If you feel suffocated by your family, acknowledge and describe your feelings and see what triggers them the most. To avoid feeling suffocated by your family, be clear about your boundaries and needs, don’t be afraid to say no, and be as emotionally independent as possible.

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.

Henry Cloud

Why you may feel suffocated by your family

There are many potential reasons as to why you, as an adult child, can feel suffocated by a mother, a father, or your family in general.

Feeling trapped in your family as you grow up does seem to be natural, to some extent; it can be a phase you are supposed to go through as an adult, regardless of your age.

This seems to be especially common for those of us who love freedom and independence, in general (I’m an INFJ and I can totally relate).

However, that never justifies strong negative feelings. If you constantly feel suffocated by your family, chances are, there is something else going on.

Each of us experiences the natural desire to become as independent as possible at some point, and this desire is often accompanied by temporary feelings of aversion or anger.

Again, nothing inherently wrong with that. But when those temporary feelings turn into normality, you need to ask why your family causes such oppressive feelings, and why they last.

If you truly feel suffocated by your family, then your family may be consciously or unconsciously sabotaging your dreams, freedom, growth, or even your independence.

I feel the “consciously or unconsciously” part is important enough to be pointed out because we would never imagine a loving parent acting against our wellbeing.

And yet it is a very real possibility, because not everything we do is conscious; and if your family makes you feel trapped, it’s usually not a conscious process.

So, why would your mother or father behave in such a way? The answers to that can be surprising…

Suffocating parents: why do they do it?

Again, the list of potential reasons is endless. Consider the following points, though — your family or a family member may tend to suffocate you because…

  • They have idealized you, e.g. as the golden child; although being valued and appreciated is great, idealization is almost never healthy because it implies unrealistic expectations
  • The parent-child relationship may have been inverted, so that the adult child becomes the one that’s supposed to nourish the parent, or parents, spiritually and mentally
  • They may be afraid that you are too young and naive to make decisions, big or small, without first asking for advice; protection may have become overprotection, and affection controlling behavior
  • They may have narcissistic traits where e.g. they play victim, or overly criticize you as a way to get your attention and/or control you and/or interfere with your private life
  • They genuinely want the best for you, yet fail to understand that you are not them and that at the end of the day you are the only person who is responsible for your happiness

If you feel suffocated by your family…

1. Identify your feelings

First and foremost, get in touch with your own feelings, no matter how painful they may be. Identify them; if you can, name them. Is it mainly frustration? Resentment? Anger?

Once you are clear about your own feelings, you will have the power to understand why you feel that way and what is it that triggers those feelings the most (e.g. intrusive phone calls).

2. Be clear about your needs

It’s never a good idea to avoid the topic. If you feel suffocated by your family, or a family member, then you want to be very direct with them. Not rude, not angry, but honest.

We spend hours dwelling on our own thoughts and often imagine that what is obvious to us must be obvious to others as well. Which is a mistake. Don’t be afraid to talk and explain what you feel and why.

3. Put yourself first

Self-interest is actually not wrong in small doses. After all, how could you possibly become the best you can be if you were constantly concerned about other people or constantly felt sorry for others?

The same is true for your family. Provided you are not too selfish, by putting yourself first you prioritize your own freedom and wellbeing and also inspire your family to do the same.

4. Maintain a positive attitude

Never say bad things about a family member; never gossip, never talk behind their back. This is true for anyone and in any situation, it just happens to be especially important in this case.

Malice and hatred can only make things worse, externally but most importantly internally. It’s okay to talk to a friend, but make sure to always maintain a positive attitude.

5. Don’t feel guilty for saying no

If you’ve already embraced the third point, then this is likely to come naturally. Yet it has to be part of this list because so many people (you have no idea how many) suffer from feelings of self-imposed guilt.

Here’s the thing — you are allowed to say no to people. Give yourself permission to say no and then don’t feel anything: don’t feel guilty, selfish, or sad. Make it as normal as possible.

6. Be as independent as possible

If you feel suffocated by your family, chances are you value independence and somehow your family interferes with it to a certain extent.

So my sixth tip is to be as independent as possible, which means to work on your independence not just financially but also and most importantly mentally and emotionally, e.g. learn not to rely on others to feel good about yourself.

7. Know your boundaries

What does privacy mean to you? Surprisingly, the concept of privacy means very different things not just in different cultures but to different individuals as well.

Similarly, what are your boundaries? What is it that you can and cannot tolerate from your family, or other people in general? Be very clear on that before you make it clear to others.

8. Get help if needed

Therapy helps you discover who you really are and how you can be the best version of yourself, and that alone is why you should at least try it. However, if your family seriously makes you feel trapped, especially if in an abusive way, then asking for help isn’t really optional.

Can’t afford therapy, or feel too uncomfortable? Then read books or articles like this one; talk to a friend, ask for help in any way you can. Perhaps you know the answer, but it will be easier to find that answer with the help of others.

Hopefully you found some of the tips helpful. If you have any questions or would like to leave a comment, please do so below. Thanks for reading and have an amazing day 👍