by Mark Sichel, LCSW
One of the joys in life is having warm and affectionate relationships with the people we love. For so many of us, this is a learned skill and one we struggle to sustain and maintain. One of the difficulties people in recovery have to overcome is that growing up in alcoholic families, we learn what I call twisted thinking. It is very difficult to get over twisted thinking when you've been raised with that kind of attitude.
In an alcoholic family, there is often a notion that if you encourage a child to have high aspirations, you will encourage a "swelled head." By the same token, if you tell a child how wonderful they are, you will make them conceited. These are examples of twisted thinking.
In an alcoholic family, if you tell someone you love them, there is the idea that they will become accustomed to it and just take you for granted. By the same token, if another member of the family tells you they love you, you will wonder what they want from you. This is also twisted thinking.
The overall climate in many alcoholic homes is one where celebration and festivity are not encouraged, unless it is within the confines of "cocktail hour." Children are given utilitarian gifts rather than what they want, and gift wrapping is often seen as a frivolous expense. If you help a child with their homework, they will "never" learn to do it on their own. If your child does not want help with their homework, they are ungrateful.
All these examples of twisted thinking create confusion and a lack of knowledge about how to create warmth, support, and friendship in our lives. Fortunately, we can learn to recognize and change our thinking. We can learn the tools for developing warm, affectionate, caring, and honest relationships in our lives.
For a closer look at how twisted thinking can tie a family up in knots, read A Plea for Warmth and Affection.
To set your feet on the path to warm and affectionate relationships, try completing the Psybersquare Appreciation List.
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