Who's Dysfunctional?

How would you define a dysfunctional family?  Probably, like Wikipedia, you would say

"a family in which conflict, misbehaviour and even abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually, leading other members to accommodate such actions." 

You might say, like the University of Illinois Counseling Center, that it involves parents with "addictions or compulsions," that use "the threat or application of physical violence as the primary means of control."
But then the good people at the UI Counseling Center add another kind of family, the kind that

"rigidly adhere[s] to a particular belief (religious, political, financial, personal). Compliance with role expectations and with rules is expected without any flexibility."

Are they referring to liberal feminist mothers that force their daughters to play Little League baseball with the boys?

Of course, they aren't.  The dysfunctional family they are concerned about is the rigid conservative family.  That is what an alert parent discovered when she found a curious handout from school in her son's backpack.  It's "another example of liberals gone wild," as  columnist Mona Charen put it.  The handout from the health teacher included "a list of some of the unworkable rules found in dysfunctional families."  The rigid rules included:

"Boys shouldn't cry... Girls should always be nice... Elders always deserve respect and come first... There is only one way to do things."

It's is interesting how this works, isn't it?  You start by battling against some generally—agreed pathology, but end up smuggling your cultural/religious agenda into health class at the government school. Only you don't admit that you are talking about values;  you talk about "dysfunction" as though your only concern is social competence.

To understand what is going on you need a good theory.  In this case, we need a good psychology to shine the light of knowledge on these busy liberal beavers.  My preference is the developmental psychology of Clare Graves and his followers, for which  you can find links here.
According to these theorists, in our industrial society there are mostly four kinds of people.

There are red impulsives, who experience life as helpless victims and believe that power, or lack of power, explains everything  They are the kind of people who ask: What's in it for me? as they break the law.

Then there are blue purposives.  They believe in the One Truth, in rules and traditional roles. 

There are also orange creatives who believe that life is an adventure, a game to be won.

And finally there are green communitarians who believe that power leads to cycles of violence, rules lead to stunted lives, and risky business ventures should be governed by the Precautionary Principle.

These green communitarians are members of the nation's only established church, the Church of Positive Self—Esteem.

In Wikipedia's definition of dysfunctional family we are talking about the red impulsives, people with compulsions and addictions, so Wikipedia's contributor is in effect calling the red impulsive culture pathological.

The liberals at the UI Counseling Center agree that the red impulsives are pathological, but then they stretch the definition a little by calling the blue purposive culture problematic.  The public school health teacher has made the final step: the rigid rules and roles of the blue purposives are pathological.

It is one thing to call someone dysfunctional.  It is another thing to do something about it, especially when the helping professionals of state university counseling centers and public school health teachers start to act like ministers of the established Church of Positive Self—Esteem.  Pretty soon the prelates of the government church start persecuting the independent churches.

That is happening right now in Britain to the enterprising souls trying to duplicate Chuck Colson's prison ministry in British prisons. Colson's program, writes Charles Moore, is called

"InnerChange.  The idea was 'the transformation of lives through the love of God'... In Texas, it is claimed that recidivism dropped from 55 per cent to eight per cent for those who took part in InnerChange." 

Unfortunately, in the British prison system the InnerChange program is running into difficulties. An "Area Psychologist" took a look at it and

"reported that the leader of the programme believed 'the root of offending is in individual sin,' and she opined that this 'lacks basis in specific scientific research.'"

In the Graves system, which may not be specifically scientific enough for Area Psychologists, the leap from red impulsive culture to blue purposive culture occurs when a person who lives life as a helpless victim of powerful forces decides to be a victim no more.  Instead of blaming the world for his problems he takes responsibility for his life and his actions, and finds, miraculously, that he is freed from the burden of life—as—a—victim.  In the Christian symbology, this is called sin and redemption.

Apparently, in this diverse, multicultural society, some of our Area Psychologists have not got the message that we are all supposed to celebrate the differences.

