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Healing From the Dysfunctional Family - Lesson 03

by Dr. Ray Self


Healing From the Effects of the Dysfunctional Family

Click Play in the video player window and follow along on the class notes below.

The effects of the dysfunctional family can be very powerful and last a lifetime. By taking an honest look at symptoms that may be occurring today, it can point to a past that was dysfunctional, but by examination, we can expose the problem and bring it to the light of Christ.

Ephesians 5:13 - But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

Ephesians 5:11- Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

Below listed are some of the possible lingering effects of the dysfunctional family upon its members. There should be no condemnation here. We are simply bringing the problems to the light.

Low Self-Esteem - Because there was so much focus and attention given to the handicapped member of the family, normal nurturing and validation to the children was lacking. Without these critical elements of development low self-esteem can be expected.

Search for Significance - Because the message of the dysfunctional family to the children is that they are not important, the attempt to try to find value and self-worth can dominate adulthood.

Unfinished Business - This is an enormous topic that cannot be handled in one lesson but the essence of unfinished business it the inner desire to complete a task that cannot be completed. An example of unfinished business may be the task that a child has to try to get attention and validation from a parent who is unavailable. Because this task could not be completed during childhood the person finds himself attracted to the same type of person with the same issues of their parents so they can try to complete the task with them. The principle of unfinished business explains why people repeat unhealthy patterns in relationships.

Poor Coping Skills - This can be characterized by problems such as denial or fear of discovery and a lack of ability in expressing true feelings. A person with poor coping skills can have difficulty in dealing with their personal issues. This is a common problem stemming from the dysfunctional family because the only issues that were spoken about were the issues of the handicapped member.

False Identities - A person may wear a mask to hide their true self because they are afraid if people knew who they really were they would be rejected.

Inability to Find Purpose - By not knowing our true identity they can be impossible to find and move into God-given purpose.

Restlessness - This can be defined as an inability to commit or settle down. The restless person may change jobs churches and even friendships or relationships often.

Depression - Depression is a very serious illness. Its symptoms are –

  • Sadness that never disappears but varies in intensity from day to day.
  • Hopelessness which stems from extreme depression wherein the person feels there is no hope for joy peace or life in general.
  • Lack of motivation - the person knows they should do something positive but the motivation to act is not there.
  • Fatigue - a feeling of constant tiredness which can cause the person to become lethargic.
  • Suicidal thoughts such as, "I feel so bad that I would rather be dead than continue to live this way."
  • Negative patterns of thinking - everything is seen in the negative. The glass is half empty. It can be described as wearing dark glasses that make everything look bad.
  • Escapism through drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, work, sleep and various other methods to avoid the pain.
  • Feeling overwhelmed - even simple tasks can become hard. The thought of doing something that may have been simple in the past seems overly difficult.
  • Numbness - this is when the person with depression begins to feel nothing. No sadness no joy nor happiness no emotion but simply becomes "flatlined."

Further notes on depression – We need to understand that this disease can vary greatly in intensity and duration. Depression can last for days, weeks, or even a lifetime. It can come and go and change every day. Depression is curable! There are natural cures, medical cures and of course most importantly, there is the Lord.

Role-Playing - The adult child of the dysfunctional family may still play one of the roles that they assumed as a child.
  • The Hero - They will constantly strive for perfection in order to be the hero.
  • The Scapegoat - It is much easier to take the blame or just be the bad guy.
  • The Clown - Make fun of everything you can in order to hide the pain.
  • The Lost One - Try to make themselves invisible and make no waves.

Controlling - There is an inner vow that is made that says I must be in control at all times because being out of control is what caused me so much pain in my past. This is a serious problem because it creates a lack of trust and faith in God and a lot of frustration with friends and family. Controlling people live externally keeping the focus on what other people should be doing so therefore they can avoid their own issues.

Shame – This problem tends to stick with most victims of dysfunction. It is a feeling that remains under the surface but is constantly there. "There is something wrong with my family so there must be something wrong with me."

Study Questions:

  1. Why is looking at symptoms of the dysfunctional family important?
  2. How does the dysfunctional family create low self esteem?
  3. Why to people created a false identity?
  4. What is depression and what is the cure?

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