Monday, March 26, 2018

The Dysfunctional Family

Dysfunction is a clinical term used by therapists to describe a toxic family. Dysfunctional families are marked by drug addiction, physical abuse, debilitating verbal abuse, or strong authoritarian control. People living under this roof honestly cannot function in this world because they have been warped by their home life. If this describes your family, this blog will not be very helpful. I suggest you find a trusted person to walk with you through overcoming this dysfunction, especially a professional counselor.

But there’s a sliding scale for assessing if a family is a nurturing one, or a dysfunctional one. And your family may be somewhere in the middle.
  • Nurturing Family: sense of unity, high self worth and sense of identity, clear rules, family can deal with stress, strong parental coalition, parents are calmly connected with their families of origin. 
  • Dysfunctional Family: rigid and fixed system, low self-worth, compulsive defenses, bizarre behavior ignored, denies stress, scapegoat, defensiveness, avoids confrontation. 

Almost every family has some level of dysfunction. 

And they become pretty good at hiding it too. When people come over, when we are at work, while out in public - we act like everything is good.

If you find yourself somewhere in between the Nurturing Family and the Dysfunctional Family, then I hope the next few blog posts will help. I wrote this as though a man came into my office and said, “I don’t like going home anymore. My kids don’t talk to me. They bark words at me, communicate with eye rolls and shoulder shrugs, but certainly do not like being around me. My wife won’t touch me. And she’s become fluent in sarcasm and quick jabs. We don’t eat together, go out together, or do anything as a family anymore. I’m sick of dealing with all this.”

I’ve had conversations like this with men. 

If this is you, I have three questions for you:

  1. Where is your heart? Do you really want your family to be functional again, or do you just want out? 
  2. What is your responsibility? It doesn’t matter who started the problems; what matters is who is going to start the solutions. 
  3. Who is in the know? You will need some mature people to walk through this with you. 
Before your family moves from dysfunctional or marginal to becoming a nurturing family, you need to answer those four questions. I’ll elaborate each in the coming weeks.

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