Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Family Systems Issues

(This blog was originally posted on August 16, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

In an ideal family, the parents are loving leaders who take care of and set healthy boundaries for their children. They give their kids an opportunity to explore all aspects of their individual personalities. However, within the context of these family dynamics each member has and is expected to fulfill a specific role. There are leaders and followers; but if one family member doesn’t follow the expected or proscribed role the entire family system can break down. Before that can happen, however, other members rally round and do what they can to keep the person in the original, expected role. 

Whether it is physical illness, a negative behavior (shoplifting, promiscuity), low grades, a learning disability, etc., after a while the family dysfunction is familiar, known and normal in the context of the group. Consequently, everyone else in the family revolves around that issue and behaves in ways that will help to keep the person in that role. 

The following behaviors facilitate the continued function of dysfunctional family system:
  • Enmeshed: A clinical label used to describe a family whose members are unable to make identities separate from or outside the family. People are the “property” of one another and it is hard for others to come in.
  • Co-Dependency: One person’s preoccupation with taking care of another individual’s needs over his or her own.
  • Manipulation is needed to get needs met. As relationships become dependent, intimacy problems are normal in a manipulative system.
  • Rigid attitudes and reverence for past traditions
  • Very rigid gender laws/expectations of gender-appropriate behavior.
  • Frequent illness of one individual becomes a secondary gain that temporarily stops other family members from fighting, but suspicion and jealousy can develop between the others because one person is seen as the “favorite.”
When there are behavioral issues with an individual in a family, the entire family is the client. In this case, the hypnotherapist should agree to work with the person only if the entire family also receives therapy from a licensed mental-health professional (California Business and Professions Code 2908).

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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