NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Emotional Support From Your Family of Choice

Having the love and emotional support of family and friends is an important part of life for most people.  It can make all the difference between getting through difficult times with equanimity vs feeling isolated and overwhelmed.  We can't choose our family of origin.  Who are parents and siblings are turn out to be the luck of the draw.  But we can choose our family of choice.

What is a Family of Choice as Compared to a Family of Origin?
A family of origin includes anyone who is a blood relation:  Mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so on.

Emotional Support From Your Family of  Choice

A family of choice is anyone you choose to have close to you in your life:  Your spouse, romantic partner, friends, pets, and so on.

Getting Emotional Support From Your Family of Choice
Ideally, your family of origin would love you and be there for you in good times and bad.  But not everyone can depend on their family of origin for a variety of reasons.

That's why it's so important to have a family of choice that includes people whom you care about and who care about you and who would be there for you through thick and thin.

The following vignette, which is a composite of many cases, demonstrates the importance of a family of choice:

Gail grew up in a family where both of her parents actively abused alcohol.  As the oldest of four children, she often had to cook, clean and take care of the younger children in the family.

Throughout her years in school, Gail naturally gravitated to kind teachers and mentors who provided her with guidance and emotional support.  They liked her and saw something special in her.

Gail also developed friendships throughout high school and college that she maintained throughout her life.  These were the people that she turned to during good times and bad.  Her friends celebrated her successes with her.  They also supported her through difficult times.

When Gail went to college, her mother stopped drinking because her doctor warned her that there would serious medical consequences if she didn't stop.  Gail's father wasn't able to stop completely, but he cut back.

Gail knew that there is often a genetic predisposition for alcohol to be passed on from one generation to the next, so she decided not to drink.  She also hoped that her siblings wouldn't grow up to abuse alcohol like their parents did.  But one after the other developed either an alcohol or a drug problem.  They were old enough to make their own decisions, and they wouldn't listen to Gail.

Whenever she went home to visit her family, she knew that there would be some alcohol-fueled argument that would erupt between her siblings.  To ease the pain of these visits, she would plan to see friends that she felt close to and who would be there for her.

In her last year of college, Gail met her future husband, Don.  Prior to marrying Don, Gail dated many different men.  But she knew, given her experiences with her family, she wanted someone who was kind and dependable.  And when she met Don, she knew he was the one.

As a married couple, Gail and Don created their own holiday traditions where they included their friends and mentors.  Gail still loved her family of origin, but she knew that she couldn't rely on them emotionally or in any other way.

As the years went by, Gail's gratitude for her family of choice deepened.

Developing a Family of Choice
It's not always easy allowing yourself to trust people when you've experienced a lot of disappointments with your family of origin.   But if you open up and you allow yourself to take the emotional risk, you could develop a family of choice that can make life much more fulfilling.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you would like to have people that you' feel close to, but you have difficulty forming relationships, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who has helped therapy clients with this issue.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many therapy clients to overcome the obstacles that got in their way to forming close relationships with others.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.