As I see it, emotional illness is a family disease, in much the same way as is alcoholism. It affects not just the one with the illness, but those close to them.
In my personal case, our extended family bears the traces of damage done by alcoholism and war. For some of us, the dysfunction in how our families handle emotions is the result of generations of distorted thinking. Alcoholism in a grandfather I never met left its emotional mark on my family, so that alcohol is rarely served at family gatherings. But, even without alcohol, my mom and her two full brothers bore the damage in their family relationships. My mom as oldest, was the most damaging to her children, and is isolated because of it.
By my joining the 12-step fellowships of Emotions Anonymous and Al-anon, "I have committed myself to breaking those unhealthy patterns. " I've used our tools for many years now, and healed more deeply with each pass through the using the "wheel" of the steps. I feel better and better about myself as I find more sanity and peace.
I no longer play the same role in my dysfunctional family system, and I'm even seeing signs that other family members' roles are beginning to change. My choice to "give up worrying about everyone else and focus on my own health," not only set me free, but gave others the same freedom. I am beginning to see new growth in between the cracks.
The following quote from today's CTC is exactly spot-on. "One person's recovery can have a powerful impact on the whole family. When I take care of myself, I may be doing more than I realize to help loved ones who suffer from this family disease."
If I had my way, I'd make health catching instead of disease. Robert Ingersoll