Family – ways of transformation

by | Feb 22, 2020 | Education, Family life, Personal growth | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, when I wrote an article on the subject of “Perfect families? Healthy and well-functioning families” , I set out the five freedoms that I believe are the basis for a healthy family.

Then we looked at the dynamics of a family based on shame and its eight characteristics.

Now the question naturally arises:        

how can I deal constructively with this information? Is there hope for me when my own history is shaped by the dynamics of shame, instead of the reality of the five freedoms?

How can I approach my behavior patterns and enter into a process of change?

 In the introduction to her book ” Il n’y a pas de parent parfait” (there are no perfect parents), Isabelle Filliozat impressively describes the reality one encounters when starting a family:

“It’s not so easy.
The children talk about us. About our past, our experiences, our fears and uncertainties. This reality is too often left out of the education books. The relationship with the child, but also between father and mother, between the respective parents and parents-in-law have an influence on the relationships. Not to forget the power of the unconscious, the unsaid, the secrets, the suppressed feelings, the resentment, the unexpressed pain that exists in the family. It all plays a role”. [1]

She invites readers to embark on an inner journey that is not just about knowing and understanding more, but about being able to change.
She encourages her readers not to simply exercise tolerance towards themselves, but to replace tolerance with genuine self-respect.

“This means to consider ones own excessive behaviour as such, without tolerance, but without condemning oneself. We can say to ourselves: “If I act the way I do, it is only because I have reasons to do so. Now all that remains is to discover these reasons so that I can regain the freedom to behave the way I really want to. » [2]

My personal development is shaped by this “self-respect” as she calls it. I wanted to discover these causes that negatively influenced my life and my loved ones. I wanted to grow into this freedom “to behave the way I really want to”.

When I read the book “Facing Shame -Families in Recovery” some time ago, I discovered a grid that was developed by the authors.

This grid was meant to be used to talk to families where abuse occurs about their internal family processes.

This grid was meant to be used to talk to families where abuse occurs about their internal family processes.

I found this grid very helpful in forming and deepening my personal healing process and my understanding of a “healthy” family.

This grid is called “Shame control model of abusive family interaction”. It is a grid to detect abusive family interactions and to move to a freedom to live a healthy family interaction.

In this article I would like to describe how the authors present this.

Active Abuse [3]

The first window shows us active abuse.

This represents individual behavior or family interactions where overt abuse occurs. It is tangible.

Most of the time, children growing up in such a home can clearly define what was painful or humiliating for them:

“The yelling, the humiliation and degradation, the physical violence, the sexual abuse, the alcohol abuse, the high level of neglect”

… all these are behaviors that can be found in this quadrant. As I reflected my own family in the light of this window, I wrote:

“My father’s behavior in my childhood took place in this window. He was always tyrannical. He was never physically violent. But we all bowed under the force of his emotional and spiritual waves of control, which consisted of harshness, rigidity, shame, blame and depression.

My brothers and sisters and I knew very well what we had to be healed of and what we had to forgive; what things he had implemented in our lives and what we had to become free of.

Quiet Abuse [4]

 In my experience, the second quadrant is much more subtle and less obvious.

“Into this quadrant falls the threat of leaving the other, into this quadrant belongs the recriminations and the silence.”

This behavior has a devastating effect on our soul. Because it is not obvious, it shapes and forms the self-image of a child. Recognizing

“your silent manipulation, your subliminal message that I am worth nothing has done this or that to me”

is much more complex than

“your beatings and insults have had a negative impact on me”.

Undermining abuse, shame, blame, silence, distance and inaccessibility are words that fit into this window.

The authors explain:

” This is the quadrant in which most affected families spend most of their time. (…) Certain families only spend time in this quadrant, and active abuse never breaks out. In these families, the potential for explosion can never be released by a discharge; the tension remains and is perceived by the most sensitive person(s) as hypersensitivity to anger and fear of criticism or retaliation”.

Calm [5]

The third quadrant represents behavior that is decent, correct, more cautious or formal. The description says:

“People are nice to each other, listen respectfully and do not violate the privacy of others” .[6]

Spontaneity is avoided.

The authors explain:

“This quadrant can be the place where families get stuck because they think their growth is complete. They have escaped the shameful and disrespectful lifestyle and can now write a different story.” [7]

But there is a coolness in her friendliness, an inability to allow a relationship of intimacy and closeness.

Reading this description, I found myself in it. This is the way I react when I feel hurt, overwhelmed or stressed. I am restored enough to never allow myself to shame others, to hurt them through blame or other kinds of abuse, either active or passive.

However, I hold myself back and control my actions and reactions. For Benny, these times have always been particularly challenging: I am present but not tangible; real intimacy is not really possible and it leaves a feeling of “loneliness” for him and the children.


The intimate, spontaneous quadrant is the ultimate step to healing.
This is a place where life happens. Everyone is respected, but more than that:

It is a place where the four basic human skills and the five freedoms [8] are exercised.  As described in this article, this does not mean that there is perfection; it is not expected in such a family.

“People make mistakes, people get hurt and angry, boundaries are crossed, and everyone is responsible for their behavior. There is always a way out. Reparation is expected, is possible and is brought into the relationship dialogue. Even feelings of shame are possible and are discussed, and not shielded, distorted or used for destructive purposes as a secret”. [9]

The interaction of such a family is unaffected and spontaneous.

I love the family that Benny and I can have together. We have both come a long way in healing and restoration. Both were able to not only understand what was painful in our families of origin, but were able to restore from within to create a healthy, thriving family. As described above, we are not yet always in the “quadrant of intimacy”.

However, we are in a process of getting there with growing freedom and lightheartedness.

Did you find yourself in one of the windows? Perhaps you are now asking yourself the question “How do I get from where I am to the quadrant of intimacy?”

I will write more about this in the next article. We will look at the three specific points that the authors highlight. These will illustrate how concretely a change can be approached.

  • [1]Filliozat, Il n’y a pas de parent parfait, 2008, p. 16/17
  • [2] Filliozat, Il n’y a pas de parent parfait, 2008, p.23
  • [3],[4],[5],[6],[7] Fossom/Mason, Facing shame, 1986, p.116 – 118
  • [8] As explained in this article 
  • [9] Fossom/Mason, Facing shame, 1986, p.118


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