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The Psychology Shop

Dysfuncional Family: Part 2


How Dysfunctional Is Your Family? (Part 2)

Ah… weddings, funerals, and the holidays. There are predictable times of year when families will often get together. In your mind, you may picture family bliss; everyone getting along, people smiling and treating each other with love and respect, not a harsh word at all. The reality is often different. Instead of hugs and warm feelings, snide comments and arguments prevail. Do you ever wonder if your family may be a bit dysfunctional? Take the quiz below. This is part two (answers 11-20). Please refer to last month’s news for Part 1.

Quiz: How Dysfunctional is your family?

All families have their difficulties. However, some families have more which can create even greater problems. Worst yet, you might see the same type of problems generation after generation. If so, it's time for a change.

True or False
_____1. Members of my family have gone for at least two weeks without talking with one another due to anger.
_____2. We never discuss negative emotions.
_____3. My parent(s) treated each child differently depending upon who was their favorite.
_____4. I prefer to let my partner/spouse make the decisions with regard to my immediate family.
_____5. There was sexual abuse within the family that was never openly discussed.
_____6. One or more members of my family are abusing alcohol and/or drugs.
_____7. There is a member of the family that always is too sarcastic or insults others often.
_____8. Listening to others is difficult for many in this family.
_____9. My parent(s) mostly let the children raise themselves.
_____10. Myself or my sibling(s) were expected to take care of our parents or younger brothers/sisters.
_____11. Money is a sensitive issue in this family. We either never discuss it or there are frequent arguments about it.
_____12. There really are no accidents. Someone is always responsible.
_____13. There are mental health issues in the family but we really don’t discuss it.
_____14. My parents rarely attended a school or sporting event while I was growing up.
_____15. Being in control is very important to me.
_____16. My family can not get through a holiday time without a major argument.
_____17. When there are problems, we will typically not discuss them.
_____18. In my family, criticism was used much more than positive statements.
_____19. One or both of my parents has been divorced at least three times.
_____20. I really dread seeing members of my family and will often try to avoid them.

The more answers that you scored as true, the greater likelihood that your family will have problems adjusting to difficult situations. Remember, past behavior is a good indicator for future behavior. So if your family has a lot of arguments around events such as holidays and weddings, they will likely to continue to do so.

The good news is that even though you can not change your family members (no matter how much you want to), you can change your own behavior; and that by changing your behavior, you may alter how your family reacts to you. Here are some suggestions for the 11-20 items on the quiz.

11. Money is a sensitive issue in this family, we never discuss it or frequently argue about it. There is no doubt that discussing money can be difficult at times. In fact, money often is a major conflict issue within many families and can be highly emotional. The first step is to know that EVERYONE has to deal with money. As a result, try to keep your emotions out of the conversation, and discuss the issue. By practicing keeping to the specific money issue without becoming emotional, you will find that money conversations become easier and easier.

12. There really are no accidents. Someone is always responsible. As Freud once said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". There really are times when no one is to blame. Sometimes accidents just happen. What is a concern though, is if a family member has to find someone to blame for every mishap. This only creates an environment of walking on eggshells. Remember, some of mankind's greatest inventions were the result of accidents.

13. There are mental health issues in the family, but we really don't discuss it. Why not? By keeping everything secret it only creates more of a stigma for the person or persons with the mental health difficulty. Now, this does not mean to gossip; gossip is often a huge family problem. Let the person with the mental health issue control the discussion. Remember, we will all have issues at some point in our lifetime. Medical or psychological, it's all part of being human.

14. My parents rarely attended a school or sporting event... Talk about hurting a child's self-esteem. It's hard to put yourself out in public without someone rooting you on. Remember, your parents behavior (or lack thereof) was not about you, it was actually a reflection on their own psychological makeup.

15. Being in control is very important to me. That's fine, unless the control impacts others. The need for excessive control is often due to being insecure, a history of being physically or emotionally abused, neglected, fear of the unknown. Sometimes the controlling person is totally unaware how controlling their behavior is and the impact it has on others. Professional help may be required.

16. My family can not get through a holiday time without a major argument. Welcome to the holidays!! The good news is that you realize that this can be a terribly stressful time for your family. The bad news is that at some level you equate holidays with conflict. At times of conflict, try not to participate. Leave the room if you have to, go for a walk. You may have to take many walks, then again, the walks will allow you to leave the argument and provide exercise at the same time. Lastly, by all means, try not to consume excessive alcohol. Being intoxicated never helps any conflict.

17. When there are problems, we will typically not discuss them. That may work for some families for a short while, but never over the long run. If the problems are not discussed, then how can they be effectively solved so they can be avoided or worked through quickly in the future? Think of Mount St. Helens, the volcano. The pressure of the problems not discussed will build up over time and finally erupt. Often with unpleasant results.

18. My family, criticism was used much more than positive statements. So how is your self-esteem? If your family can not provide you with positive feedback, remember, you can not choose your family but you can choose your friends. Find a supportive network of friends that can give you what your family can not.

19. One or both of my parents has been divorced at least three times. After a few divorces, you can reasonably be assured that your parent needs to improve his or her ability to choose a partner or sustain a long-term relationship. Individuals from families that have multiple divorces often report difficulty forming and maintaining healthy long-term relationships. Issues of trust and abandonment can be common.

20. Really dread seeing members of my family and will often try to avoid them. Why? Then again, this may be a coping strategy.