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Family and Emotions

Updated on October 15, 2012

Family Dynamics

Family dynamics influence children
Family dynamics influence children | Source

What is a Dysfunctional Family?

The family plays a tremendous role in how our feelings evolve. We are shaped by how well our family functions. Each member of a family fulfills a part, a role that fits the specific needs of the unit. The parts we play to satisfy other members of the group do not necessary fulfill our own needs or benefit our personal development. Often the needs of any one member may be bypassed so that the family survives. Children, frequently are sacrificed, their feelings are devalued or ignored. They do not learn to fulfill their own needs in a healthy and satisfying way. This can cause many problems

What is a dysfunctional family?
When parents don’t respond to the needs of their children, and put their own needs upon their children, there is family dysfunction.

People often leave their family of origin, the home they grew up in, and hope they will leave the drama and the issues behind. The reality is, that most of us, repeat what we have grown up with. Perhaps because familiarity is comfortable we gravitate towards what we know. Our experiences, the problems we have grown accustomed to, the feelings that breed similarity to the patterns that we recognize, and the way we are used to being treated follow us from our childhood home to the home we make as an adult.

No Family is Perfect

Children who grow up in a nurturing and supportive family have a better chance of forming healthy relationships as adults. Some families are dysfunctional and fail to provide in the best interests of the children’s physical and emotional needs. This can cause damage to their ego, their self value, and feelings of worthiness. When children have a lower self esteem and feel that they are unimportant and their needs don’t matter, they may form relationships that are unsatisfying into adulthood.

Family dysfunction can interfere with how we process our feelings. Some people are overwhelmed by the dysfunction they had to deal with and never fully process their feelings about it. Some families do not let their members express their emotions of anger,fear or sadness. Some families smother their emotions with alcohol or drugs, never allowing their feelings to be felt. Some families are so filled with pain, and guilt, anxiety, resentfulness and shame, they don’t have a place for their feelings.. People from families like these can get disconneced from their emotions. As adults, they don’t process any feelings, and this can lead to mental health problems, relationship issues, problems with their self esteem and an overall feeling of being unfulfilled. It can even affect their perception of reality.

No family is perfect. Families, yell, have misunderstandings, hurt each other, strike out at each other, and live with tension among each other. In healthy families, each person can ask for and get their needs met. There are consistent rules and the family adapt to changes as they occur. In healthy families, each person’s individuality is appreciated. They get encouragement and exposure to new things so that they can develop their own interests. Each family member has boundaries that are respected. Each member has responsibilities, and can be consistently relied on. Feelings are honored, and emotions are free to be expressed. In families that are healthy, mistakes are okay, but there is support, unconditional love, and trust among each other. Children in these types of families grow up knowing themselves, trusting their feelings, and more easily express their emotions. When children have their fundamental needs met, they will feel accepted and valued by their parents. Their child’s uniqueness and preciousness is encouraged. When our needs are met as children, we learn to meet our needs as adults in constructive and healthy ways.

Even Functional Families Can Become Dysfunctional for a Time

All families, even functional ones, can become dysfunctional at one time or another. When there are financial issues, marital discourse, illnesses, or any number of events that can befall a family, the unbalance these present can cause the family to become dysfunctional. A healthy family will rebound, the dysfunctional family will not.

How Dysfunctional Families Affect Children

In dysfunctional families, often parental needs,including emotional needs take priority over the children’s. Some children in these families grow up too fast and never fully develop emotionally. The child learns that their needs and emotions will not be met, and so they adapt to ignoring their own feelings. In families where the parent or parents are controlling, the children may not be able to freely state how they feel. They are controlled and dominated by others, and their emotional needs are not met. This can pose problems into adulthood, as they try to separate themselves from their domineering parents.

Children from alcoholic families live with unpredictability. They never know the mood, or behavior their parent may exhibit from one day to the next. Children are usually prohibited from expressing their feelings, and even if they did express them, their feelings would not be acknowledged. They must keep the alcoholism a secret, which makes them feel shame and guilt over their family situation, and so no one gets help. Children can often feel frustrated, angry, insecure, and overwhelmed by the feelings they never get to process. They grow up having difficulty expressing their emotions, they may mistrust others, and have trouble forming deep relationship bonds. They may continue the family legacy by becoming alcoholics themselves.

Children who grow up with abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, or verbal are damaged by the affects of this kind of ill treatment. It can have devastating and lifelong effects. Parents are usually abusive to meet their own emotional shortcomings. Abused children can grow up angry, and distrustful of others. There are many detrimental affects to children who are victims of abuse.

Families are like fingerprints. No two are exactly alike. There are many internal and external factors that affect the family unit. And for every family, there are family members that come out fine living in a dysfunctional household, and some people who don’t evolve well from functional families. There are factors like resiliency and other people who can influence and change the path the family set for the child.

There are no hard and fast rules, just generalizations. Some people who grow up with dysfunctional families are very empathetic towards others. As part of their survival mechanism, they have learned to channel their feelings in a positive way. Some children are resilient and grow up functioning well despite the hardships they endured. Some people seek therapy and it helps them to learn about their behaviors, and develop new healthier ones. It is never too late to learn about ourselves and understand how our families impacted our own emotional well being.

