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Living with disfunctionalism

Updated on October 24, 2010

Dysfunctionalism defined

Dysfunctionalism, is that a word? It is now, with the birth of this hub the term dysfunctionalism is born( call it a Johnny original if you must). It is derived from it's route word dys-func-tion-al which Webster defines as, abnormal, not working properly, unable to perform it's intended function.

The word is often used when referring to troubled families-dysfunctional families. I have been a alcohol, drug, and anger management instructor/ counselor for almost ten years. In dealing with people suffering from addiction I have become very familiar with the dysfunctional person. I have also discovered that there are those who suffer from dysfunctional behavior that have no addictions whatsoever. These are the people we will be focusing on today as well as those who suffer from chemical addictions.

The bull in the china shop syndrome

"Some people are just natural born klutz, they are clumsy and break everything they touch." The above statement is a viable argument and an even better excuse for those who have destructive tendencies. The truth is, however, that people who have a history of destructive behavior are not born with the problem, this is learned behavior.

Those who suffer from dysfunctionalism have some very identifiable traits.

1. Inability to reason or to be reasoned with

2. Inability to accept responsibility for his or her actions

3. Total disregard for the rights and/or feelings of others

4. Failure to learn by his or her mistakes

5. Shows neither compassion nor remorse for their actions

6. Feels justified in his or her actions regardless of the severity of the act.

When you put these warning signs together they all add up to what we call the "bull in the china shop" syndrome. So named because the dysfunctional person runs through life swinging their proverbial bull head from side to side and destroying everything in their path. Then like the bull the dysfunctional person comes out of the chaos almost, always, unscathed while leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

When these symptoms are coupled with substance abuse, the behavior is attributed to the addiction and treated along with it. However, there are cases in which there is no addiction present, yet the individual is extremely dysfunctional. When this happens it can create an almost unbearable lifestyle for the family of the dysfunctional person. They often feel powerless to try and help the individual. The family members often become Enablers to keep peace with the dysfunctional member. Because of the negligent behavior of the dysfunctional person, the family will lose hope and stop trying to have anything of value because it unavoidably is destroyed by him or her.



As we mentioned earlier it is virtually impossible to reason with a dysfunctional person. Mostly, because the dysfunctional person believes that he or she is right in whatever, they do. Therefore,they feel they do not need to listen to anyone else. Take a look at this example:

23 year old Damon lives at home with his parents while attending college. His mother tells him that his brakes are bad on his car, and he shouldn't drive it until they can be repaired. Damon waits until his mother leaves then gets into the car and drives down town. While working his way through rush hour traffic his brakes fail, and he crashes into the car in front of him. When he returns home his mother is furious and ask, "When I told you that your brakes were bad. Why didn't you listen?" Damon quickly shifts the blame: " That car braked checked me and caused me to hit him!" Mom redirects him to the issue at hand, " That still doesn't answer my question, why did you drive the car when you knew the brakes were bad?" exasperated Damon looks indignantly at her and declares, "Mom you are no mechanic you could have been wrong."

If you are a parent reading this, it is about this point when you declare, " If that were my kid, I would smack him!" So you say, but remember, the young man in this story is well over the legal age and for all intents and purposes is a man. You can't just go up to a grown man and just smack him. Even if you did it would do no good. Grown ups do what ever they choose to do.

What would make this scenario even worse would be to have this young man be your partner in a relationship.

Taking away the safety net

One thing that the friends and loved ones must never do with a dysfunctional person, is to enable them. Enabling is usually a term used when dealing with person's whom are chemically addicted. However, we are going to use it here because it also applies to the dysfunctional individual as well. When dealing with someone who is suffering from dysfunctional behavior, they must be held accountable for their actions.

Many times family members will make excuses for the dysfunctional persons actions by saying that he or she wasn't aware of what they were doing. Yet if their behavior is excused or tolerated then the person making the mistake may never realize that what they did was wrong. If a person isn't aware that they are making a mistake, then they never get the opportunity to correct it. A simple way of putting it is this, a true friend will tell you that your fly is open or that your skirt is stuck in your undies. The people who don't care about you will smile and tell you how good you look and laugh at you as you walk away.

In order to help the dysfunctional person they must be presented with the facts, "here is the problem, you're the person, and here is what you need to do to fix it." In the example that was given earlier the mother and father may want to rent the son a car to get back to school and tell him next time be more careful. If however they want to help their son grow they will say "ok since you chose to drive the car knowing the brakes were bad, Then you will have to find your own way back to school and whatever the insurance doesn't pay you will be responsible for."

Hitting Rock bottom

Many times dysfunctional persons are encouraged in his or her negative behavior by those closest to them. Yet, as with addiction, people change when they get tired of being the way they are. While it may seem cruel to say, "we are not going to help you out of this mess." Refusing to bail out dysfunctional people from his or her mess, is neither mean nor cruel. It is in most cases exactly what they need. They must realize that there are penalties for negative behavior.

It is important to mention here that allowing a dysfunctional person to hit rock bottom does not mean total abandonment. Communication is the key here, then you should tell the dysfunctional person the reason you have chosen not to bail out him or her from the situation. It is also ok to offer suggestions on how they can get themselves out of the situation they are in.

Be aware that it is the dysfunctional person's rationale to shift the blame. So don't be surprised if he or she launches an attack on you, blaming you for the situation. It is not at all uncommon for a dysfunctional person to blame those around him for the very dysfunctional attitude that caused the problem to begin with. They may get friends and / or family involved in a heated argument in order to deflect attention from the matter at hand. So that those attempting to help them by allowing them to hit rock bottom, may be forced to defend his or herself from the dysfunctional person's anger. Just keep in mind this is only to divert attention away from them. If you are fighting to defend yourself, you are not going to be thinking about what they are doing. If this does not work, they may use the guilt trip "I am going to get kicked out of school now because my parents won't help me when I'm down".

Stick to your guns do not allow them to intimidate or manipulate you into giving in to their demands or forgetting what was done. Let them know that you are aware of what they are attempting to do, and that you will not reward them for their negative behavior. It may be a long, drawn out battle, but it will be worth every mile.


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