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Pinterest as Therapy for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families

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I understand and even poke fun at Pinterest and Pinterest obsession and how it feeds anxiety and perfectionism. But I believe that Pinterest actually has a very positive side for people who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional families. Here's the thing: In many dysfunctional families, particularly those with depressed, abusive, narcissistic, borderline, or hoarding parents, people don't learn normative parameters of how to fit in with others in society, which is why the classic book for adult children of alcoholics/dysfunctional families is called An Adult Child's Guide to What's "Normal."

As I discuss in many posts, it is essential for kids to feel that they fit in, at a basic level. Only then will they develop the confidence to pursue their own paths and follow their own hearts. If they always felt like misfits, they will find it very difficult as adults to not become obsessed with fitting in, appearing "normal" to others, and generally following life paths that may not be in line with their values, as they never got a chance to clarify and develop adult values as their adolescence was spent frantically trying to hide their crazy home life versus self-exploration and the gradual development of a coherent identity and personal value system.

If you never felt like your house was "normal," you may not have learned basic adult social and life skills that allow for self-esteem and self-efficacy, like:

  • How to organize your home in a way that makes you happy and relaxed
  • How to entertain others in your home
  • How to cook and clean
  • How to fix things in your home (hoarding parents especially allow things to fall into egregious disrepair and ignore it entirely)
  • How to feel like you DESERVE a clean, aesthetically appealing, and soothing home atmosphere

For people who grow up in homes where everything is a mess and parents have no understanding of what their surroundings look like to others (or why a child wouldn't have friends over out of embarrassment), Pinterest is a wonderful tool. Here are the steps to use it in a healthy way.

  • Look around your home or scan your brain for something that you just aren't happy with, but have always thought just wasn't even possible to fix or change. While people who grew up in more normative households won't understand this, others of us will. Here are some examples:
  • Your dresser drawer that was broken for 10 years
  • The dirt under the glass shelves in your refrigerator
  • A broken chair leg
  • The sandwich you make for yourself every day for lunch
  • The snack options for when your kid gets home
  • A bedroom without anything hanging on the walls with the same paint job from when you moved in
  • Your couch, which you hate
  • Your wardrobe, which you hate
  • Your house itself, which you hate

  • Look at this item through a potential guest's eyes, if you haven't already. Many of us haven't ever done this, because there are no "guests" in dysfunctional homes. So check out your coffee table. Can anyone put a cup of coffee or does it always have a pile of laundry or toys? DOES IT MAKE YOU HAPPY? As The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing says, only keep what makes you happy. I say, only keep it or only keep it THE SAME if it makes you happy.)
  • If you have kids, they count as guests. IF YOU WOULD BE EMBARRASSED HAVING THE PRESIDENT VISIT AND SEEING SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME, BE EMBARRASSED THAT YOUR KIDS SEE IT THAT WAY. More embarrassed. They are learning to live haphazardly in an environment that makes their parents ashamed.
  • Now, look on Pinterest for a quick and easy way to fix this issue. Always start your journey toward improving your household skills by using the "quick" or "easy" qualifier so you don't feel as intimidated. Then you can work up to just "fix chair leg" or "best way to fix chair leg."
  • You can also Google it, but I wanted to show that Pinterest can be a one stop shop for repair, decorating, and other household and socializing tips.
  • Now WHATEVER IT TELLS YOU TO DO, go do it. I don't care if you've never seen a drill before or you can visualize your parents shaking their heads at your or their basic level of life incompetence or mocking the idea that you would prioritize "getting a drill" in your list of things to do that day.
  • You can also go to Michael's or Home Depot with your print out and ask for help. I have learned that handy people are like dog owners or moms, for that matter. Everyone is happy to share their knowledge.
  • Follow your directions step by step.
  • Voila, you did it.
  • If you always make yourself the same sandwich for work and you hate it. Why should an adult eat anything they hate, on a regular basis? Type in "quick sandwich recipes." Click on whatever picture of a sandwich you would most like to eat. NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU, WITH YOUR CRAPPY AND LIMITED SKILLS, COULD DO. THE MOST DELICIOUS LOOKING ONE. You deserve a delicious sandwich. Again, just go out to the store with your print out, buy the ingredients, and make the sandwich. Voila.

    To many readers, this sounds like common sense and not even worthy of a post. But I know there are some people out there to whom this can be revolutionary. The best part is that this "just Pinterest it" method will be observed by your kids, who learn self-efficacy, optimism, and self-reliance. You will have broken the cycle of hating where you are and what you see and eat and live with, and you are respecting yourself and your family enough to learn how to fix basic things that sabotage your joy in life. Instead of being mired in inertia and negativity, you are proclaiming that you and your family deserve a life full of order, joy, and beauty. This will spill over into many other aspects of your life and self esteem.

    So tell your husband there is a Blogapist approved reason you're on Pinterest at night.

    Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, If You Can Make This Thing, You Officially Win Baking.

    This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.