Understanding Family Dynamics

“How can I better understand family dynamics?”
First, understand family systems.
Begin by reading, "Family Ties that Bind" by Roland W. Richardson (Self Counsel Press – 3rd Ed. 2010 122pp.)  It’s available from

Here’s an outline of the first chapter:

Chapter 1: Introduction
1. “The more intensively the family has stamped its character upon the child, the more the child will tend to feel and see its earlier miniature world again in the bigger world outside.” – Carl Jung

2. The views we develop in our family of origin stay with us throughout life.

3. Though we may physically leave our family of origin, we rarely leave them emotionally. Even if we never return home again, we continue to re-enact the dynamics of our original families in any new family we establish.

4. We may copy our parents’ behavior even if we swore we wouldn’t. They probably made the same vow about their parents.

5. It’s very difficult to separate emotionally from early family environment and without either (a) repeating it or (b) reacting against it, e.g. denying feelings, rebelling, avoiding family, responding to family environment rather than independently doing what makes sense to us.

6. How do we separate from family but remain emotionally close? How do we become independent adults in marriage, child-raising, work, friendships?

7. A satisfying adult life depends on how well we deal with the forces in our family of origin. One way is to work through them. This is a workbook for coming to terms with our family of origin.

8. Some do family of origin work with a counselor or therapist, but it can be done on your own. A spouse or lover doesn’t make a good coach – they can’t remain neutral. Nor does someone who blames your parents for all your problems. Warning: if you’re deeply troubled or your family of origin had deep emotional problems or a history of sexual abuse, don’t attempt family of origin work without professional help.

9. Keep the focus on yourself. Don’t try to change anyone else – though others may respond to changes in you. In turn, you will respond to changes in them.

10. You need to be motivated.  Family of origin work is not easy or quick-fix. It requires time, energy and thought but the rewards can be great.

We’ll post outlines of subsequent chapters but strongly recommend you read the book.

Gerald Le Van
Chair, Family Wealth Mediation
Upchurch Watson White & Max
July 2011

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