In this lesson we will study more characteristics of a dysfunctional family. As you better understand your family, you will better understand yourself and your reactions.
3. A dysfunctional family has either repressed emotions, explosive emotions, or both.
A healthy family both permits and models how to express emotions. Children learn how to identify and deal with their feelings. In a dysfunctional family certain or all emotions are forbidden. Many families transmit messages that say, "Don't express your feelings. Don't cry. Don't get upset. Don't get angry. Don't betray the family. Don't ever tell outsiders about the family secrets." These messages, as well as ones more directly stated toward you, affect your recovery. You may have been told that you are a failure, or shamed by any number of derogatory statements - all of these are characteristic of a family based in shame. You will be invited to focus on the issue of shame in detail in a later chapter. For the moment, however, evaluate how you learned to feel shame about your feelings and responses in your family.
As a child, did you learn any of these beliefs? Write which ones apply to your family... Good children honor their parents. My parents had their faults, but they loved me. If I say or think bad things about my family, I will betray them. If I say or think bad things about my family, will feel ashamed.
The first two beliefs are positive and healthy. The last two are sick rules that serve tomaintain the secrecy in a dysfunctional family system.
Describe how these beliefs affect your life and your recovery.
Survivors of sexual abuse are sometimes unable to express the feelings necessary for recovery because they learned in their family of origin that feelings were not acceptable. This is especially true if the feelings are negative and if the feelings concern a family member.
Each family member sends us messages about ourselves. The person who sexually abuses says, "You're worthless. You are no good and you are guilty." Sometimes parents send the same message, not by sexual abuse but by their words and attitudes. Maybe a sister told you that you were stupid. Possibly you had a grandfather who said you were special - a badly needed positive reinforcement. You can evaluate the messages that each person who supported and each person who abused gave you. Then you can make wise, godly and informed choices. You can choose to reject false messages!
How do you feel when you talk about the abuse? Scared, disloyal, relief, shame, guilt, other??
How have you responded to or compensated for the way your family expressed feelings?
Bill was taught that good children honor their parents. He did not understand that one way to honor a relationship is to make it real by being honest when situations are painful and difficult. As a result, he was afraid to talk about his abuse. Negative thoughts were bad things in his family so he felt guilty and shame-filled for having normal thoughts and emotions.
As you think about that, how would you like to respond now?
As you process this lesson, continue to pray for yourself and the others who are going through this study with us.
"You will forget the shame of your youth." - Isaiah 54:4