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  1. 1. Understanding How Your Family Functions Family Seminar by Trevor O’Reggio
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Most of us have experienced some pain and anguish in our family of origin, some more than others. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why not just leave our families behind? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why not forget about them and go on with our lives? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We can’t walk away and pretend our families never happened. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Quote As children, we tend to mold our personalities to adapt to our environment. If our environment is supportive, nurturing, and flexible, we are freed to express our own individuality. If your environment is rigid, demanding, and conditional, however, we are forced to shape our behavior to fit the needs of others. We substitute our true self for a false self that is more acceptable to our parents, whose love and approval we need desperately. In essence we compromise who we really are, and become what our parents need us to be. – Laurie Ashner and Mitch Meyerson, When Parents Love Too Much , (New York, NY: Avon Books, 1990), p. 53.
  4. 4. Quote You may feel that your family or origin wasn’t dysfunctional since your father wasn’t an alcoholic . . . . The truth is, however, that, due to the fallen nature of all parents (and children), all families are flawed and therefore dysfunctional to a certain degree. Addictive and compulsive behaviors (addictions to food, sex, work, and so on) are extremely common in even “the best of families,” and such behavior is almost always linked to some form of dysfunctional family background. – Dave Carder, et al., Secrets of Your Family Tree , Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1991) p. 15.
  5. 5. The Family Defined <ul><li>A family is more than a group of individuals who happen to share the same address and same last names. </li></ul><ul><li>Riddles of why you are the way you are can be unlocked by looking at the family as a system of relationships and interpersonal dynamics. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Quote Many of us left home, defiantly vowing, “I’ll never do it like my parents.” Unfortunately, we are what we learn, and eventually, somehow, our parents manage to take up residence inside us. Only later as adults do we discover that we have never truly left home. In fact, in many ways we are just like our parents, who played the same game, different name—yet all products of a codependent heritage, “Lost in the shuffle.” – Robert Subby, Lost in the Shuffle, (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1987) p. 92.
  7. 7. The Family Defined <ul><li>Organism </li></ul><ul><li>A family is not merely a collection of separate individuals but an organism in which attitudes, values and actions of each member interact with those of all the other members. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Quote The Family as a System The family firm is a sacred, social society, in which each member is to act a part, each helping the other. The work of the household is to move smoothly, like the different parts of well-regulated machinery. {AH 179.4}
  9. 9. Quote The Family as a System Every member of the family should realize that a responsibility rests upon him individually to do his part in adding to the comfort, order, and regularity of the family. One should not work against another. All should unitedly engage in the good work of encouraging one another; they should exercise gentleness, forbearance, and patience; speak in low, calm tones, shunning confusion; and each doing his utmost to lighten the burdens of the mother. . . .
  10. 10. The Family Defined <ul><li>Organism </li></ul><ul><li>Many of our behavior patterns, both healthy and unhealthy, flow from the role we occupy in our particular family system. </li></ul><ul><li>When we understand our family system and the role we play in it, we unlock emotions and behaviors that would otherwise seem impossible to explain. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Quote The shame-bound family system is fixed in its form and highly resistant to change, even though change is a natural fact of life. This system is analogous to peanut brittle, with each person fixed in stereotyped, inflexible roles and relationships to one another . . . . When change exerts enough force all at one moment upon a rigid system, it may break and splinter. The shame-bound system does not have good capacity to absorb very much stress and still retain its integrity. – Merle A. Fossum and Marilyn J. Mason, Facing Shame: Families in Recovery , (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1986) p. 19.
  12. 12. The Family Defined <ul><li>System </li></ul><ul><li>Linear vs. Interactive Thinking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-if I do “A” then “B” will happen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-kicking a can and kicking a dog </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-predictability vs. unpredictability </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The Family Defined <ul><li>“ Everything occurring in a family, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>regardless of how carefully it may be hidden, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>impacts the children. Everything. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Family Defined <ul><li>System </li></ul><ul><li>Linear and Interactive Thinking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Push resistant phenomenon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of punctuation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biblical example: Eph 4:28 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Change the punctuation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Change meaning of passage </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Our understanding of an event depends upon mental punctuation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The Family Defined <ul><ul><ul><li>Donna understood what was happening like this: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- He withdraws, I nag. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>From Fred’s perspective: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- She nags, I withdraw. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Both Fred and Donna are punctuating things according to linear thinking in which there is a single cause and a single result. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. The Family Defined Donna nags ➞➞ Fred withdraws (Cause) (Effect) Fred withdraws ➞➞ Donna nags (Cause) (Effect) This is the normal simplistic way to look at relationships but relationships are interactive in nature and require that we think in terms of feedback loops.
