Dysfunctional Family: Broken, but it can be mended

Dysfunctional families carry elements of substance abuse (alcoholism or drug abuse), physical abuseverbal abuseemotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the effects of this environment cast a deep shadow on future generations. Some patterns are not about the overt abuse, but are much more subtle, often continue unnoticed for long periods of time and may spread from one generation to another.

In dysfunctional families, there are rules that are rarely, if ever, spoken but are followed implicitly.The dysfunctional patterns in the family continue even without overt abuse.

Tacit Rules in abusive families are:

Don’t Talk

In the abusive family, it is often not okay to talk about the abuse, both inside and outside of the family. Some families make sure everything looks perfect so no one outside the family would know what was going on behind closed doors. This pattern may continue throughout life and affect many relationships. The pattern of hiding problems can lead to perfectionism, which may seem like it’s a good thing, but often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of worthlessness, and low self-esteem.

Don’t Feel

Feelings in the abusive family are not validated. Often children are told that they shouldn’t feel a certain way or that they don’t actually feel a certain way. Feelings are not discussed, sometimes not felt and often ignored. This can lead to hiding and avoiding feelings in adulthood and result in poor conflict resolution.

  • Avoiding feelings of happiness by expecting that they cannot be happy.
  • Avoid disappointment by not getting their hopes up.
  • Feelings of sadness and grief are often discounted and hidden due to continued patterns of helplessness.
  • Many times, the only emotion expressed in the home is anger. People can become prone to rage, due to keeping feelings of anger in until they become overwhelming and erupt.
Don’ Trust

Abusive families tend to isolate themselves in order to hide their secrets. Family members are taught that they cannot trust the adults in the family because they are either abusive or not protecting them from the abuse. They are told not to trust anyone outside sometimes explicitly, but mostly implicitly. This rule continues and causes people to have few if any social supports. Messages like ‘you can only rely on the family because friends will always let you down’ become prominent. Perfectionism comes into play, because they are not allowed to show any weakness or perceived flaw. It leads to rigid boundaries. Once again isolation, depression, anxiety often are a result of continuing to follow this rule.

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