Release destructive emotions


Dysfunctional Family Dynamics

I Love You So Big Blog! – Lynne Namka, © 2011

“Children who experience severe parental fighting, addictions, abuse or neglect have a hard time learning the positive social skills necessary for good relationships. They have what Michael Odent M.D. calls “an impairment to love.” Children from severely dysfunctional homes observe that people hurt each other with words and actions unnecessarily.” -  Lynne Namka, Your Quick Anger Makeover Plus Twenty Other Cutting-Edge Techniques to Release Anger!

After examining what creates happy families, I thought about what breaks up a functional family system. What stressors cause husband and wife to pull apart, distance and slowly erode the love that they had pledged? The external stressors are job loss, financial strain, illness and too busy schedules resulting in not taking time for each other. Extensive job demands, attractions and affairs and workaholism can result in family pressures. Anything that selfishly pulls the parents away from the needs of the family can create stress and disconnection.

But it’s the adaptations to the stressors that define functionality. It’s the way we cope with stress and conflict not what happens to us. The inspirational literature is full of examples of people with severe adversity in their life who make it against the odds. The difference between winners and losers seems to be how we cope with failure, with betrayal, with trauma and with those aspects in those we love that are so irritating. It’s the inner demons that create dysfunctional families.

The internal strains come from fear and unmet needs deep in the psyche that create giving in too much and giving up one’s self or conversely, selfishness, egocentricity and refusal to see problems from the other person’s point of view.  The demons not addressed slay the integrity of the self.  Not having a way to negotiate conflict and fight in healthy ways sets the stage for below-the-belt-fighting. Refusal to know one’s own anger results in expressing it sideways in manipulation or aggression.

Denial of one’s problems–not owning up and dealing with addictive needs create the most severe forms of dysfunction in families. Alcohol and substance abuse, reacting to physical attractions and affairs that take personal energy outside of the marriage, partying and going to bars, etc.; these addictions create chasms in relationships.  All of these behaviors create distance and anger in relationships and wreck havoc on children.

Now, I knew that my daughter and her husband will meet times of adversity; their family may not always be so functional.  No person is so lucky to go through life without hard knocks. But help is available for the asking to help families gain strategies and skills for dealing with tough times. Trials and tribulations can create character and depth of being or there can be a giving up into depression or refusal to take responsibility. Those tantalizing demons of fear, addictive urges, denial and defensiveness can be tamed. It’s what we do with adversity that creates the life well lived or one of despair.

Sorting out your family’s dysfunctional behavior helps you take charge of your own life. Parents are a mix of both positive and negative attributes. We can examine family patterns, not to blame our parents, but to understand how our own unhealthy behaviors were formed so they can be changed. In the short or long run, we must be responsible for our own stuff if we desire happiness.

The dysfunctional family Robinson according to a cartoon by Callahan shows each family member sitting on their own little island facing each other and scowling. Distancing, manipulation and anger are all part of unhappy families. A modern day version might show a family texting each other instead.

So I got to thinking about what we need to teach children to prepare them for times when life does knock them around?  What tools and techniques do children need to prepare themselves for the difficult times in life? As we move into this new century, what is the best that we can teach our children so that they will be self-reliant?  What is it to be really fully human living free and expressive?

Why don’t we teach children the truth of what they are–a beautiful expression of love?

Note from Lynne: I’m the mother of three grown children who are nice, happy people contributing to their communities and the grandmother of three. I raised my children with many of these ideas gleaned from the best that psychology has to offer. I observe that parents today are having a harder time of raising children than those in my generation. Today’s children are more challenging requiring more skill on the parents’ part. It is a different world out there with many negative pulls on young people’s concept of who they are.

Also I’m a psychologist in private practice with 30 years experience working with young people, families and adults.  I am the author of nine self-help books including The Mad Family Gets Their Mads Out, which is #23 on a best selling list for domestic violence and is in its fifth printing.  My award-winning web pages on anger management ( feature over 120 articles on healthy living and appropriate anger management. See my advice column for angry children on my website called Ask the Lady Who Knows About Mads.


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