  17. 17. The Family Defined <ul><li>Feedback Loops </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The value of seeing things as feedback loops is that it makes clearer that either party can change the situation by changing his or her behavior. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The Family Defined Donna nags Fred withdraws Fred withdraws Donna nags
  19. 19. The Family and Change <ul><li>What makes families change? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There are many factors, some normal and some natural. </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. The Family and Change <ul><li>Life Cycles in Families </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Birth of first child </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>birth of other children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>first day of school for oldest child </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>day the youngest child finishes school </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. The Family and Change <ul><ul><li>children leave home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>parents reaching retirement age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>caring for elder parent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>death of a parent </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. The Family and Change <ul><ul><li>The life cycle gives families ample opportunities to change but family systems like most systems are resistant to change. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. The Family and Change <ul><li>Inertia – principle of homeostasis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is our bodies ability to adjust to hot and cold conditions. Family systems work the same way. Once a pattern of relationship gets established in which everyone is assigned a role powerful powers within the system will work to keep things the same even if circumstances change. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Case study: the daughter who just couldn’t leave home. </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. The Family and Change <ul><li>Family Secrets </li></ul><ul><li>What are the forces that keep families locked in dysfunctional patterns? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inertia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family Secrets </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. The Family and Change <ul><li>Family Secrets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Family secrets are things that have happened and may still be happening that family members know about but no one ever talks about. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Quote First and foremost, children are taught to disown what their eyes see and what their ears hear. Because of denial in the family, children’s perceptions of what is happening become progressively and systematically negated. Overtly or covertly, explicitly or implicitly, they are told not to believe what their own senses tell them. As a result, the children learn to distrust their own experience. At the same time, they are taught not to trust other people. – Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1985) p. 19.
  27. 27. The Family and Change <ul><ul><li>-some shameful events in the past </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- some illegitimacy in the family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-incest among family members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-family member stricken with some terrible disease such as AIDS, insanity, physical disability, mental retardation </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. The Family and Change <ul><li>Conspiracy of silence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Family secrets buried so deeply if brought to the surface they could tear the family apart </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>family secrets are like having an elephant in the parlor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>you learn at a very early age that the one question you never ask is “Why do we have an elephant in the parlor?” </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. The Family and Change <ul><li>Family Myths </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Family myths are the opposite of family secrets. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Quote What is common to all such families is the commitment of all family members to maintain the secrets through rigid rules about what may and may not be talked about. These rules prohibit spontaneity in the family relationships; with spontaneity the real feelings and facts might be revealed. Family members create powerful myths about their histories, often leaving out the painful historical shapers of the shame. The children in these families are loyal through their lack of questioning about the past, thereby colluding in the family’s rules. – Merle A. Fossum and Marilyn J. Mason, Facing Shame: Families in Recovery , (New York, NY: Norton, 1986) pp. 45-46.
  31. 31. The Family and Change <ul><li>Family Myths </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Myths are things we talk about but never do. Bernard Shaw, Family History: A Life Agreed Upon. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-our family was very close </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-claiming important people in your family tree </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-claim wealth in family background </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Quote As adult children of dysfunctional families we operate in a world of extremes—always seeking that healthy balance, the Golden Mean, but always seeming to fall short of the mark. The pendulum swings to one extreme and we feel lonely, isolated, and afraid. We tire of this, and it swings to the other extreme, where we feel enmeshed, smothered, and angry. – John and Linda Friel, Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. 1988) pp. 17-18.
  33. 33. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>All families are imperfect, but some families are healthier than others. How can you measure the ways in which your family fell short of the ideal so as to better understand your own need for healing? </li></ul>
  34. 34. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>Fusion vs. Distance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>emotional glue between families vs. withdrawal and emotional distance, maintaining the balance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Family Problems vs. Personal Problems </li></ul><ul><li>Mutual Respect and Tolerance for Defense </li></ul>
  35. 35. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>Generational Respect </li></ul><ul><li>Traits of a Healthy Family </li></ul><ul><li>What are the traits of a healthy family? </li></ul><ul><li>(See handouts “Characteristics of a Healthy Family.” </li></ul>
  36. 36. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>Types of Dysfunctional Families </li></ul><ul><li>Isolated Islands </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared same last name and address but totally detached from one another </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most severely disturbed pattern of family dysfunction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most negative impact on members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationship devoid of emotional content; existing only for utilitarian purposes </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>Generational Splits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of significant interaction between parents and children </li></ul></ul>
  38. 38. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>Gender Splits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Men and boys stick together as do the woman and girls. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Little emotional interaction across gender lines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong notion of sex based roles. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ men’s work” and “women’s work” </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. The Well-Adjusted Family <ul><li>The Family Scapegoat </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Someone becomes the blame for the family problems, lightening rod of family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scapegoat illustration from OT </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ He just doesn’t fit in.” </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. What About My Family? <ul><li>Family Inventory. </li></ul><ul><li>See handout “Family Inventory.” </li></ul>
  41. 41. What About My Family? <ul><li>Adaptability Scale </li></ul><ul><li>Chaotic Adaptable Rigid </li></ul><ul><li>6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 </li></ul>
  42. 42. What About My Family? <ul><li>Attachment Scale </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disengaged Attached Enmeshed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 </li></ul>
  43. 43. Genogram Family Patterns and Family Sins
  44. 44. Principle of Balance Balanced Triangle Everyone involved in it is comfortable with all the others; there is no reason for it to change.
