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Why Should I Map Out My Family System?

When you struggle with mental illness and addiction, you may have unacknowledged traumas underlying the whole situation. Because childhood can include little-t and Big-T traumas, it can be difficult to recognize these traumas without assistive tools. One tool that can help you recognize childhood traumas is a family system map. Let’s discuss these maps and what you can learn from them.

What Is a Family System Map?

The family system map, also called a genogram, starts with you. Then, it branches out to your family of origin, core family members, and any in-laws you might have. Additionally, you can include any extended family with whom you have a relationship.

Then, you define the dynamics within those people. This part of the map works off the understanding that relationships don’t occur in a bubble. Relationships can be influenced by environments and other individuals in a family system.

Often, it can help to use colors to define different types of dynamics. For example, you’d use red for hostility, blue for closeness, purple for inconsistency, etc. These colors make the family map easier to read.

In more complex family system maps, you can draw symbols representing emotions or experiences with the person. With more extensive family systems, it might be better to record these elements on a separate document for simplicity’s sake.

Learning From Your Map

Once you’ve mapped out your family system, you have a visual representation of the people who might have previously influenced you or are doing so presently. You can see the relationships that other people you’re connected to have with one another. Moreover, you might have documented emotions and events related to those individuals.

You can now expand on any revelations you’ve already had during the process of creating your family system map. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • “Who on this map has made me feel safe or unsafe?”
  • “Do I feel the family system is toxic?”
  • “Has anyone in this system physically or emotionally harmed me?”
  • “How have relationships between people on the map impacted me?”
  • “Does anyone listed have mental illnesses? How have they impacted me?”
  • “Is there anyone who I should emotionally cut off?”

These kinds of questions allow you to explore your past. You might realize that certain people caused you developmental trauma. Feelings of not being safe can cause you little-t trauma, even if there wasn’t a specific incident causing those emotions.

You may’ve seen or experienced toxic relationships that impacted your perceptions. Your family may have behaved in a hostile manner towards one another. By making a family system map, you might discover many areas of your life to explore in therapy.

When you want to heal from mental illness or addiction, it can help you to explore underlying traumas. Often, developmental traumas and unstable attachment are the roots of your self-defeating patterns. Family system maps can help you find problem areas to discuss with your therapist. At The Guest House, all of our therapists are trauma-specialized. They understand the pain of resolving traumas and set out to help you in a gentle, compassionate way. If you’re ready to take the first step in healing, call us at (855) 483-7800.