Family Estrangement

Family estrangement refers to the breakdown of contact and communication between family members. It is a phenomenon that has become increasingly common in modern society. More people experiencing estrangement from their parents, siblings, or other relatives. These are smashed or broken families.

I have seen examples of family estrangement repeatedly in my psychotherapy practice. The clients I have worked with described bitter and deeply resentful feelings toward whomever the family member was. Sometimes the breach in the relationship is between the adult child and parents. Siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents may have a breach in relationships. Breaches in the family come to the surface on special occasions.

Family alienation or estrangement is a difficult and painful experience to go through. Various reasons, such as unresolved conflicts, misunderstandings, or abuse, can cause it. Relationships and dynamics are strained and broken. It is always challenging to navigate through family estrangement. 

Arguments, communication issues, or a mutual respect and understanding breakdown causing a family fracture. It also may include abuse, trauma, or other major life stressors. In addition, are divorce or separation, death of a family member, addiction, and mental health issues. In this scenario, one or more family members are embittered that they end any continued dialogue with one or more family members.

Gaslighting in Family Life: 

It is one of the most far-reaching causes of estrangement among members of the family life. The reason is that gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation. A person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of others, making them question their memory, perception, and sanity. It’s a covert method of maintaining control and power within relationships. Unfortunately, it is all too common within the family unit.

Gaslighting is a term from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane. The manipulation techniques used in gaslighting are subtle yet profound. The perpetrator denies their victim’s reality, dismisses their feelings, or shifts blame onto them. It disorients the victim, making them question their perceptions.

The fact is that it is a form of emotional abuse that often goes unnoticed. The impact on victims can be profound. It leads to emotional distress and compromised interpersonal relationships. However, individuals can regain their sense of reality through education, support, and professional help. The courage to recognize and address gaslighting can create a path toward healing, resilience, and emotional freedom. Then take steps towards healthier relationships.


Triangulation is another challenging dynamic. It occurs in groups, among friends, in marriages, and in families. It occurs when two people in conflict bring in a third person to mediate or take sides, creating a sense of tension and division. It’s important to recognize when triangulation occurs. Triangulation can happen in any family dynamic. Families can strengthen their relationships by addressing underlying issues and addressing. And then work towards open communication and conflict resolution between the parties involved.


Gossip is related to triangulation. It harms family relationships. When family members spread rumors or share personal information without consent, it can lead to trust issues and hurt feelings. Gossip can also create tension and conflict within the family, making it difficult for everyone to get along. There is an old saying connected to gossip. It says, “God’s Ears Are Everywhere.” This old saying refers to the simple fact that gossip finds its way back to the individual who is the target of the gossip. Once that happens, the results are feelings of anger and betrayal. Often, the result is a breach in relationships.


Another major cause of family estrangement is conflict. Family members may become estranged from each other when they have difficult or impossible conflicts. It can include disagreements over money, lifestyle choices, or personal values. Sometimes, family members may become estranged because of past traumas or abuse.


A feature of modern life is that families and relatives live far away from one another. The result of distance is that family members who live far lose touch. Not staying in touch leads to isolation and estrangement.

Estrangement in the family has consequences for both the individuals involved and the extended family. For those who are disaffected, it can cause feelings of loneliness, sadness, grief, and rage. It can also affect the mental health and well-being of some relatives. Mental health problems can lead to depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues.

Family alienation has a ripple effect on other family members. Hostility among parts of the family creates a sense of tension in family gatherings. It can lead to guilt, blame, or anger among those not directly involved. It can also affect the next generation by depriving them of the opportunity to form strong family bonds and relationships.

Ultimately, family schisms are a tough issue to resolve. The stirred anger and passions are so powerful that people resist any resolution. All around, it can be a tragic situation.

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