How to Survive in a High-Conflict Family

Did you grow up in a high-conflict family? The effect of a high-conflict person within a family is long-lasting.

coparenting with a hijackal - parents arguing in front of kidsIf you did, you have to learn how to clarify, express and maintain healthy boundaries now. 

When you were young, you did what you needed to to survive. Now, you want to do more than survive: you want to step up, step out, and speak up.  Get relationship help and guidance to do that because you have previously been trampled by Hijackal® behavior. 

When you’ve grown up with a Hijackal, you need the insights, skills, strategies and support that allows you to understand and mitigate the effects of that high conflict person on your personal life and relationships–then AND now.  Coming from a family where conflict was high affects both your self-esteem and the development of your relationship skills.

help-with-hijackal2I’m Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor, and I specialize in working with the partners, ex’s, families, and children of high-conflict people.

What about the children…even when they are grown?

A high conflict person (a “Hijackal,” as I call them) in a family tends to engage the children in the parental conflict. In fact, they cannot help but do that. Children, long before they have language, are learning from everything that happens in the home.

Carla Garrity and Mitchell Baris, in their book Caught in the Middle, state that often high-conflict parents consciously or unconsciously, encourage children to take part in their quarrels.

They turn the children into messengers. The children quickly learn to “adjust” the truth to keep each parent happy.  Unfortunately, this leads to children learning to lie, or worse, to stop recognizing and acknowledging their own feelings.

This leads these children to enter dysfunctional relationships when their time comes. Children who continue to be manipulative throughout childhood often experience difficulties being honest and straightforward in relationships later in life.

How damaging can it be to grow up in a high-conflict family with one or more Hijackals?

Children raised in high-conflict environments are prone to becoming high conflict themselvesA high-conflict family is a damaged family, and each individual within it experiences the damage.  The earlier individuals get the insights, skills, strategies, solutions and support to recognize the patterns and rectify their self-esteem and self-perception, the better. Living in a high-conflict family compromises your relationship skills. Fortunately, this can be changed!

A high-conflict family often gives you a skewed sense of yourself. You may second-guess yourself often, and have trouble with the trust required to create emotional intimacy with your partner.

A high-conflict family erodes your self-esteem and fails to provide you with the confidence you need. You may be hyper-vigilant, always expecting the next blow to your self-esteem: you are always at fault, always to blame, and never doing things right. That can become your internal dialogue–your self-talk–and persist long after high-conflict family members have passed away. You’ve taken it on for yourself!

It is next to impossible to get out from under the self-scrutiny that being in a high-conflict family requires  on your own. You need help from a trained professional who is very familiar with high conflict people and their traits.  I can help and I’m happy to work with you.

Does the family have to come apart?

That is a question that only you can answer after you have gathered the insights and skills mentioned above. Many times, changing your behavior changes the dynamics of the family. Things improve. Other times, nothing you do makes any difference in the dynamics, and your choice becomes whether to engage infrequently or from a distance, or to move entirely away from the toxic family situation.

Some people can give up enabling high conflict people and create and maintain strong boundaries. Others simply realize it is too much for them and too taxing on their energy and their lives.

Living with a Hijackal is very difficult, especially if you think that there is a possibility of appeasing them. There is not. That’s why you need help with this.  And, I survived a high-conflict family with many perpetrators, and have thrived. I can help you. 

Start by scheduling an introductory session, and let’s discuss the dynamic of your family, and how best you can go forward and leave the damage behind. Do it now because you cannot do it any younger, and you don’t want your current relationships to be unnecessarily tainted by it. You’ll be happier!


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