Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trapped in a system with no place to go (Part I)


                                                      Picture taken from here

Today we look at dysfunctional patterns within families, in order to gain insight into what is healthy communication.

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse, on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions.

Until recent decades, the concept of a dysfunctional family was not taken seriously by professionals, especially among the middle and upper classes. 

Any intervention would have been seen as violating the sanctity of marriage and increasing the probability of divorce. Children were expected to obey their parents (ultimately the father), and cope with the situation alone, leading to high depression and anxiety rate amongst the young adults.

For today’s topic discussion, let us look at the Franklin family scenario below :

a) Sonia (the mother)
Is an accomplished pianist who teaches advanced theory to students in her own home.

b) Stan (the father)
Will soon become a successful partner in a big accounting firm.

c) Laurie (the daughter)
Is an intelligent student and the no. 2 player in the school tennis team.

d) Mike (the son)
He dropped all pretense interest in studies, sport, or social life. His only interest is drinking beer and drug addiction.

Each of the Franklins reacts to Mike’s substance abuse in different but "less than helpful ways."

Stan denies that his son has a problem and he hardly initiate heart to heart talk with him. Boys will be boys, he said, and he’s sure Mike will grow out of this phase. 

Laurie felt responsible for her kid brother and is scared because Mike is getting “wasted” every few days. She tries to help by introducing him to her straightlaced friends in the hope that he’ll get in with a good crowd.

Sonia worries for her son’s future. One weekday morning when he woke up with a hangover, she wrote a note to the school saying Mike had the flu. She also called a lawyer to help Mike when he was stopped for drunk driving. Although she promised never to tell his father about these incidents, she chides Stan for his lack of concern. The more she nags, the more he withdraws.

Mike feels caught and trapped in a vicious circle. Smoking pot helps him relax, but then his family gets more upset, which makes him want to smoke more, which…. During a tense dinner-table discussion,  he lashed out at his family : “You want to know why I use drugs? Go look in a mirror.”

Although the rest of the family sees Mike as “the problem,” a psychotherapist, describe the whole family system as disturbed.

Does the above scenario look/sound familiar?

How can the members of the Franklin family break out of their never ending game and experience real change in the way they relate to each other?

Look out for my next post.

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