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stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can often be at least partially addressed by examining both positive and negative family of origin experiences

Our family of origin consists of the family we grew up in, and it’s where we developed our sense of self and our values and beliefs. It’s the place where we learned how to communicate, how to deal with our emotions, and how to get our needs met. If we grew up in a loving, safe family, we may have developed a strong, positive sense of self, and healthy communication and social skills.

However, if we grew up in a chaotic, fear-based environment, we may have experienced poor or even non-existent parenting; ongoing conflict between parents; single-parent conflicts with partners or other family members; a low sense of self-esteem and self-worth; physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse; addiction; and other dysfunctional circumstances.

Our family of origin experience produced our world-view for survival and ways of relating to others. The messages we received, whether verbal or non-verbal, formed our beliefs about ourselves, our abilities, and our personal and emotional approach to others. These messages continue to influence our choices and behaviors through our lives and affect our attitudes on issues such as relationships, emotions, intimacy, sex, gender roles, money, professions, etc. We will carry these old messages into our relationships, personal and professional, generally until something happens to make us want to change them. Some things that can prompt us to seek therapy include:

  • Continuous problems in relationships
  • Conflicts in professional situations
  • Addictions
  • A sense of limitations in personal or professional goals
  • Low self-worth and self-esteem
  • Issues resulting from early life physical or sexual abuse

Therapy can help clarify the family of origin issues we’ve always lived with and help us to better understand why we do certain things, make certain choices, hold certain beliefs, and experience certain emotions. Severe abuse or neglect in the family of origin, or from any other source, can require the need for long-term therapy; and positive healing and growth can be achieved.

Family of origin experiences don’t explain everything involved in addressing mental health issues; genetics and free-will can play a role. Therapy can help us face and overcome our fears, pursue our goals, and achieve some sense of peace. Challenging old messages and making positive changes for ourselves isn’t easy; but, with the guidance of therapy and support, we can experience personal growth and a happier life. Therapists at New Leaf Center are trained to help clients overcome the distress associated with family of origin issues, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and trauma.