  45. 45. Principle of Balance Unbalanced Triangle A relationship of three people who do not get along is hardly a relationship at all.
  46. 46. Principle of Balance Balanced Triangle Two aligned parties draw their strength from their mutual dislike for the third party. Ex. Moses, Aaron and Miriam
  47. 47. Principle of Balance Unbalanced Triangle One person has a good relationship with two other people who dislike each other, is by nature unbalanced.
  48. 48. Quotes Everything occurring in a family, regardless of how carefully it may be hidden, impacts the children. Everything. – Robert Hemfelt and Paul Warren, Kids Carry Our Pain , (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 70.
  49. 49. Quotes Characteristics of a Healthy Family 1. It is balanced; it can adapt to change. 2. Problems are handled on a family basis, not just an individual basis. 3. There are solid cross-generational connections. 4. Clear boundaries are maintained between individuals. 5. People deal with each other directly. 6. Differences are accepted and encouraged.
  50. 50. Quotes Characteristics of a Healthy Family 7. The thoughts and feelings of others are accepted. 8. Individuals know what they can give to, and receive from, others. 9. Maintaining a positive emotional climate is a high priority. 10. Each family member values the family as “a good place to live.” 11. Each learns from the others and encourages feedback. 12. Individuals are allowed to experience their own emptiness.
  51. 51. Forgiveness Quotes One of the roots of compulsive behavior is pain that is buried. Pretending that it isn’t there or that it doesn’t bother you anymore won’t solve your problems. Stoicism isn’t the answer. Facing your past and forgiving those who wounded you is the only lasting solution . . . . When buried memories surface, they need to be dealt with. It is important to forgive the parent who hurt you and the one who didn’t protect you from the hurt. – Nancy Curtis, Beyond Survival (Lake Mary, FL: Strang Communications, 1990) p. 59-60.
  52. 52. Forgiveness Quotes Forgiveness breaks the cycle. It does not settle all questions of blame and justice and fairness; to the contrary, often it evades those questions. But it does all relationships to start over. In that way, said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. It is not our capacity to think that makes us different, but our capacity to repent, and to forgive. Only humans can perform that most unnatural act, and by doing so only they can develop relationships that transcend the relentless law of nature. – Philip Yancey, “An Unnatural Act,” Christianity Today , (April 8, 1991) p. 37.
  53. 53. Forgiveness Quotes But think about who your anger is hurting most: It’s you, as you wallow in your inner turmoil and bitterness. Forgiveness enables you to become fully freed from your anger so that you can develop as good a relationship as possible with your parents. Then, you will also be free to move forward positively in other relationships. – Anne Grizzle, Mothers Who Love Too Much , (New York, NY: Ivy Books, 1988 pp. 207-208.
  54. 54. Forgiveness Quotes Forgiveness involves letting go. Remember playing tug-of-war as a child? As long as the parties on each end of the rope are tugging, you have a “war.” But when someone lets go, the war is over. When you forgive your father, you are letting go of your end of the rope. No matter how hard he may tug on the other end, if you have released your end, the war is over for you. – H. Norman Wright, Always Daddy’s Girl , (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1989) pp. 235-236.
  55. 55. Forgiveness Quotes Remember that no matter how you verbalize your anger you must forgive! Forgiving starts with an act of the will. Forgiving is a choice. It may take some time to work through the emotional feelings that are involved. We cannot immediately dismiss the feelings. Again, it takes time to reprogram our computer. It takes time to reprogram the feelings. However, we can forgive others immediately by an act of the will. – Frank B. Minirth, M.D. and Paul D. Meier, M.D., Happiness is a Choice ,(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978) p. 156