What’s Dysfunction Got to Do With It?
Hi everybody, I’m Maggie O’Connor at BreakthroughMFT helping you reach your Breakthrough moment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dysfunctional family systems.
In any family, whether or not it’s spoken out loud, everybody knows what the rules are.
In dysfunctional families, regardless of what specifically occurs within the walls of the home, secrecy is rule #1, and it is characterized as loyalty.
Children growing up in these families often believe that the abuse, conflict or neglect they experience is normal.
When no one challenges the abusive parent(s), children typically assume it’s their fault – internalizing blame and turning it to shame. And shame says ‘don’t ever, ever talk about it’.
It’s dangerous to call the abuser out, because you know that you will suffer punishment, and nothing, NOTHING will change. The ‘system’ will continue to sustain itself.
So we develop a way of being in order to survive within the system.
This way of being is the “role” you play. You may have heard of the Scapegoat, the Golden Child, The Loner…
In these roles, each family member accommodates the abuse or neglect in their own way, in order to survive themselves. This is what we mean by dysfunction – it’s how the parts of the system accommodates the abuse and allows it to continue.
Characteristics of dysfunctional families include:
– Lack of Empathy
– Poor boundaries for yourself
– Disrespect for the boundaries of others
– Extremes in conflict – in either direction – Overly violent or overly peaceful
– Un-equal treatment of family members due to real or perceived attributes
Everyone in dysfunctional families are at risk in all kinds of ways, but none more than when they try to call out the dysfunctional system itself. Then you risk abandonment, which to our survival brain, means death. So individual members find their way within the system, to survive.
The discussion about police reform is not about individual officers. It’s about a dysfunctional system that protects the members who abuse and neglect and punishes well-intentioned members who would otherwise speak against it.
As respectful food for thought, perhaps it gets under our skin in part because we recognize some of our own experience and feel compelled to protect the status quo.
I’m Maggie O’Connor, hoping this helps you to break on through.