Dysfunctional Family (Part – 1)


A lady I knew did not see or talk to her mother for more than 20 years in spite of living in the same city. The mother during that period had two major surgeries.

A 32-year-old civil engineer told me that he cannot be in the same room with his dad. If he is sitting in a room with a few people and his dad walks in, he will immediately leave. Likewise, if he enters a room where his dad is talking with some people, as soon as he enters the room, the dad will leave.

A teenager living with his divorced mother absolutely hates his father of bad habits and so refuses to see him or visit him.

Why they are behaving like that? Many people will immediately judge them as bad people. I know many similar examples, but this should suffice for now. What is common between them?

They all belong to a DYSFUNCTIONAL family. A dysfunctional family is one in which the relationships between the parents and children are strained and unnatural. This is usually because one of the family members has a serious problem that impacts every other member of the family, and each member of the family feels forced to adapt atypical roles within the family to enable the family as a whole to survive.

There is a great deal of variability in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families, and in the type and the severity of their dysfunction.

The following is an email I received from a lady doctor who used to come to me for counseling:

Dr. Akhtar,

Here, I send you this email when I am in one the most difficult moments… I woke up in the morning, unable to breath, feeling this numbness all over my body…unwilling to get off the bed and start a new day…

I wanted to cry, but it was difficult… Crying is not for people who learned helplessness… and I am one of them… When a child cries, it is the trigger for the parent to come and give all the love this child needs… So, why would I cry? Another question:What am I living for?

I looked around me in the room, and found out that every piece of furniture, clothes,books was what I am working for… Is this the reason I am living for? To work hard just to be able to feed myself, to have something good to wear?And to exhaust myself with all these medicine books and never find one moment to relax… To live in anger after I fought with my driver who doesn’t want to work for me anymore? I am wasting my time, my energy, to find another one?While it is the job of someone else to provide it for me?

I find it ironic how this life is upside down… Instead of trying to find a person who is from a certain minority to work for me, and expecting him to be more than happy to find a job, it is actually me who is begging someone to work for me, as if I am the minority!And for what?Just to be able to go to work, get there early on time, and work hard… Since the beginning of this earth, man has always been the hunter… but actually I am in a world alone hunting in my own darkness.

Here the question comes: why am I trying to be so perfect and hardworking? It is much easier to be a bad person… and probably more fun.

I thought of all this, and felt as if I were choking… I heard my niece’s voice… I opened the door and saw her outside in the living room chatting with the rest of the family…I remembered how she has always been jealous of me because she is morbidly obese and thought she wanted to be as thin as I am… I was jealous of her because she was able to start her day with a smile, and a good morning…I am physically healthy, but she is psychologically 1000 times healthier than me… I wish she could appreciate the healthiness she lives in.

I went back and cried. Oh my god, I really haven’t cried in ages… I cried on the floor, regressing back into my fetal position 26 years ago, wishing I did not come into this life…

I called Dr. Ibrahim *****…:another father figure of mine and I cried like a kid. You know what? I want to go into deep sleep, and never wake up…never ever….

I can’t be helped, and I declare my DNR status… I give up… You know why? Because, I am naturally unselected to live on this earth… Darwin was probably right! I can’t live… (DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate; indicative of a hopeless case).”


In another email, she described the phone call from her father as follows:

A few moments before the morning report, I had a vibration of a call in my pocket. I hate phone calls. And I hated the call more when I saw it was him, the bastard.(Referring to her dad).

What on earth does he want? I tried to recall if I passed under a ladder this morning or not.

Since he asked me to leave the house, I adapted myself by validating my emotions, thinking of him as an *** ****. So what does he want now? To ruin all what I have built up to repair the damage he caused me? Or did he really miss me? He might have!

Oh my god, did he really need me and I was not available to him?Is he sick, or feeling depressed? I should be there for him. I should be able to forgive him, but I simply, CAN’T!!

I became tearful, although I promised to never cry!

He called again, I thought it must be serious, and I must answer,

–          “Hello”

–          “Hello”

–          “Listen; tell me when you first started working because I need to fill a document.”

–          “November2007.”

–          “Your salary?”

–          “I can’t remember; I will get the exact figure and send it through a message.”

–          “Okay then, ‘bye.”

–          “’Bye.”

After this emotionless conversation, I became as cold and numb as this phone call was. I was wrong by thinking that he might have changed. I was wrong.”


Types of Dysfunctional Families

The following are some examples of patterns that frequently occur in dysfunctional families:

Addiction: One, or both, parents have addictions or compulsions(e.g., drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling or overworking, that have strong influences on family members. This is how a girl describes her family:

It all begins with a father who was very abusive to my Mom and to us Children. He would get off work around 11 PM at night and start drinking on his way home from work which took about 45 minutes one way; so, he was pretty much lit by the time he got home, all of us kids knew we should be in bed or gone from the house because after he came in, he would always start a fight with my Mom, who was a wonderful woman who was raising seven children.

I remember having to duck wine bottles flying across the room and run from my Dad as he reached out to grab my arm, yelling to me, that I was a WHORE at the age of thirteen.How could that be? Anyway, he was an alcoholic all through my childhood and finally stopped drinking when I turned seventeen, because the doctors told him if he didn’t stop drinking right now, he would be dead within a year.Well, that really scared him and he quit cold turkey and never took another sip of it. I still had ill feelings towards my Dad even after I graduated from High School, and later on, I forgave him for everything as he lay on his death bed from cancer.

Well, now I have two brothers and one sister that are Alcoholics, both of those brothers have been in and out of prison over the last ten years for either DWI offenses or Armed Robbery. One alcoholic sister is also guilty of stealing from my Mother’s checking account.Wow, what a dysfunctional family I have!I am not like them in any way whatsoever. I try to live my life the best I can live it and hope no one judges me on my other family members behaviors.

(To be Continued)

About YMD

Past Issues