The Narrative of Dysfunctional Families
By Apoorva Edla
Dec 09 2021
Most of us have the knowledge of this phrase- Dysfunctional Families, but how many of us have associated with it? This is one such factor of mental illnesses that is overlooked quite a lot. In this blog, I’m not gonna present you with statistics and extensive research about it, but rather give you insights of what goes about in the life of a typical dysfunctional family.
We, Indians, are typically conditioned since infancy to be more family-oriented. We are taught to love, respect, obey and look after our elders irrespective of their actions and behaviors. While functional families provide a great support system and room for growth for their children, it’s not the same for those in dysfunctional families. It’s important to recognize these toxic traits and patterns in families in order to overcome the damage they’ve inflicted over the years and possibly even put an end to it.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and confidence, there’s lack of empathy and the parents have a need to overcontrol their kids. The concept of privacy and open communication is alien to them. The parents resort to verbal and/or physical abuse(s) as ways of punishing their child. Favoritism among children heavily affects them. Gaslighting is often seen in such households and the kids end up resenting themselves and feel like they’re responsible for things that are not even in their control.
Consequently, it traumatizes the child and boosts their insecurity and may make them feel worthless. While their peers are enjoying their childhood and adolescence, they are stuck parenting themselves and repressing their inner child. A lot of their energy is used up in coping up with such circumstances that it leaves them emotionally, mentally and physically drained. This immensely affects their academics and in turn, they get labeled as slow, lazy or even good-for-nothing.
More so than academics, it affects their relationships with others. Due to underappreciation and lack of affection and attention from their parents in early childhood, the kids develop the trait of parent-pleasing. They take it upon themselves to find their worth by pleasing others. They feel like they are undeserving of love and care if they don’t have anything to offer. This habit progresses as they age and advances into people-pleasing. They develop a compulsive need to seek validation from others in order to feel better about themselves. Dysfunctional family kids tend to become self-dependent on an alarmingly unhealthy level. Asking for help is difficult and when they do ask for it, they constantly feel guilty for burdening others with their issues. They might also develop Imposter Syndrome. A lot of these problems root from the absence of emotional and physical availability of parents.
But here the question arises, “Are children the only sufferers in this kinship?” Well, simply put, no. The parents have their own share of trauma and problematic upbringing which may have likely led to or boosted their toxic patterns. Most of them have grown up with the concept of ‘tough love’ and they follow the same for their children. They have also been victims of patriarchy, misogyny, toxic masculinity and a lot more. They have their own unaddressed wounds from the past, some might not even realize that there are any. Their generation is unaware of the seriousness of mental health and therapy is an absolute taboo. As far as they’re concerned, psychologists and psychiatrists are doctors for the ‘crazy people’.
There are multiple other factors which fuel the dysfunction further, like addiction, financial distress, lack of personal space, fights between the parents, negligence and sometimes even physical illnesses. A lot of times, behaviors that people showcase are trauma responses to their past. In order to get past them, the initial step is to acknowledge and accept the root causes. Staying in such an environment is impeccably unhealthy. They can be breeding grounds for depression, anxiety, self-pity, neuroticism, panic attacks, self-loathing and even self-harm(few of the many consequences).
It is difficult to deal with them but even more difficult to live with them. It is important to prioritize their mental health and there is no shame in seeking help if needed. The only person to help them out of their misery is themselves (and probably their therapist). It is vital to accept that it is okay to move out without feeling guilty and selfish.They won’t get perpetual happiness but at least they’d be content with their living.
I would like to leave you with a question to reflect on:
"What would you do differently than your parents, in your child’s upbringing?”