Growing up in a dysfunctional family is isolating – some of us don’t see the reality of our situations, until we’re much older, feeling the after-effects of neglect, abuse, or trauma.
Sometimes, we just dismiss the dysfunction as family drama – since so many of us have what seems like a ton of drama in the family, it almost feels normalized.
These quotes on dysfunctional families capture the experience, to help you reflect on your personal struggle.
1. On escaping a dysfunctional family:
“I explain to my patients that abused children often find it hard to disentangle themselves from their dysfunctional families, whereas children grow away from good, loving parents with far less conflict. After all, isn’t that the task of a good parent, to enable the child to leave home?” – Irvin Yalom
2. What dysfunctional family members never do:
“Making amends is not only saying the words but also being willing to listen to how your behavior caused another’s pain, and then the really hard part…changing behavior.” – David W. Earle
3. Dysfunctional families will reject you for speaking your truth:
“The fear of abandonment forced me to comply as a child, but I’m not forced to comply anymore. The key people in my life did reject me for telling the truth about my abuse, but I’m not alone. Even if the consequence for telling the truth is rejection from everyone I know, that’s not the same death threat that it was when I was a child. I’m a self-sufficient adult and abandonment no longer means the end of my life.” – Christina Enevoldsen
4. In dysfunctional families, truth comes from power, not reality:
“My sister only has one side of the story but she is sure that she knows the whole story because that is how the dysfunctional system works. We don’t question everyone or even consider that there may be another side to the story but instead automatically believe the one who has the most power in the relationship.” – Darlene Ouimet
5. Dysfunctional families encourage manipulation, and punish direct communication:
“As I was growing up, no one in my family got their needs met through respectful negotiation and compromise. The only victories I had ever seen my mom achieve were small, and she had accomplished them through manipulation, which was one of the few techniques she had for surviving her relationship with my father. Later, after his death, manipulation had become a way of life for her. It became innate for me too, even though I wanted her to be more direct, and I hated it when she manipulated me.” – Olga Trujillo
6. On feeling blame and guilt for family conflicts:
“Sarah watched her mother and felt guilt building in her stomach. Her parents argued about her a lot, but she didn’t want to be the thing that came between them.” – Natasha D. Lane
7. Losing your identity to a controlling parent:
“The whole time I was growing up…living in this house…Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere…It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn’t tell which one was you anymore.” – August Wilson
8. Family dysfunction makes pain a part of your identity:
“I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our whole lifetime, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart: This is mine, this is mine, this is mine.” – Elizabeth Strout
You might see yourself in these quotes on dysfunctional families. Maybe they’ll give you a new perspective on your constant family drama, or even on its consequences for your personal life.
We hope that helps you puzzle through either your problematic childhood, or your current situation. To bounce these ideas off others thinking about the same family issues, try entering your thoughts at Supportiv. We’re here 24/7.