SPOTLIGHT ON HYPNOSIS:
FAMILY RELATIONS AFFECT HEALTH
By Jimmy Eldred Quast
Our genetic makeup is not the only life-controlling mechanism we inherit from family. In fact, some say scientific evidence gathered in recent years suggests that our genetic inheritance may even have to take a second seat to other family influences. Simply stated, the family that raised you taught you how to live. Wittingly, and sometimes unwittingly, it is the family that teaches the child how to behave, how to eat, how to value self, and how to relate to others. Of course there are other influences outside the family, but even the effect of those influences is largely determined by how secure the child feels within it’s family.
Everyone, I suppose, has heard of the terms, ‘functional’ and ‘dysfunctional,’ which are so often used in family descriptions. To say that a family is dysfunctional may sound like one is making an offensive judgment. One cutting-edge family therapist, John Bradshaw, has written a number of books about this subject which, in my opinion, are excellent. Bradshaw, himself, managed to survive the results of being raised in a very dysfunctional family. Those results lasted into adulthood, which by the way, they usually do. He obviously also had some strong academic talents which enabled him to get a good education. He, perhaps more than anyone before him, eventually was able to crack the code, so to speak, on what really makes a family dysfunctional. Bradshaw’s first book is simply called “The Family.” Another of his books that I like is called “Family Secrets.” I frequently recommend both of these to my hypnotherapy clients.
Most of the people I see in my own practice were raised in dysfunctional families. Because there are widely varying degrees of dysfunction, it isn’t always immediately obvious what that really means. According to Bradshaw, in a functional family, every member, both adult and child, knows that they are supported and loved. That means the members of such a family feel free to express themselves. There are rules and discipline, but there is generally a high degree of meaningful communication possible between family members. This much freedom and security can produce a rather boisterous and challenging bunch of people. If you are used to being around folks who keep their feelings to themselves, you might find a functional family hard to hang out with for very long.
In a dysfunctional family, again according to Bradshaw, there is little or no honest and open communication. Children are expected to keep their feelings to themselves and “be seen rather than heard.” Bradshaw defines that as abandonment. He says children can be emotionally abandoned even with both parents physically present. Every member of the family knows there are serious problems, but no one ever wants to talk openly about them. The actual problems can range from something as simple as an impossible-to-please parent, all the way up to drug and alcohol abuse, and physical abuse. Each family member guards the “family secrets” from outsiders and pretends that all is fine at home.
One might think that by merely growing up, one can outgrow these childhood difficulties. However, that is rarely the case. So many adult children of dysfunctional families come to my practice looking for help with everything from chronic headaches to an inability to succeed in love relationships. Time and again, it does not matter whether the presenting problem is physical or emotional, there is usually a residue of dysfunctional upbringing which is at least partially causing the problem. Emotions, and the events that give rise to them, cannot merely be written off as separate from physicality. In my column I have repeatedly quoted the esteemed neuro-chemist Candace Pert, who claims that all disease has an emotional basis. However, one does not have to be a neuro-chemist to appreciate the logic behind this. How any person feels about their self and others, colors how they perceive the world. I was watching Dr. Phil on TV a few days ago when he said, “There is no reality - only perception.” My head almost went, BANG! POW! A shelf full of books could be written about that simple statement. If I perceive the world from the perspective of being ineffectual and useless, if I believe myself to be a victim to the people and circumstances around me, then that will be my reality! Furthermore, the body chemistry associated with that reality will, sooner or later, make me sick!
I was originally attracted to the field of hypnotherapy, and continue to be held fast by it, because it brings an incredible simple, natural, and some say “God-given,” set of tools that can cleanse us of our long-past, but still festering, emotional wounds. Hypnotherapy makes it possible, within a relatively short time frame, to drop our useless burdens, to have a fresh new perspective on life, and to love the person that lives within our own skin. When that happens, physical conditions in the body naturally optimize as well. It is not unusual for disease to go into remission, or disappear entirely. And, as if that isn’t enough, these positive effects even have a tendency to reach out beyond the body and mind of the individual who is experiencing them. They seem to also have the potential to touch and inspire everyone who knows that person.
Note: hypnosis for medical issues may require a physician’s referral.