Parenting, Stress Management

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Families

Do you feel like you don’t quite fit in? Maybe you have upsetting thoughts you can’t shake. These can be the results of a dysfunctional upbringing.

The families we are born into teach us how to think and respond to the world around us. Some of us get healthy families. Some of us get “good-enough” families. And some of us get abusive or neglectful families.

Child neglect includes:

  • Forgetting or refusing to feed the child(ren)
  • Not providing clean or warm clothing for the child(ren)
  • Not meeting the medical needs of the child(ren)

Abusive parenting may include, but is not limited to:

  • Yelling or cussing at the child(ren)
  • Punching or shaking the child(ren)
  • Sexual contact with the child(ren)

Both abusive and neglectful families have their own sets of obstacles to overcome.

People raised in abusive homes struggle with:

People raised in neglectful homes struggle with:

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) shows great promise in working through family-of-origin issues. ACT stresses the acceptance of things in our lives which cannot be changed. Many of us are confronted by things which cannot be changed every time we attend a family reunion or even when we log on to Facebook: perhaps a hurtful memory from our past, a mother’s disability, or a brother’s struggle with addiction.

We cannot change the things that happened to us. We cannot fully erase memories or pretend they never happened. Once we are able to accept those things that happened to us, we are free to move on and heal the emotional wounds they left behind.

Healing comes through learning to stay in the present moment and not allowing your memories to constantly reinjure you. Our minds have a way of wandering back to painful memories; that’s normal. But we have the power to grab our thoughts and bring them back to the present. We can take a moment, notice the room we are in, and notice our bodily sensations. In other words, hear what we hear and see what we see.

Healing also comes by reminding ourselves that we are not our memories. Our thoughts and emotions are a part of us, but they are not us. We can change our thoughts. We can change our minds.

There is healing in learning how to detach and separate ourselves from our thoughts. Just because we have a thought does not make that thought true. And just because a thought passes through the mind does not mean we have to have an emotional reaction to that thought.

Healing comes in our ability to figure out what is really important to us in our lives. Maybe it is a strong belief in justice or nonviolence. Or maybe we value animal welfare or human rights.

Finally, healing comes in making life choices based on those things which are important to us. Perhaps our values help us decide where to work, shape our hobbies, and shape whether we choose to volunteer with a like-minded charity.

The research has been pretty consistent that one of the ways to make ourselves feel better is to, in some way, help others. And it is such an empowering feeling to be at peace with yourself that once you learn what truly feeling good feels like, you will never want to go back to feeling badly again.

Leave a Reply