Out of Control: Tips for Coping with Family Members’ Decisions and Actions

There are plenty of old stereotypes about “dysfunctional” families. While every family is unique thanks to individual personalities, that sometimes gets out of hand. 

If you feel like some family members are out of control, it’s not necessarily up to you to change them. In some cases, you simply can’t control their decisions and actions. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find healthy ways to cope. In the end, it’s important to focus on your own wellbeing and mental health. 

With that in mind, let’s look at some common ways the actions of family members can feel out of control, and how you can deal with them effectively. 

Dealing with Personality Types

No two people have the exact same personality. That’s what makes all relationships tick! But certain personality types can actually be damaging to the family dynamic. Some of those most dangerous personality types include: 

  • Narcissistic
  • Emotionally unstable
  • Paranoid

When a family member only thinks about themselves, you might feel as though you have to constantly give in to everything they want. If they’re emotionally unstable, things might be the same. You might feel you’re constantly walking on eggshells around them, because you’re not sure which “version” you’ll get. 

Ultimately, family dynamics are about each individual working together as a unit, rather than focusing solely on one person. A family member shouldn’t make you feel forced into doing what they want. They also shouldn’t put you down or make you feel like someone inferior. 

If you have a family member with that kind of personality, one of the best things you can do is set boundaries with them. 

A Lack of Boundaries Because of Enmeshment

Speaking of setting boundaries, another action some family members take is being enmeshed with others. Enmeshment occurs when there is a lack of boundaries within the family unit. 

What does that mean, exactly? When boundaries aren’t clearly established in a family, it makes it difficult for the bonds you form with family members to be healthy and strong. It also can inhibit independence. 

Enmeshment isn’t uncommon in a parent-child relationship. For example, if your parents want to know and control all of your actions, thoughts, and feelings (even when you’re an adult), that’s a clear example of a boundary issue. They might also rely on you for their own emotional support. If you try to move forward and live your own life, they could make you feel guilty, or have a hard time coping. 

When you grow up in an enmeshed family, it’s easy to ignore what you really want and/or need. Counseling and therapy are often the best ways to cope. Not only can you work through your own feelings, but you can learn ways of effectively communicating with your family while building independence and self-esteem. 

The Need for Individuation

Things like enmeshment, or a family member trying to control you, can prevent the process of individuation. It’s normal for individuals in a family to grow and have a deeper understanding of who they really are. 

Individuation can help with that, especially if you’ve been held back. It works in stages, starting with confession and ending with transformation. 

While it’s okay to look up to certain family members, it’s not okay for them to “mold” you into whatever they see fit. If you feel as though that’s happened to you, individuation might be the answer, especially with the help of a mental health professional. 

Family dynamics don’t have to be perfect. But, if some people are displaying harmful traits, it’s important to distance yourself or learn how to deal with them without getting trapped. 

Contact Integrative Psychotherapy Group for more information if you’re currently in one of these situations, or you’re looking back on your past and realizing that some of these dynamics were present. It’s never too late to learn how to cope and move forward.