The cycle of dysfunction – you grow up in a significantly dysfunctional family and it has an impact on you. Now you have kids and the cycle of family dysfunction continues. Without recognition and positive change, the family dysfunction is passed from generation to generation.
What is a Dysfunctional Family?
The Free Medical Dictionary defines dysfunctional family as a family with multiple ‘internal’ eg sibling rivalries, parent-child– conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, or ‘external’–eg alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment—influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit. (read: Roles in Dysfunctional Families)
For our guest, Dena Foman, the family dysfunction definition fits her life to a tee.
“I have spent the better part of my life wearing a mask to disguise the childhood pain that followed me into adulthood. I was born into a poor family that had virtually no education. Later in life, my father became an alcoholic, just like his father. I am proud to say he has been sober for over 13 years. My mother left when I was 11 years old and turned to a life of drugs. I quit high school at 17 and had a child at 19.”
Dena had never been taught the skills of parenting or shown how to be loving. She says her son, later diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, got little in the way of nurturing, loving attention… and this, mixed with a mental illness, is deadly. He has attempted suicide twice and Dena says “I’ve spent more time than I want to remember planning his funeral.”
Against all odds, Dena ends up going to law school and while there, gets into therapy to figure out where it all went wrong.
Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunctional Living
In this edition of the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, Dena shares the story of her childhood, of neglect and abandonment that led to a life of dysfunction for many years, and how she’s learned to make peace with herself and her family. Take a look.
Dena chronicles her journey in “Only I Can Define Me: Releasing Shame, Growing Into My Adult Self.” Her website is: www.releasingshame.com
Share Your Experiences with Dysfunctional Family
Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family? How has that affected you? Have you passed it on to your family? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.