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Monday, February 17

Are we having (dys)fun(ction) yet?

How well does your family function? Are you all quite fond of one another, or are one or more family members contemplating airing the family problems on an upcoming episode of Dr. Phil?
Bet you'd quit fighting if a bear suddenly showed up!
(Image credit: Flickr)

Here's a quick one-question test to determine whether your family is functional, or dysfunctional. Ready? Here it goes:

Where's the enemy?

Are members of your family causing
problems? Is the enemy your narcissistic brother? Your thieving son? Your abusive mother? Yes? Congratulations. If the problem is inside your family, your family is dysfunctional.

If, on the other hand, the problem is outside your family -- cancer, poverty, the homeowner's association, alcoholism -- and your family is working together to fight The Problem, your family is functional.

Functioning families have problems, just like dysfunctioning families, but functioning families perceive the problem as separate from the individuals. If a daughter is failing school, the family works on fixing the problem -- school work -- and doesn't ally itself against the daughter.

If you're old enough to remember 9/11 (or even, Pearl Harbor), you recall a moment when suddenly, for an entire nation, the enemy wasn't ourselves. The enemy was without -- outside our selves -- and we were a functional community trying to solve a common problem. For several weeks, we pulled together in common cause, and felt like united states.

That sense of common cause isn't sustainable in groups of 300 million, but it's very sustainable in families. Families that reinforce their sense of communal effort, that "circle the wagons" against external problems, that have a sense of mission and purpose, and that, above all, never allow one another to treat a beloved family member as "the problem," turn out to be well functioning systems where most members, most of the time, feel supported and experience joy.

By the way, everything that’s true about dysfunctional families is also true of dysfunctional workplaces, church congregations, and political initiatives. If you think other people are the problem, rather than the problem itself being the problem, you’re living in dysfunction. 

Today's mantra: The person isn't the problem; the problem is the problem.

This small-shift tool is brought to you by The Relationship Institute.

Hoping to make things better for your family or your organization? Maybe it’ll help to remember life is not a zero-sum game. When one person loses, everyone loses:

And follow these tips for banishing gossip from your group: 

This article is published simultaneously at Relating magazine and at Allied Family Therapy. If your marriage is feeling dysfunctional, schedule a preliminary session to discuss ways we can help you get the FUN back in functionality! Click the blue "Schedule Me" button at the Allied Family Therapy website to schedule your appointment on line, or text us at 425-429-2230 to schedule in-person counseling, or on-line coaching sessions.