Family of Origin Work: How to Untangle and Tend to Your Obstacles

In Family of Origin Work:  Is it Time to Start Digging?, I looked at possible reasons for looking more closely at what might be an unhealthy root system underneath you.  Sometimes our earlier experiences create obstacles to emotional and relationship health.

If you’ve determined you might need to “get out your shovel,” so to speak, let’s look at the how of getting deeper to these blocks.  The first step is to think about your personal history and whether there are important data points leading to feeling badly about yourself, doubt that relationships can be secure or whether the world is a safe place.  Children are the most vulnerable to adverse experiences because of their lack of ability to make clear sense of them.  They often assign incorrect meaning to situations that actually have nothing to do with them.  Unhealthy seeds of experience have a tendency to become tangled and unhealthy roots into adulthood.  The goal is to untangle, tend to and regrow for peace and understanding that you are actually ok.

Some Events/Circumstances That Can Plant Unhealthy Seeds in a Young Heart and MindFamily of Origin Work

  • Your parent(s) were absent, abandoning or present but unemotionally available.
  • Your parent(s) were abusive or highly critical.
  • Your parent(s) were drug or alcohol abusers, mentally ill or generally unpredictable.
  • There were high levels of conflict between family members in your home.
  • Your family of origin didn’t communicate and/or difficult emotions like sadness were not tolerated.
  • Your basic needs were often not met, like food and shelter.

Any of these scenarios and many others like them can create instability in your sense of self, wondering if you are lovable, questions about whether you can truly rely on others and more.  But children are pretty smart when it comes out how to adapt and navigate the most challenging of situations.  But what works then as a child in an adverse situation might not work now.

If the above (or other situations not mentioned) occurred and you are open to the possibility of looking at how this has impacted you, ask yourself the following:

  • How did you handle the situation?  What did you do to cope?
  • Do you still use old coping strategies and do they now serve you?
  • Is it possible you are operating on old narratives that no longer hold true?

This is the second of a three part series on family of origin work:

(1) Family of Origin Work:  Is it Time to Start Digging?

(2) Family of Origin Work:  How to Untangle and Tend to Your Obstacles

(3) Family of Origin Work:  Steps to Heal

*If you suspect you could benefit from further self-exploration, see my mini guide, Family of Origin Work:  Untangle Your Unhealthy Roots, which this series is based on.


Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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