14 thoughts on “Dysfunctional Family Dynamics: Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel

  • June 29, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    So good Sharon. I think the worst thing about the behaviour are the ones that enable it; the ones that can see what’s happening but don’t do anything about it. If you ever bring the subject up it’s just swept under the carpet. “Oh you know what your mother’s like” was the answer I got for decades. “Oh I’ve stopped saying anything to your mother. It’s easier that way”. This is just denial that the problem ever existed. This is shaming the victim or dismissing their concerns as not really important. So in effect you have a “double whammy”…the emotional or psychological abuse plus somebody who is saying that it didn’t really happen, or it wasn’t that bad, or you just have to live with it. This behaviour has now filtered through to two of my siblings…the silent treatment because I have upset the status quo.

    • June 29, 2018 at 5:25 pm

      Yes, exactly, Sue. There are so many layers to the dysfunction — the denial, blaming the victim, invalidating and dismissing, gaslighting, and on and on. It’s amazing how all kinds of systems resist change and go to extremes to stay the same — even when they’re terribly dysfunctional and painful.

  • July 2, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    This is C-PTSD which has recently been accepted into the World Health Organization’s ICD as 6B41 and it is only a matter of time the DSM will include it. Doctors and therapists alike should be prepared to make proper diagnoses and trauma therapy needs to be prescribed. It is much more huge than PTSD for with PTSD there may have been a normal to hope to get back to wheras, with C-PTSD, more often than not there was no “before” to the trauma.

    All my four siblings and I suffer from C-PTSD in various ways. No other diagnoses is a better fit than C-PTSD and though we may be beyond help at our ages situations such as domestic violence are still happening and those abused individuals need proper diagnoses and proper therapies for it. Deep investigation into how to eradicate it must be done too, via the educational system and the currently patriarchal law system. Abusers, not the abused should be punished.

  • July 4, 2018 at 6:50 am

    “For example, children in dysfunctional families often describe feeling anxious about coming home from school because they don’t know what they will find.”

    I remember this feeling so well! One particular day, walking home from school thinking ‘Right. That’s school problems done for the day. Now: home problems!’ My dad was dying of leukaemia at that point so it was more to do with that, but I got no support at school or home to cope with his illness, I was alone.

    • July 4, 2018 at 10:17 am

      Catherine, I’m so sorry you had to go through that feeling alone. A lack of support and being able to talk about difficult things makes it so much harder (as you know). Thanks for sharing your experience; I know many others will relate to it.
      best wishes

      • July 5, 2018 at 4:24 am

        Thanks for acknowledging my feelings- no one did at the time, I just had to pretend it wasn’t happening and bottle up my feelings. I’ve had chronic health problems ever since.
        But it’s meant that I have been talking about emotions and how to handle them with my own daughter- explaining why we get them, that it’s ok to feel them and not ‘wrong’. Hopefully I’m doing the right thing…

      • July 21, 2018 at 5:27 pm

        Catherine-I know this is a bit late for a reply, but on the off chance that you get notifications, I just wanted to let you know that you’re on the right track with your daughter. I was a caretaker kid in a narcissistic family, too, so I feel ya-waking up at 5am to make sure Dad’s still breathing, skipping school to make sure your parent went to the doctor, dropping out the minute it was legal so Dad would have a full time caregiver 24/7-yep, that’s a sure way to quit feeling much of anything, because everything feels so heavy and sick and dark. I swore I would never allow my kids to turn out as emotionally repressed as I was as a kid, so I did what you’re doing-we talked about our feelings, how to respond to them, why it was good to feel any and all emotions and what to do when those emotions were inappropriate (and how to tell when they were).
        I’m happy to say my kids turned out to be fully functional, empathic, self-actualized human beings. i can’t say the same for myself, but at least the kids are okay. You’re doing the right thing, even if it sometimes feels weird and contrived. Don’t give up.

      • July 22, 2018 at 12:38 am

        Thanks Marti, that’s very encouraging. Well done to you as well for bringing up your children so well after such a difficult childhood 🙂

  • July 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    oh my gosh! I read this article and it was spot on describing my childhood! Everything that was written I could relate to. In fact when my therapist asked me to describe my childhood I used one of the words used in this article–chaotic! I’ve never read anything that described it so perfectly like this did. And unfortunately my childhood has affected–still affecting–my life greatly. At 58 you would think I would be over it or in a better place at least. It has affected my marriage greatly! I have seen my therapist for a year now and she is fantastic! She works with me to get that feeling of empowerment and control over things that I am lacking. And I have made progress but not there yet. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will be.

