Common Family Dysfunctions



The most universal trait among dysfunctional families is

an inability to manage intimacy.  Intimacy may be defined as

the sharing of feelings.

To function intimately one must first be a self and

express it.  Second, one must appreciate (or at least accept)

the self-expression of others.

Intimacy is about identifying, accepting and expressing

feelings; dysfunction is about not identifying, not accepting

and not expressing them.

In dysfunctional families we see behaviors which

serve as substitutes for intimacy and which encourage the

suppression of feelings.  Addiction to alcohol, drugs, food,

work, sex, relationships, gambling, spending and religion are

all ways to fend off unpleasant emotions or to manage the

loneliness that comes with emotional isolation.

Abuse, whether physical, emotional, verbal or sexual is

common in dysfunctional families.  Abuse always involves

disrespect and a violation of personal boundaries.

Individuals are not valued except insofar as they contribute

to the maintenance of rigid roles that protect the family

from real feelings.

Vague, indirect communication designed to disguise

meanings is typical.  So are closely guarded and unspeakable

secrets, lack of privacy, coercive or manipulative control

tactics, rigid rules and a deep suspicion of outsiders or

anything different.

These traits are passed down through the generations.

People tend to parent as they were parented unless they make

a conscious choice not to.

Families are systems.  This means that each member is

affected by every other.  Even if only one member is

dysfunctional, other members will take on dysfunctional


There is no choice about this.  Everyone goes along

because they have to.  The only other options are

dissolution, disablement or ejection.  And those are not

escapes.  You can’t escape your family because they’re in

you.  All you can do is out-grow them and become a self

capable of intimacy.




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