Dysfunctional Relatives: Friend or Foe?

Many years ago, while I was visiting a friend in the hospital, a large poster on the wall caught my eye. It contained a picture of a large football stadium with two cars and two families at center field, but the rest of the facility was empty. The headline read, “Annual Convention of Functional Families”; the footer continued, “And these two families are in denial.”

All of us bring some baggage to relationships; the only variable is how much.

For law enforcement officers, the most dangerous on-duty situations are domestic disputes. Why? Emotionally charged individuals in close relationships do not think rationally and are completely unpredictable. Quite frankly, “emotionally charged” and “unpredictable” help describe some of the relationships I have with a few of my own relatives.

How about you? Do you have a family member (or more) who pushes your buttons?

Many people will dwell on the negative or the unattractive elements of their family relationships. They focus on the behaviors and outcomes they like the least. As a result, they themselves attract more of the same poor behavior into their own relationships.

Let me encourage you that you have the ability to change your situation, regardless of your background. Consider the next personal statement as a foundation to improving not only family—but all—relationships.

“What other people think of me is none of my business.”

How do you learn (or teach others) to have peaceful and authentic relationships with relatives? It is very difficult to build a constructive relationship with a person when your emotions toward that individual involve humiliation, blame, despair, regret, anxiety, and even hatred.

Here’s the kicker: Others treat you the way you teach them to treat yourself! (Ouch!) The fact is that the only person you can change is yourself―and that is true for your thinking as well as your resulting behavior. If someone places poison on your plate, you don’t have to eat it. No one can force you to. Similarly, no one is able to make you upset without your consent. And only you know whether you have been giving your consent with too much frequency in the past.

Everybody carries early heritage into their lives. To help you better identify how your family background might be contributing to your responses, please review the following true-or-false survey questions. This is not designed to be a scientific survey; rather, it is simply a way to help you frame many of the common emotional traits that come out of dysfunctional family environments.

If you feel unsettled by your responses to the survey questions, please contact a professional or an individual skilled in these areas to help you deal with these matters. Remember, this survey does not create the results; it only helps document what is already true.

Please respond True or False to the following questions:

  1. Do you find yourself needing approval from others to feel good about yourself? T / F
  2. Do you generally agree to do more for others than you can comfortably accomplish? T / F
  3. Are you a perfectionist? T / F
  4. Do you find it difficult to identify what you’re feeling? T / F
  5. Do you find it difficult to express your feelings? T / F
  6. Do you tend to think in all-or-nothing terms? T / F
  7. Do you often feel lonely, even in the presence of others? T / F
  8. Do you tend to hang on to hurtful or destructive relationships? T / F
  9. Are you more aware of others’ needs and feelings than of your own? T / F
  10. Do you find it particularly difficult to deal with anger or criticism? T / F
  11. Do you find yourself waiting for disaster to strike, even when things are going well for you? T / F
  12. Do you have difficulty with authority figures? T / F

“True” answers may indicate carryover effects from family dysfunction. Most people will likely identify with “True” responses to at least some of the questions. But if you find yourself answering “True” to more than half the questions, you likely have some long-term effects of living in a dysfunctional family. Further, if you find yourself answering “True” to the majority of the questions, you might want to seek assistance or start choosing to change the way you think about these issues.

Much more can be covered on this topic, but that short questionnaire will get you started. But there is more you can do, right now!

Experiencing freedom from others’ negative impact/influence means feeling centered and confident in your own self-worth, values, and strengths. If have you already not done so, consider three of CRG’s resources to help you on this journey: Self-Worth Inventory, Values Preference Indicator, and Personal Style Indicator. These assessments provide a powerful process for building self-confidence and increasing your personal victories. Do you know someone else who could also benefit from this process? Feel free to share this information!

When I became clearer about my own values and accepted self-approval, I was more grounded and centered―and my emotions were more positive, productive, and predictable. I wish that result for everyone reading this e-zine.

Are your relatives friends or foes? The answer is up to you.

Ken Keis, Ph.D.
CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc.

Author Bio

Ken Keis, Ph.D., President of CRG, is a global expert on leadership, wellness, behavioral assessments, and life purpose. In 28 years, he has conducted over 3000 presentations and invested 10,000+ hours in consulting and coaching. Ken Keis is considered a foremost global authority on the way assessment strategies and processes increase and multiply success rates. He co-created CRG’s proprietary development models and has written over 4 million words of content for 40 business training programs and 400+ articles. His latest book, The Quest For Purpose: A Self-Discovery Process To Find It And Live It!,is available at crgleader.com.

Posted in Wellness.