Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Dysfunctional Family

As we talked about last post, the functional family teaches its members basic skills: To feel, to trust and to talk.  It is a "safe" place where you understand that you are loved even when you make a mistake or have a different opinion than the others in the family.  It keeps open, honest and loving communication flowing.

A dysfunctional family system simply lacks these skills because:
  • Someone in the family is emotionally or physically abusive or absent, or possibly an addict. Unconditional love is not present
  • Someone in the family is physically or mentally ill.  Not enough time or energy to take care of the members needs
  • Family secrets are the rule...the message is we don't talk about things - even among the members
  • One member of the family controls the others so they feel like robots
A family is dysfunctional if life skills are not being taught.   A family is dysfunctional if the members don't feel valued and protected.  Usually a family member knows something is wrong but the rules against expressing feelings, trusting or talking make talking about the problem very difficult so denial becomes the norm.  Denial is an unwillingness or inability to be honest about our feelings.  It can become a life pattern.  The result is growth and development as a person is hindered and a loss of identity can manifest.

Dysfunctional families don't work because they don't teach the skills needed to have happy effective lives.

The point of all this is not to blame because all these behaviors are passed down from generation to generation so if you want to cast blame it would probably have to be on your great - great - great grandparents and they probably got it from those before them.  The point is to recognize any passed down family dysfunction and change it in you so it will not continue to be passed down anymore.

We are going to take some time to see how these cycles begin in families and how we can learn to break the cycles and replace destructive patterns with Christ-honoring patterns of behavior

Next post we will talk about how destructive patterns creep into a family line.

Can you identify any harmful family patterns you need to change?

Teach God's teachings to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deut.  11:19

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Functional Family....What is that???

Co-dependency, functional, dysfunctional are all words that many of us have heard for years and yet I think we really do need to revisit what these words mean.  We live in a word that is so confusing in so many ways but especially in having an understanding of what a "healthy" functional family looks like or for that matter what a "healthy" functional person looks like.  Is there such a thing???

Well, we will never be perfect or even totally functional in this life but we can at least work toward at least knowing what functional looks like and work toward being the healthiest person you can be.

So....back to the question.....What is a functional family?   A family is a system in which each person's behavior affects all the other members.  This family unit is characterized by a sense of family wholeness.  Each family member has a feeling of belonging which contributes to their personal self-esteem.  They learn they can trust, feel, and talk about many - if not all - the issues in their lives.

One of the most important things we can learn from our family is how to have healthy relationships.  Three skills are needed to have a healthy relationship and they are the abilities to feel, to trust and to talk.

How are these skills taught:
1.  By modeling consistency and dependability trust is learned
2.  By respecting and talking about emotions, hurts and joys, we learn it's ok to express feeling.
3.  By taking time to listen and value what is said we learn how to talk in a open and healthy way.

A family should teach these truths:
  • That my worth is based upon who I am and I am loved and I belong
  • That my worth is not based on my performance: I will be loved even if I make a mistake.
God is the ultimate functional parent.  He loves us with unconditional love.  He says, "I love you because of who you are and I will continue to love you no matter what"

So bottom line:
1 Healthy families establish healthy priorities.

2 Healthy families ask for--and give--respect.
Members in healthy families know respect is a two-way street. In order to receive respect; you must first give it.

3 Healthy families communicate.

Happy families talk and listen to each other. They respect the other person's point of view, even when it differs from their own. In healthy families, members practice "active listening" says Mary Durkin, Ph.D., author, lecturer and mother of seven. In her book, Making Your Family Work, she says the following five qualities are common to active listeners.

* Giving the other person opportunities to express ideas and feelings--without interrupting.

* Making an honest attempt to understand these ideas and feelings.

* Setting aside preconceived opinions about the other person.

* Showing respect for the other person's right to hold a view different from yours.

* Demonstrating your appreciation for the effort the other person is making.

4 Healthy families have a sense of play and humor.Educator Dolores Curran surveyed 550 family professionals--teachers, clergy, pediatricians, social workers, counselors, leaders of volunteer organizations--asking them to list the top 15 traits common to healthy families. A sense of play and humor was number five on the list. In her book, Traits of a Healthy Family, Curran notes, "Good families seem able to keep their work and play in perspective. Like the people in the early agricultural communities, when they work, they work hard and when they play, they play hard. They feel no guilt when they reward themselves by relaxing. A sense of humor in the family also keeps things in perspective and works as an antidote to drudgery, depression and conflict within families."

5 Healthy families foster responsibility.Strong, secure families stress a sense of personal responsibility and obligation toward others.

6 Healthy families instill strong moral and spiritual foundations.
Healthy families find ways to cultivate strong spiritual and moral foundations. Some of the ways to do this is to find ways to teach good character traits to children through volunteering and helping others.  Being involved in church and/or groups that instill Godly values and principles all contribute to a healthy foundation.

Next post: The Dysfunctional Family

Monday, August 1, 2011

What is Codependency

What is codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of detrimental, behavioral interactions within a dysfunctional relationship. "A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior" (Beattie, M., Codependent No More).

Sometimes, the codependent is in a familial or other relationship that involves alcohol, substance abuse, physical abuse, pornography, gambling, or other destructive behaviors. The codependent has learned to interact or behave in such ways that they believe will help but never does.

They often feel tremendous guilt, responsibility or need to "fix" by controlling the actions of others, especially the one who owns the original problem. The codependent develops intense feelings and will try anything to make the family or relationship survive.

It's very common to "cover up" the behavior of their loved one; this is called enabling. By enabling, they are allowing the behavior to continue and cause avoidance of natural consequences. Codependents don't want to "rock the boat." They therefore are willing to do most anything just to keep peace. This too is where other family members learn to function in this manner creating the all too common "dysfunctional family."

The codependent will often accept blame for the situation. For instance, in a dysfunctional relationship the codependent will either accept or proclaim that "It's entirely my fault; it's because of something I did wrong."

This fits the source, the dysfunctional person (the addict, abusive person etc) just fine since that person looks for others to blame for their actions. The dysfunctional person is denying, floundering, and usually very capable of using whatever means of escape possible. They are not beyond threats, coercion, or manipulation to avoid taking responsibility.

Bottom line definition:  Codependency is a compulsion to control and rescue people by fixing their problems.  it occurs when a person's needs for love and security are not met.

Codependency has three core behaviors and three emotional results.

1. Lack of Objectivity:  the inability to see things as they really are. Past hurts keep warping our view of present events.
2. A Warped Sense of Responsibility:  not having good boundaries to tell us our responsibilities vs others responsibilities.
3.  Being Controlled and Controlling Others: Since we don't have good boundaries we alternate between invading others space and allowing them to invade our space and manipulate us.

1. Hurt/Anger
3. Guilt
4. Loneliness

Next post we will look at what a "Functional" Family looks like..