People who in their childhood were unable to take control of their own lives often suffer from learned helplessness. They believe that things and people outside of themselves are responsible for everything that happens to them, even when this isn’t the case. They think that their happiness relies on the outside, as it did in childhood. When they are unhappy, they believe it must be because of what someone else is doing, and then they start blaming their spouse or children. Sometimes, of course, this is true. But often it isn’t; their misery comes from inside, from unresolved issues, and from the fact that they don’t know how to create a healthy family life. There are no lines!
People from a healthy family are able, for the most part, to live in the here and now and face the challenges of life. They do not feel that they are helpless. They do not feel that other people or circumstances control everything in their life, and they do not allow them to do so. They can make decisions that affect their lives. They live out the Serenity Prayer: “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer was developed for people suffering from learned helplessness and crisis addiction. Anyone, no matter what their background, can recover the capacity to distinguish between what they can and cannot change, and the ability to take charge of their life.
A healthy family is not a place where children are shaped to the desires of the parents, but a nurturing ground in which they can feel safe enough to develop their true selves. In this family, people can set boundaries and limits that say: “This is how far I am willing to go. This is what I will or won’t do for you. This is what I won’t tolerate.”
• When we involve children in decision making in areas that concern them, we teach them that they can face the challenges of life.
• When we are open to their interests, gifts and needs, we nurture the development of their true selves.
• When we can set limits based on family values, we teach empathy and care of others.
• When we support them to solve their problems, we give them resilience.