One of my mentors once described families like the one I grew up in as crazy-making. I thought, “Wow, that’s a fantastic description.” Take a perfectly normal infant child, bring them up in a crazy-making family and you’ve pretty much got a recipe for insanity. But how do you know if you’re living in a crazy-making family? Well, I’m glad you asked. So here’s the top 10 signs that your family is crazy-making:
1. Denial of Feelings
Everyone’s got feelings, but in a crazy-making family everybody’s pretending that they don’t. We’re all walking around like emotional robots pretending that we don’t have feelings, and yet still responding to the feelings that are going on inside us, just without ever acknowledging them.
Now, as a child growing up around people that are all walking around pretending the whole time that they’re a robot, that’s pretty confusing because I knew, for instance, that I had very strong feelings inside and yet the other humans around me were pretending that they didn’t exist and then they acted in really weird, volatile ways that suggested that actually they did. So talk about crazy-making. So that’s my number 1.
2. Complete Avoidance of Conflict
Crazy-making people kind of pretend that there is no conflict; when there is conflict, they run away and they hide because they’re very, very scared. They don’t want to face it. So, instead, they avoid conflict. Now, obviously humans living in the same environment, like a family, are going to get into conflict over time. So it’s good to know how to deal with that.
Now, if your parents don’t know how to deal with conflict and don’t model it for you and your siblings don’t know either, then you end up in a sick situation whenever there’s any kind of conflict. And people who don’t know how to deal with conflict either respond by becoming very aggressive or by becoming very submissive, either of which is going to really mess with your head over time.
3. Fear Instead of love
So, as human beings, we’re always acting out of one of either fear or love; they’re our two main driving motivators. So in a crazy-making family, everything is dominated by fear. Love is kept on the back seat, on the back shelf, and rarely even talked about.
If you had crazy-making parents, you can probably recognize them because they never say “I love you” because that would be an expression of love. Instead, they act towards you out of fear. Now, this kind of messes with a child’s head because when you acted out of fear all the time, all that happens is you’re just having more fear instilled in you and this is completely crazy-making in the end and a total recipe for massive amounts of anxiety down the track.
4. Treating Family Members Worse than Strangers
This is a weird one; it really kind of fucks with your head. The family I grew up in, my parents were really quite kind to other people, did a lot of community service, helped a lot of other people out, were always doing good work that made them look and feel good. But the way they treated each other and the other people in their family, particularly when they were upset, was shit. And you’d think it might be the other way around, that you would treat the people who are closest and dearest to you better than you would treat strangers because, after all, family comes first, right? Well, not if it’s a crazy-making family.
In that case, you treat other people outside the family really well and you treat the people inside the family kind of like crap because they’re there all the time and you’re kind of annoyed with them and you’re kind of over it, you know? So, yeah, that’s my number 4.
5. Religious Escapism
Obviously living in a family where there’s a denial of feelings, avoidance of conflict, fear instead of love and people are being treated worse in the family than outside, it’s going to get stressful after a while; you need a means of escape. Well, what better than a religious-invented belief system. Fantastic. All you have to do is take off every Sunday to church and sit in the pews and learn stuff about beliefs that have been made up by other people thousands of years ago. It gives you a nice little stress relief from the actual stress of living with real human beings at home.
I remember many times my parents would come home from sermons at our local church where the minister preached about love and they’d have a screaming argument. What’s with that? Talk about crazy-making.
6. Criticism Instead of Encouragement
If you really want to fuck with your child’s head, what you do is you criticize relentlessly every opportunity that you get. No matter what your child does, you respond with criticism, negativity and put-downs. Yeah, that’ll make your kid happy. Definitely a recipe for some crazy-making behavior down the track.
Whereas encouragement, you don’t want to encourage your kid too much because then they might actually start learning to think for themselves, become an independent human being and might go off the rails doing things that you don’t really like. So much better to criticize and kind of fuck with their head a bit.
7. You Mustn’t Feel Good About Yourself
This is a powerful belief that runs endemically through my extended family. I don’t think any of us really feel good about ourselves. In fact, I had one of my family members say to me the other day, “Graham, I think you’re only doing this because you want to feel good about yourself.” As if feeling good about yourself is a bad thing. Talk about crazy-making.
Even as adults we’re still walking around with these fucked up beliefs in our heads. So, yeah, this one really messes with yourself. The idea that you don’t want to have a big head, you don’t want to feel proud, you don’t want to feel good about yourself; yeah, that’ll really fuck with your head.
8. Getting Punished For Being Assertive
This is a beauty. One of the most valuable skills a human being can have in the modern world is assertiveness, which is basically the ability to say what you want and how you feel to other people, which gives you a much greater chance that you will get what you want from other people and that your feelings will be validated and that you’ll feel like a real life human being instead of that emotional robot you were trained to in step number 1.
When you get punished for being assertive, you learn to be very passive or you just go completely off the deep end because you start going completely mental. So if you’re a parent and you want crazy-making kids, then definitely punish them any time they stand up to you and say what they want and just make that bad, evil and wrong, and that’ll be a real beauty.
9. Crushing Your Confidence
If you’re in a family that crushed your confidence, that’s going to be real crazy-making. And, once again, this is an effect that tends to last a lifetime unless you wake up one day and go, “Hey, actually, this is a crazy system and I don’t want to be part of it any more.”
I recently had a mother whose rather controlling say to me, “I don’t want my son to have self-confidence. I want him to have confidence in God.” That’s a real beauty. Now, sure enough, this kid has grown up completely lacking self-confidence, has no idea what he wants to do with his life and is basically very, very timid. Well, that’s sort of understandable given a mother whose attitude is “I don’t want you to have self-confidence”. What the hell are you thinking?
10. Control and Manipulation Instead of Freedom and Exploration
If you’re a parent and you want to really screw with your kid’s head, then just try and control and manipulate their behavior all the time rather than encouraging them to actually go and explore the world, find out what they like, find out what’s real, what’s true, go explore and treat life as a big adventure.
No. Crazy-making families instead use control and manipulation to try and make you do what they want rather than allowing you to learn what you want or giving you the skills to work out how to make what you want happen.
I recently had another controlling mother say to me recently, “My job as a parent is to tell my kids what to do.” And I thought, "Well, I wonder how your children’s experience of life would be different if you thought that your job as a parent was to love them rather than to just tell them what to do all the time?"
You’ve got to wonder.
This person basically tries to tell me what to do a lot, and I really don’t like that. So, yeah, it’s just another symptom of a crazy-making family that hasn’t really been dealt with, which leads to the question:
How do you deal with growing up in a crazy-making family?
Well, you’ve got pretty much Buckley’s chance of changing the family that you grew up in, and that’s probably years ago now if you’re an adult anyway. But you may still be carrying some of the scars. So if you grew up in a crazy-making family and you want to bust out of your box that they put you in and you want to actually have a life that you enjoy rather than one that’s kind of shit, then I highly recommend that you get onto The Confident Man Project.
Grab a copy of The Confident Man Program, read it, implement it, start taking action and you can actually bust out of the crazy-making situation that your family indoctrinated you into when you were a kid. If you need help with this, contact me and let’s talk about how you can bust out of your crazy-making family.