It’s a family affair

Is it possible that those who love us most of all, made us anxious, depressed or irritable? It's difficult to believe, but probably true. They didn't mean to, but through misguided love they twisted us up inside and hid the person we really should have become (1).

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m a good woman... I am a good woman, but I get anxious around people and then angry with them… at work and with my husband and…”
She gulps and her face crumples…
“… even my children.”

Over several sessions my client talked through her experiences and her relationship with her parents.

  • “That's not our way."
  • “Why do you want to do that?"
  • “I know exactly what I like and I know I'm right."
  • “They're wrong... They're stupid."

Most of the time adopting her family's rigid lifestyle of dismissive raised voices was acceptable to my client, but deep down she felt wrong about it and often had a painful confusing, almost alien twist inside, a little like she was looking in on her life from the outside (2).

Most of my clients find comfort in having a little understanding of how their head works – emotional knowledge.

A Significant Other is someone you want to receive encouragement, affection and love from - usually our parents, but there can also be other big players in our life like siblings, teachers, partners...

Conditions of Worth are values placed upon you by a Significant Other who is someone who will only value or respect you if you follow their rules. “I will only love you if you behave like this." Conditional love.

This specific client soon picked up some basic theory regarding personality (3). Her emotional knowledge cleared up a lot of why she had developed as an anxious and irritable person.

She realised her family's hard-hitting, rigid rules had made her become narrow-minded and critical. A frustrated anxiuos and often angry person.

“Whenever I wanted to do something that was different from the way they lived, I was dragged sharply back into line.

I became a square peg in a round hole.

I know they loved me... still love me and I feel really close and part of them, but they made me feel sort of uneasy in a way I couldn’t explain.”

Being Incongruent is when your thinking is confused and uncertain. You're unsure why and often have really uneasy feelings.

Through love and loyalty to her family and before she could stop herself, she had become conditioned into this woman who was always finding fault and frequently getting angry.

An Introjection is absorbing conditioning into your own inner self, so deeply you believe it originated from within you rather than being forced upon you because of your drive to belong or fit in.

Gaining some simple emotional knowledge provided clarity for my client, but she also experienced a sensation of family disloyalty and some slight lingering internal misgivings during this process.

“I realise now that it was partly not being myself and finding 'family rules' difficult to accept, but following them regardless that made me on edge and short-tempered. I found it very hard to accept that this worried person I had been all my life wasn’t really me and that my family, who love me dearly, had helped make me anxious. It’s like tough love in reverse.”

Being Congruent is when you feel, think and operate in a genuine, confident, grounded way. You feel really easy and at one with your self and you have a pretty good idea why your life is the way it is (4).

She now sees the world through her own eyes. Her parent's rules are OK for them, but not for her. My client decided that she was different from them, more easygoing and accepting of differences. This new awareness wasn't an easy transition, but it gave her a big sense of relief.

Fluidity is the acceptance that issues, which might agitate you, may not be as certain and important as you originally thought... and far less important than you becoming angry.

“I still get a bit... you know… frayed from time to time, but at the same time I’ve really changed... less anxious... I suppose a leopard can change its spots.”

The human mind and personality is not a thing made of rock. Change is happening perpetually and often it can be beneficial.

“I can’t quite put it into words, but I seem to feel more like the real me now... more relaxed and even tempered... less rules... more space.”

Your True (Organismic) Self is the real you (5). How you could or should have grown up if others had not conditioned you to see, think, feel and behave according to their rules.

“The unexpected thing - it's strange really... funny... is that my family all say they really like the change in me.”


  1. Larkin (1971)
  2. Mearns & Thorne (2007)
  3. Rogers (1951)
  4. Merry (Rogers) (2006)
  5. Rogers (1963)

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