Pros and Cons of a Dysfunctional Past

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I attract my share of clients who have problematic, troublesome or challenging backgrounds. They’ve come to me because they want to ‘SHIFT-IT’ … and we tweak some things in order for them to move forward in more graceful, prosperous and enjoyable ways. This might surprise you, but having a dysfunctional past can also be a real blessing. While there are some cons there are often many pros as well.

What’s a Dysfunctional Past?

Well, if I have to explain this, you probably are one of those rare and fortunate people who don’t have one! Dysfunctional pasts, at least how I define them, are backgrounds or prior circumstances that were unpleasant, uncomfortable (unpredictable, unsafe or even violent), unsupportive and scarcity minded. They can range from the fairly benign – being raised in a crowded household with lots of siblings vying for limited attention and resources. To the outright tragic – with physical, mental and/or sexual abuse, poverty (or wealth), abandonment and addictions in the mix.

Most folks who grow up in the latter, never make it to crossing a coach’s path. But the few who do are truly inspirational and impressive individuals with amazing stories of ingenuity, perseverance and inner strength.

The Cons:

Developmental psychology informs us that young children are sponges, picking up feelings, thoughts and impressions from what surrounds them AND their cognitive, rational minds don’t kick in on various levels until the 7-12 age range. This is fine if what (and who) surrounds the child is helpful, hopeful and empowering. Not so fine, if what surrounds the child is unhelpful, negative and disempowering.

From a Law of Attraction point of view, the cons of being born into a dysfunctional environment are multiple. First off, young children (through no fault of their own) begin ‘vibrating’ like the people and places that surround them. Before they can speak, they feel. And it is their feelings that set their tone before the cognitive part of their brain kicks in. They are unknowingly acting as virbrational regurgitators and matching their surroundings so like attracts like.

Sometimes when cognitive abilities kick in, the child can sum up their surroundings and view themselves as different or separate from what is going on around them. How they choose to view and think about themselves (their inner talk) is such a powerful act – and is the differentiator between living a life like everyone else around them or breaking out of the mold.

For example, a successful client who’s mother was an addict … at 8 he remembers thinking she was the one with the problem and not him and he wanted a better place to live (he was placed in foster care with a nearby family who were very nurturing and loving and still play a role in his adult life now that he has his own family with kids).

Not everyone is as lucky as my client who had his epiphany at 8 … sometimes it can take many years (and much re-thinking, re-learning and re-patterning) for people to realize that its not totally them that is the problem, but rather the people, surroundings, mindsets, beliefs and attitudes from their past that they inadvertently took on and continue to subliminally broadcast. And realize that they have a choice … they can continue to think (and feel) like they were programmed to, or they can do the heroic work of SHIFTing IT.

The Pros:

So what possibly could be a pro to having a tragic background? Well, Abraham (from Abraham-Hicks
fame) tells us that the people who make the biggest leaps and end up with the happiest lives are usually people who didn’t start out that way. Because of the large contrast from their early lives, they launch HUGE ‘rockets of desire’ about what they really want instead. The negativity of their past made them get very, very clear about their preferences and often attached stong emotion to their desires … the intensity of their emotion often bulldozing their other resistance.

For a moving example of this effect, see this TED video from Eve Ensler:

(Eve Ensler is the creator of the hugely popular ‘Vagina Monologues’) … who’s childhood trauma ended up creating not only her acclaimed livelihood but also the rescue and nurturance of other girls in similar circumstances 30+ years later (her Mr. Alligator story). So powerful! The strong desires that she launched as a little girl, not only helped her but actually added to the evolution of social conditioning and the movement of thought about proper respect for women and our bodies, not only in her country of the United States, but throughout the world!

Take Heart:

So, if you come from a dysfunctional past … take heart. You are no longer a child and you can take control of what YOU focus on and feel. Depending on where you are on your empowerment process (and where you are on Abraham’s Emotional Scale), you can take stage appropriate steps to move you in the right direction and step-by-step vibrate your way into a much better feeling present and future. You are now in control and you are the creator of your own reality and you can make it a good one – not only for you but for the others that you inspire as well! (FYI: click here for a related article on Life Maps and Law of Attraction).

© 2009 Christina L. Merkley

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Christina Merkley, “The SHIFT-IT Coach” and creator of the SHIFT-IT Method® is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Graphic Facilitation and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and groups in defining and getting what they really, really want. For more information visit:

One comment on “Pros and Cons of a Dysfunctional Past

  1. Sandi on

    Thanks Christina for reminding us of the gift in everything – beautiful reframe and tying it to Eve’s TED talk is absolutely perfect!

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