There is no such thing as a perfect family, perfect parents, or perfect children.
There is no such thing as a perfect family, perfect parents, or perfect children. | Source

Family Dynamics and Children's Feelings

Children from dysfunctional families deny their own feelings and may even pay more attention to other people’s feelings, as they neglect their own feelings. People who grew up among dysfunction are sensitive to others, sometimes overly sensitive. If you are a person who is neglecting your own needs, become aware of what you are doing to yourself. Take steps each day to identify your needs and what you are experiencing. Affirm your feelings, and respond to them. You are an okay person, and you deserve to have your needs met too. Give yourself permission to share your feelings. Ask for help, and surround yourself with supportive people who will give you what you need and deserve.

As you explore your feelings, you might find that you are angry about events that happened to you. Let yourself feel angry. Part of healing is letting yourself feel wronged by what you went through. You might want to forgive your parents, but you need to heal first and uncover all the buried feelings you never let yourself feel. Forgiveness is actually the last step, not the first step in healing.

Children who take on responsibility that their parents should have taken on, often feel shame and guilt for doing an imperfect job. It is only natural, a child is not equipped to handle the things adults can. As adults, these children, will have low self esteem. They deny their own feelings of anger. Support groups are helpful as are people in your life that you can turn to for love and nurturing. You don’t want to live your life trying to get revenge, being resentful, and dealing with negative feelings that fester within you. This type of behavior is self defeating and will impact every relationship you have, the interactions you have with co-workers, and many social situations. When will you decide it is time for you to make things better for yourself and change? Because you can.

You Can Learn to Express Your Feelings Better

As children, we observe the dynamics of our family interactions. Our parents become role models for expression of our feelings. Our family life has a tremendous impact on how we think, how we behave, and how we feel about ourselves and the rest of the world. We develop core beliefs, we carry around forever.

Our family has a major influence in how we feel about ourselves, the people we encounter, and our perceptions of events that occur. Our opinions, our beliefs, and our well being are a product of what we grew up with. Not all of what we learned and observed is ideal. Emotions can get stifled by an unhealthy childhood environment. Unresolved feelings can interfere with a lifetime of happiness.

The best news is that our feelings are not bound by the family we grew up in, by the parents who raised us, by the toxic people who are in our lives, or by the events that may evoke memories forever. We have the choice to make changes, to grow, and to allow ourselves to feel our emotions, whether they be bad or good feelings. We can allow ourselves to experience life more fully through a better understanding of who we are, what we need, and how we are feeling.

Do You Feel Like You Grew Up in a Functional or Dysfunctional Family?

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    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Thank you for another great and relate-able hub. After learning so much about this about ten years ago and changing the way I interact in my own marriage and as a parent, my family and I are recently discussing the dysfunction of our own system and how it has affected us kids. It is crazy the things we carry over into our adult lives... the exact things we didn't want to have, but didn't have any other skills or knowledge to function differently. It takes a lot to get honest with oneself and figure out how to change our own processes for better outcomes.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Vlad, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry you lost your mother when you were so young, and things have been tough for you. Life constantly throws obstacles at us. You have shown, it is not what we encounter, but how we deal with it. I wish you many good things. You certainly deserve much happiness and more.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Bill, I hope that you shaved safely, and didn't cut yourself. Thanks for your comments. Family dynamics are a fascinating topic to me. There is are no two stories that are the same and people from the same family can turn out totally different. It is a meaty subject to me. I might just write more on this topic.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      A Wonderful and most Helpful and Informative read, Toknowinfo. I always thought my Husband and I (as Young parents, at age 19) raised our two Sons with Good Morals in a Loving Family surrounded by Pets...2 Dogs, 2 Cats. The boys were 2 1/2 years apart and Close. However, once they marry and take a Wife...So much can happen...At the moment, one is not speak to the other for a little over a year...Who started of the wives, who get along with NO ONE... A real Troublemaker...and so we are now hoping for the best...But I have to tell you, as a parent, it breaks my heart.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      Reading this was very thought provoking thanks TKI - I realized the coping strategies to deal with a dsyfunctional family of origin - surrounding yourself with supportive friends and relationships itself impacts on one's own family later in life and might even be viewed as dysfunctional - from another point of view - when a partner cannot or has difficulty dealing with this kind of behaviour because trusting=suffering? or not?. Once you have been @#%$! over you never want to put all your eggs in one basket in other words but this can create it's own difficulties. But then, Bob Marley said "Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for." So I would say forgiveness is number one TKI! Voted Up.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 5 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Hello, great Hub.

      I grew up in interesting family. My mom died when I was 5 and she was 29. My grandma raised me and the family was nominal Christians. The church was 1 1/2 hr away walking. We went to church only in X-mass and Easter. When I was 12 my dad remarried. Later I realized about (13) that I need to give my life to the Lord. I suffered a lot but my joy never left.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am multi-tasking this morning: shaving and reading this hub! I think your comment to Carol speaks great truth. Even functional families have time of dysfunction. Otherwise, we would have to label all families dysfunctional. Loved this hub; you did a great job of analyzing a difficult subject.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Carol, Boy you are up early! Thanks for your valuable comments. Even functioning families have times of dysfunction, for example a job loss that causes financial problems, illnesses, marital issues, but the difference between functional and dsyfunctional families, is that the healthier family will get back on course with the least amount of damage done to the self esteem of the members. There is no such thing as a perfect family, perfect parents, or perfect children. It is how we adjust to these imperfections. Thanks for the vote up! And I hope you get some rest.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Interesting hub. I think some families are more dysfunctional than others. People bring their baggage into relationships and no matter how much the family appears to look like Ozzie and Harriet there are always lurking problems. Parents cannot always do the right thing for their kids,...Too many problems with their own emotions, money, health etc. Even though we did not have any of the major issues--alcohol, abuse etc.. there are the small issues that create lasting problems. Voting up ..