The Authentic Family

What Makes a Family Authentic?


I believe that authentic families are operating energetically from the Law of Love. When this Law is fully active, members feel interconnected, operate with integrity, and experience peace, harmony, and understanding in all of its activities. Authentic families are able to give and receive unconditional love, even in challenging situations involving intractable conflicts. 

Family relationships are alive, dynamic, living organisms that evolve in their own unique way. They need to be fed, nourished, and exercised so that they can grow, change, and mature over time. Understanding and recognizing the “aliveness” of family relationships requires being able to observe their dynamics, while also experiencing them personally. We discovered that this can be a complicated process.

So, I created a four-stage map to track the growth of family structures, one that parallels our individual and couple development: codependent, counter-dependent, independent, and interdependent stages. I’ve watched my own family structure follow these stages during my various long-term relationships. I also discovered very early in my family relationship that I brought a residue of unresolved conflicts and unhealed developmental traumas into my family.

In order to learn more about creating authentic families, I counseled many of them. My most effective work happened when I visited families in their homes and conducted extended sessions with them. Here in their safe and comfortable home environment, I was able to see many of the underlying relational dynamics much more rapidly and clearly. I not only learned how to help other families become more authentic and connected to each other, but I also learned how to help heal my own family issues.

How to Create an Authentic Family

The most important step on my journey toward creating an authentic family was being able to recognize and acknowledge that adults bring their unhealed developmental traumas, unresolved conflicts, and unmet developmental needs to their families. These are often the hidden elements that they are working on at the individual and/or couple level. The more that adults are willing to be honest and forthcoming about the unfinished business they bring to their family relationships, the easier it is to create an authentic family.

Once the adults have identified their own unfinished business, they can contract with each other to cooperate on completing things that were not completed in their past. It is important for them to resolve old conflicts, particularly any unhealed developmental trauma, to avoid passing this baggage on to children or contaminating friendships and work relationships with it.

Families and Drama​

Family drama dynamics come into play when there are three or more individuals involved, whether they be parents, children, siblings, friends, or coworkers. Most people do not understand that a “dramatic” shift occurs in interpersonal dynamics when a system expands from two people to three. Notice that the word dramatic contains the word drama. This is no coincidence. As soon as three people are in a relationship, there are enough active players to fill all three roles in the Drama Triangle. These dynamics appear, however, only after family members have built sufficient trust and intimacy. Once this secure foundation is in place, it is likely that members’ unhealed developmental traumas will surface. For this reason, conflicts involving relationships between three people tend to be the most intractable.

Staying conscious and clear in a family system can be quite difficult, as members’ unrecognized and unhealed developmental traumas can unconsciously trigger conflicts related to unmet needs. The success of family and other three-way relationships depends on the degree to which each person has identified and healed his or her own developmental trauma. This is critical for avoiding Drama Triangle dynamics and makes it easier for each person to get his or her developmental needs met within the family structure. Even trained professionals have difficulty working with two or more people, and for the very same reasons. It is really important for healthcare professionals to heal their own childhood traumas before working with families. If they don’t, they may get triggered and activate countertransference responses.

Suggested Next Steps

Here are some steps that can help you move forward on your journey to create authentic family relationships.

  1. Use the various resources on this website designed to assist you with improving your score these items.

  2. The resources on this website include the following:

  3. Select and read the resources that draw you the most.

  4. Use all of the other available free resources on this website.

Free Resources

Discipline and Limit Setting for Children

Families: Society’s Foundation

When to Seek Help?

How To Protect Your Children

Independence Training for Children

Time-In vs. Time-Out

The Journey Towards An Authentic Family

What Are Your Family Death Patterns?

Self-Quiz: How Authentic Is My Family?

Self-Quiz: Was Your Family of Origin 
A Source of Hidden Developmental Traumas?

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