Understanding Family Dysfunction Part 2

Recently I went to my parent’s home and gave them a gift of a food item they liked. I thought it would make their day since they both are currently disabled and often need cheering. My mother did not say thank you for the gift, rather she told me I was unliked by certain family members. Of course, I knew this was untrue, and understood this was brought to you by an extremely dysfunction family. I felt sad, but did not take it personally because I spent years working and understanding dysfunctional families. It did make me realize that so many people have family dysfunction and take it very personal. So how do we not take it so personal and what can we do to empower ourselves? The next series of blogs will help you I hope.

I have worked in the field of psychology and social services for a very long time and have worked with a great deal with dysfunctional families. It is always interesting to me to see how family dysfunction can be passed down from generation to generation and what shapes the dysfunction can take.
One of the greatest questions I get is how do we deal with dysfunction? I should be the expert on this as I came from a long line of dysfunction. I, like most people, feel my family puts the D in dysfunction, however, I am not terminally unique and know that many people have families that are dysfunctional.

I suppose it would be important to try to understand what family dysfunction is. Text books have been written about it, however in a quick nutshell, family dysfunction is a family where there is an abundance of conflict, but not just conflict but where these conflicts create misbehavior. These behaviors can turn into abuse, addictions, such as substance abuse, alcohol, drugs, prescribed medication, and very often an untreated mental illness. Dysfunctional families often live with lies, anger and confusion. There is often dysfunction in a family, however too much dysfunction turns into problems that can have a profound impact on family members.

In a functional or healthy family, you will find respect between all the family members. treat the children with respect and the children treat the parents with respect. In a dysfunctional family respect is hardly ever found. So let’s look at what dysfunctional family.

* A parent and or child will show lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members.
* Denial such as refusing to acknowledge abusive or addictive behaviors.
* Lack of boundaries.
* Conflict such as verbal, spiritual, physical or sexual abuse.
* Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, sexuality.
* Using such as a destructively narcissistic parents who rules by fear and conditional love.
* A parents who use physical violence, or emotionally, or sexually abuse their children.
* Dogmatic or cult-like parents who are harsh and inflexible discipline with children not allowed, within reason, to dissent, question authority, or develop their own value system.
* Inequitable parenting such as going to extremes for one child while continually ignoring the needs of another.
* Deprivation is very abusive and is done by a parents using control or neglect by withholding love, support, necessities, sympathy, praise, attention, encouragement, supervision, or otherwise putting their children’s well-being at risk.
* Appeasement (parents who reward bad behavior—even by their own standards—and inevitability punish another child’s good behavior in order to maintain the peace and avoid temper tantrums.
* Loyalty manipulation giving unearned rewards and lavish attention trying to ensure a favored, yet rebellious child will be the one most loyal and well-behaved, while subtly ignoring the wants and needs of their most loyal child currently.
* Role reversal parents who expect their minor children to take care of them instead.
* Münchausen syndrome by proxy where the children are intentionally made ill by a parent seeking attention from friends, family, physicians and other professionals.

Next we will talk about how to deal with these situations, how to protect yourself and how to feel good about yourself despite the dysfunction in family.

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