Dysfunctional Families . . . What Exactly Does that Mean?
Part 4

by LuAnn Pierce, MSW, CMSW

Link to Part 3

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Finish these sentences with the first thing that comes into your mind:

I believe that people are:

I believe the world is:

I believe that love is:

I believe that I am:

I believe that my parents are:

I believe that life is:

Source: The Dynamics of Relationships: A Guide for Developing Self-Esteem and Social Skills in Teens and Young Adults by Patricia Kramer. Used with permission by Equal Partners: The Self-Esteem Institute, 3371 Beaverwood Lane, Silver Springs, MD 20906, (301)871-9665.


Some Common Irrational Beliefs

All or Nothing Thinking:
"If I can't be in the starting line-up I just won't play."
Alternative:
"I realize everyone wants a chance to play. I'm glad I get to start sometimes."

Past Experiences Predict Future Events for Everyone:
"I quit smoking so you can if you try."
Alternative:
"My experience with smoking was ____, however, everyone is different."

Can't See the Forest for the Trees:
"If I could only lose twenty pounds my life would be better."
Alternative:
"I am not happy with my weight now, but at this time I am going to accept the fact that my weight is only a small portion of who I am and it will not change other areas of my life."

Discount the Positive:
"Yes, I did well on that test, but it was really easy."
Alternative:
"Yes, I did well on that test. I was prepared."

Fortune Telling:
"He didn't answer the phone so he must be out with another girl."
Alternative:
"He didn't answer the phone, I'm sure he will be home later."

Mind Reading:
"She didn't speak to me. She must be mad at me."
Alternative:
"She didn't speak to me this morning. She must have a lot on her mind."

Blow It Out of Proportion:
"I failed the test so I may as well quit school."
Alternative:
"I failed the test so I need to study more next time."

Emotional Reasoning:
"I feel out of place at parties, so I must be different from most of the people here."
Alternative:
"I feel out of place at parties. My preference is smaller groups of people."

Should, Ought, Must and Suppose to Statements:
"I was raised to believe that children should be seen and not heard."
Alternative:
"Children have opinions and have the right to voice their opinions."

Labeling:
"I come from a poor family. I'm just a loser."
Alternative:
"My family was poor, but I hope to make a better life for myself."

Personalization:
"I made her mad so she cut her wrist."
Alternative:
"She became angry and chose to hurt herself rather than talk about it."

Source: Adapted from: The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, Random House, Inc. 201 E. 50th Street, New York, NY 10022.

Continued in Part 5

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LuAnn Pierce is a licensed social worker and therapist, as well as an author and publisher. She has worked with hundreds of youths and families in the last 15 years. Ms. Pierce writes columns for several other publications and is the publisher/editor-in-chief of Person to Person.

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