Christopher Chantrill blogs here. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

How would you define a dysfunctional family?  Probably, like Wikipedia, you would say

"a family in which conflict, misbehaviour and even abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually, leading other members to accommodate such actions." 

You might say, like the University of Illinois Counseling Center, that it involves parents with "addictions or compulsions," that use "the threat or application of physical violence as the primary means of control."
But then the good people at the UI Counseling Center add another kind of family, the kind that

"rigidly adhere[s] to a particular belief (religious, political, financial, personal). Compliance with role expectations and with rules is expected without any flexibility."

Are they referring to liberal feminist mothers that force their daughters to play Little League baseball with the boys?

Of course, they aren't.  The dysfunctional family they are concerned about is the rigid conservative family.  That is what an alert parent discovered when she found a curious handout from school in her son's backpack.  It's "another example of liberals gone wild," as  columnist Mona Charen put it.  The handout from the health teacher included "a list of some of the unworkable rules found in dysfunctional families."  The rigid rules included:

"Boys shouldn't cry... Girls should always be nice... Elders always deserve respect and come first... There is only one way to do things."

It's is interesting how this works, isn't it?  You start by battling against some generally—agreed pathology, but end up smuggling your cultural/religious agenda into health class at the government school. Only you don't admit that you are talking about values;  you talk about "dysfunction" as though your only concern is social competence.

To understand what is going on you need a good theory.  In this case, we need a good psychology to shine the light of knowledge on these busy liberal beavers.  My preference is the developmental psychology of Clare Graves and his followers, for which  you can find links here.
According to these theorists, in our industrial society there are mostly four kinds of people.

There are red impulsives, who experience life as helpless victims and believe that power, or lack of power, explains everything  They are the kind of people who ask: What's in it for me? as they break the law.

Then there are blue purposives.  They believe in the One Truth, in rules and traditional roles. 

There are also orange creatives who believe that life is an adventure, a game to be won.

And finally there are green communitarians who believe that power leads to cycles of violence, rules lead to stunted lives, and risky business ventures should be governed by the Precautionary Principle.

These green communitarians are members of the nation's only established church, the Church of Positive Self—Esteem.

In Wikipedia's definition of dysfunctional family we are talking about the red impulsives, people with compulsions and addictions, so Wikipedia's contributor is in effect calling the red impulsive culture pathological.

The liberals at the UI Counseling Center agree that the red impulsives are pathological, but then they stretch the definition a little by calling the blue purposive culture problematic.  The public school health teacher has made the final step: the rigid rules and roles of the blue purposives are pathological.

It is one thing to call someone dysfunctional.  It is another thing to do something about it, especially when the helping professionals of state university counseling centers and public school health teachers start to act like ministers of the established Church of Positive Self—Esteem.  Pretty soon the prelates of the government church start persecuting the independent churches.

That is happening right now in Britain to the enterprising souls trying to duplicate Chuck Colson's prison ministry in British prisons. Colson's program, writes Charles Moore, is called

"InnerChange.  The idea was 'the transformation of lives through the love of God'... In Texas, it is claimed that recidivism dropped from 55 per cent to eight per cent for those who took part in InnerChange." 

Unfortunately, in the British prison system the InnerChange program is running into difficulties. An "Area Psychologist" took a look at it and

"reported that the leader of the programme believed 'the root of offending is in individual sin,' and she opined that this 'lacks basis in specific scientific research.'"

In the Graves system, which may not be specifically scientific enough for Area Psychologists, the leap from red impulsive culture to blue purposive culture occurs when a person who lives life as a helpless victim of powerful forces decides to be a victim no more.  Instead of blaming the world for his problems he takes responsibility for his life and his actions, and finds, miraculously, that he is freed from the burden of life—as—a—victim.  In the Christian symbology, this is called sin and redemption.

Apparently, in this diverse, multicultural society, some of our Area Psychologists have not got the message that we are all supposed to celebrate the differences.

Christopher Chantrill blogs here. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.