We hear a lot of talk about dysfunction. People enjoy pointing the finger of dysfunction at others. It seems normal and acceptable to label others and their families as dysfunctional based on their mistakes, trials, and tribulations. We do it with celebrities and others in the public eye all of the time. It’s what sells magazines and newspapers. Unfortunately, many of us are misinformed or uninformed about what dysfunction really means. Dysfunction is not synonymous with making mistakes or getting into trouble at school. Dysfunction occurs when making mistakes and getting into trouble at school leads to further harm, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually. And perfectionism and denial are often the catalyst for dysfunction and its perpetuation.
Healthy people realize that there is no such thing as perfection. Couples argue. Children are disrespectful on occasion. Friends and family members disagree. All children, teenagers, and young adults experience growing pains. Through experience, we learn about what is and isn’t tolerated by others. We learn and foster our ability to empathize with others and become individuals others enjoy being around. As humans, our natural inclination is to seek out companionship, love, and acceptance. Regardless of whether we are introverted or extroverted, none of us can deny the fact that we prosper most when we accept ourselves and feel accepted and loved by others. It’s natural.
What isn’t natural or healthy is hiding behind a mask of perfection and denying our mistakes. When we do that, dysfunction breeds rapidly. Think about the parent who refuses to acknowledge their child’s poor behavior. Often, these parents are overheard saying, “Boys will be boys.” OR “That’s what kids do.”
Of course, boys WILL be boys, and children behave immaturely. But is that an excuse to ignore the behavior and act as if your child will somehow magically outgrow being hurtful to others? Children aren’t born with the capacity to nurture themselves 100%. They learn self-nurture skills from guardians. They need parents and/or adult role models to guide them and to teach them about consequences.
A Parent who is in denial (or simply can’t be bothered to parent) is quick to blame everyone else for their child’s poor behavior. It’s the teacher’s fault because she doesn’t know how to handle children. It’s the other kids’ faults because they are bullies. It’s the coach’s fault because he isn’t giving her son the opportunity to play.
Once her child reaches adulthood, the parent will continue her denial and blame (along with the child’s delusions) every time her son gets angry and lashes out. After all, he is perfect and everyone else has the problem. Not him:
1. “It’s the girlfriend’s fault he screams and yells and is suspicious of her. She should just love him. She’s the one who is depressed and with problems, not my son!”
2. “It’s the boss’s fault for not understanding genius when he sees it. No wonder my son needs to work for himself. He needs an outlet for his power and superiority.”
3. “It’s his friend’s fault they aren’t friends anymore. His friend didn’t give him the respect my son deserves. His friend has no right to keep secrets from my son or treat him like that!”
And the parent remains in denial even after someone finally has the guts to tell her that her son has serious personality issues and that’s why he can’t make long-lasting friendships, weather the normal storms of intimate partnerships, hold a job and grow his business, and accept his own role in mishaps and misunderstandings.
The parent is in denial and the grown child is in denial. The family prefers to make jokes about their shitty behavior instead of addressing how to fix their behavior. Everyone else is the butt of this family’s sick and twisted humor. All ex-girlfriends are crazy and depressed and are borderline and/or bi-polar. All ex-friends are cowards. All ex-employees are lazy. They hide behind this humor to project a perfect family, when in fact, this family has no clue what love really means. Their idea of family is incredibly distorted and false. This family is a perfect storm of perfect dysfunction.
Through denial and continued projection of perfectionism, this family unit unknowingly continues inflicting harm on itself and all others who dare enter it.
Maybe perfect does exist. Perfect dysfunction. They have it mastered. We should all just steer clear. Let them ride it out alone. Let them crash and burn. No extinguisher can save them now.