Cut Off

THE Relationship Blog


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Hello kids! Today’s lesson here at CoupleDumb is very important. It is about cut-off. In school, cut-off is a very simple term that has deep psychological meaning in marriage and family systems theory. I will break it down for you so you can understand why I would spend a whole post discussing something that seems so obvious on face value.

First of all, cut-off is found in the continuum of dysfunctional behaviors which indicates how you deal with family. Simply, cut-off is discontinuing all communication with a certain person or persons in your life. We only apply the term cut-off when discussing family so friends and former lovers are not included but do not be fooled, if you have a plethora of crash and burn relationships then you may a master at cut-off. The dysfunctional aspect to cut-off is unresolved feelings. The individuals who engage in this behavior tend to deal with issues such as emotional hurt with complete disconnect from the source of pain deluded in the belief that time heals all wounds.

Within the continuum of healthy to dysfunctional psychological health we see things like enmeshment. Enmeshment is when a family is so involved in each other’s lives that boundaries are completely lost. It’s like an open door policy that is fraught with pain and anger but the participants can’t understand that the source of the pain is the over involvement of their family member’s. The flipside to this is cut-off. You hurt me you are out of my life. Neither of these methods is healthy nor will you find peace of mind when practicing them.

When a marriage and family therapist assesses a client, we look at their level of differentiation. This value is assigned by looking at their family of origin and how they relate to their family today. Someone who has a healthy relationship with their family of origin or in more technical terms has healthy boundaries can lead a fulfilling life with rich relationships and little drama would have a high level of differentiation. Someone who practices cut-off with their family by the mere disconnect would receive a low level of differentiation because they will not have a healthy relationship with their family of origin. Their boundaries tend to be very rigid and their ability to make friends and keep them will be difficult as well. This rigidity tends to spread to all aspect of their lives and they continually reinforce their decision to cut-off with deluded thoughts that they are better for it. However, keeping wounds open and unhealed is not a healthy thing. Pretending that hurt will go away is an invitation to repression and disassociation which will lead to physical ailments.

For those of us who choose to explore our feelings and analyze why we do things, the concept of cutting off someone from our families is not something we do lightly or at all. This is not to say that we stay in abusive familial relationships but we do set boundaries with those who have a tendency to forget where the line is drawn. We may limit the contact but cutting off all possibility of resolution is not an option. We must always remember that to be truly psychological healthy we have to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a prize that you give but it is a gift you give yourself. You choose to let go of the rancor and hurt. If you are someone who has cut off a family member, you will hold that hurt and rancor with you forever.

Going to therapy is not an easy choice to make but it is a positive move for your life. If you truly believe life is worth living then you owe it to yourself to let go of everything that holds you back like a lousy Dad or a Mom who played favorites. Healing your family of origin issues goes a long way to living a happy, hopeful life. No Kumbaya. No drinking of the Kool Aid. No dancing naked under the moon. That is, of course, if you like those things then by all means, have at it!

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