to remind everyone not to slip back into old habits and aggressions.
    • Remember, too, that no one is perfect, and it can be hard to change ingrained behaviors. Forgive people when they slip up.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 4:

Making Amends

  1. Step 2 Apologize...
    Apologize. Once you've gathered your thoughts and feel ready to approach those you've hurt, extend a heartfelt apology to your loved ones. You can do this through a letter or email, or in person. No matter what method you choose, the most important thing is to be direct, accept accountability without dodging blame or rationalizing, and show you have thought about the impact of your actions.[6]
    • For example, don't say something like, “I'm so sorry for hurting your feelings. I never intended to hurt you, and in any case I was really upset about what you said to me that one time. But anyway, I'm sorry!” Instead, say, “I'm so sorry for what I did. It was a foolish and small-minded thing to do, and I want you to know how regretful I am.”
    • Allow the other parties to explain how they were hurt by your behavior. Feeling heard is an important part of being able to forgive someone. Listening to the person without interrupting, defending yourself, or making excuses does a lot of the work for you.
  2. Step 3 Emphasize your desire to make amends.
    An apology seems somewhat hollow if it focuses solely on the past wrongdoing. In order for your compunction to ring true, you should also promise never to repeat the same offense. In other words, you're not just extending a flimsy, retrospective excuse, but vowing to work at correcting your behavior in the future.[7]
    • Be as specific and concrete as possible in order to demonstrate that you've thought about how to realistically amend and avoid personal pitfalls. For example, if you are apologizing for gossiping and saying malicious things about a family member, don't just say, “I'll never do it again!” Rather, say something like, “I feel terrible about what I said and promise not to repeat it. I think I was using these texts to friends as a way to vent about other things and frustrations in my life, so I have started writing a journal or seeing a therapist in order to deal with my problems in more productive ways.”
    • It can often be helpful to ask, "How can I make this up to you?"
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Method 3
Method 3 of 4:

Recovering from Betrayal or Trauma

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Method 4
Method 4 of 4:

Building Future Bonds

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