    • July 21, 2018 at 12:25 am

      Just keep going, Tammy. Every little step gets you closer!

  • July 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    I experienced my crazy mother getting into my face and screaming about something ever time I came home. She was a depressed, angry and unhappy with her marriage, so we all suffered.
    I would try and stay out as long as I could playing with my friends dreading going home to that crazy women and my father worked 7 days a week to stay away. At her funeral I laughed about my fear of her jumping up out of the casket and getting into my face one last time. The entire family agreed she was a nut. Good riddance.

  • July 31, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I can so relate to this. I grew up with a narcissistic mother who was resentful of having to be a mother. My two sisters and I were physically and emotionally abused and neglected. The situation escalated when my sister started to physically attack me with knives and pots of boiling water. I called our grandmother to talk to her about what was happening but she, too, was afraid of our mother so she wasn’t able to help. Then, my mother told me that I was going to cause my grandmother to have a heart attack and die because she had high blood pressure and I was stressing her out by telling her what was going on. She never even tried to put a stop to the sibling abuse. I went through life being told I was stupid, she wished I had never been born, we kids ruined her life. When I said I wanted to go live with my father, my mother replied, “He doesn’t want you, either!” (which was true…). Both of my sisters escaped when they were 16. I stayed until I jumped into a marriage as my way of escaping. I never experienced a real childhood because my mother’s needs and wants always came first. It was my job to comfort her and take care of her. She used to go into her room, slam the door, and wail so the whole neighborhood could hear her. It was embarrassing. She constantly threatened to kill herself and told us that if we ever told the police (who came to our house on several occasions) or anyone else, we would be homeless or we (the kids) would be put in jail. When you are a child, you believe adults. We grew up without food, medical care, or even heat during the winter. (She heated her own room only). One of my sisters became anorexic. I was depressed and welcomed death. The lies, manipulation, control, and just plain mean-spiritedness persisted throughout our adult lives. If I ever achieved anything, she became jealous and full of rage. And the weird thing is that I never thought of all of what my sisters and I went through as abuse. My mother kept telling me what a wonderful mother she was and how our family was so perfect! I thank God that I am now in a wonderful, healthy marriage and have gone No Contact with my mother. Unfortunately, the past still affects negatively how I relate to people but I will continue to work on healing.

  • March 22, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Wow. This article really spoke to me. I’ve always felt this way but I’ve questioned my feelings at the same time. I often think that I’m crazy and that things couldn’t have been that bad. This is mostly due to the fact that I am the only one in my family who actually acknowledges the dysfunction and I try to steer clear of my family. Of course I get judged and called ungrateful. Growing up, my mom always made sure we had a roof over our head and food to eat, but my emotions were neglected and I often spent a lot of time alone especially at a young age. This caused abuse and various other dangerous events to occur, both within and outside of my family. Now that I’m older, I still question my feelings and I try to get past them, but I do not know how to restore trust in my family. I forgive them, but I have to protect myself since they failed to do this for me growing up. I hope to be able to write these types of articles one day. I have a degree in Psychology and I would love to comfort and reassure those who may feel alone, just as this article did for me.

  • May 5, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I suffered almost all the types of traumatic childhood experiences in the so called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
    1. Physical abuse ( mother )
    2. Emotional abuse ( mother )
    3. Physical neglect ( mother )
    4. Emotional neglect ( mother )
    5. Witnessing domestic violence
    6. A parent or close family member who is an alcoholic or addict (mother and brother)
    7. A parent or close family member who is mentally ill ( mother)
    8. Parents who are separated or divorced
    9. A parent or close family member being incarcerated. (father)

    From the long list of traumas in the adverse childhood experience, there’s only sexual abuse that I can leave out. I guess there’s a reason to celebrate right?

    I’m 43 years old and the last time I felt safe, I was 10 years old. That’s a long time ago. After that, everyday were the same, feeling anxious about coming home from school because I didn’t don’t know what I would find.
    I did a couple of mistakes in the search of safety. Bad marriages, pregnancies, some bad choices with consequences for life. I can say that safety is my ultimate desire. I suffer every single day in the search of that feeling.

    I also don’t feel loved, or worth loving. Why would someone love me? I come from a bad family. I have a troubled mind beyond repair, as a boyfriend once told me, when I made the mistake of opening myself to him about my past. I also feel shame.

    During the day I work very hard to make money in the search of safety. At night, I’not that busy, and the feeling of not feeling safe hits so hard. So hard!

    My world has never been safe or nurturing and for that reason I have difficulties in trusting.


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