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Ten Commandments of Dysfunctional Families

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 64

The First Commandment:
Thou shalt reinterpret reality to preserve the perfect fantasy.

Sample Situation: This commandment is designed to hide family secrets. If you saw dad stagger and fall down the basement steps because he was drunk, you can't tell the truth. instead, reality must be interpreted into an acceptable fantasy. "Daddy wasn't drunk; he simply lost his balance and tripped. Poor Daddy."

Application: Even if you see it, it's not real. You must have made a mistake. Therefore, reinterpret what you saw to make it nice and respectable. If you don't, people will think you're and we're all crazy. We wouldn't want them to think that now, would we?

Motto: Always believe the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the alcoholic truth.

 

The Second Commandment:
Thou shalt always send mixed messages, especially when it concerns relationships..

Sample Situation: A dominating father tells his child, "I love you. Now beat it and leave me alone."

Application: You don't really know what's true. Either your father loves you or he hates you. Since you never know for sure, you'll never be quite sure if others really mean what they say since those you loved most only spoke in mixed messages. They sounded good, but you couldn't trust them.

Motto: Avoid people and relationships. It's the safe thing to do.

 

The Third Commandment:
Thou shalt be an adult
.

Sample Situation: Children were made to take care of their parents emotionally, physically, or sexually and to meet their parents' "childish" needs for power, attention, sex, and belonging. The children submitted to avoid physical and emotional abandonment by their parents. Children in these environments can't really remember a "childhood." For this reason, children were always expected to be adults.

Application: Being child-like and spontaneous is irresponsible and bad. You must act like an adult at all times and be responsible, even if you're only five years old.

Motto: There's no such thing as child's play. It's all serious stuff.

 

The Fourth Commandment:
Thou shalt keep secrets from others.

Sample Situation: Daddy has a "secret" that only he and his little girl know. Of course, she can't tell Mommy. If she does, Daddy will hurt you and Mommy might leave and never come back.

Application: A child's most important duty is to protect the image of their parents and family in the community. Watch what you say and be careful not to act funny around other people either. After all, as family we have to protect each other. If you stay quiet, you're loyal. If you can't, we won't love you.

Motto: To really love someone is to show loyalty by protecting their "secrets" at all costs.

 

The Fifth Commandment: 
Thou shalt protect family secrets.

Sample Situation: A member of the family commits suicide. Since this is not acceptable to discuss even in the family, all pictures, memorabilia, and anything else which would indicate that this family member had ever lived here must be discarded. After all, no one in our family would commit suicide, would they???

Application: Our family doesn't have any problems, does it? Even if we did, we don't have to discuss or deal with them. After all, they're not that important. We can simply deny their existence so that we don't have to deal with the grief.

Motto: Life's too painful to have to deal with the pain and the problems. Just ignore them, they'll go away.

 

The Sixth Commandment:
Thou shalt not feel.

Sample Situation: A child cries because her best friend is moving away. "You shouldn't feel like that. Stop crying!" yells her mother angrily.

Application: Since any display of emotion might betray the family secrets that all is not perfect, all emotions must be repressed and numbed. After all, we're a normal family. We're not like other people who get angry, sad, or afraid.

Motto: Be respectable. After all, respectable people never show their emotions or pain..

 

The Seventh Commandment:
Thou shalt allow your boundaries to be violated, especially by those who "love" you.

Sample Situation: A child trying to accomplish a task continues to persist and work on it, hoping to gain a sense of accomplishment and approval. "Don't be so stubborn!" mommy says. "Just give up. There' s more important things than that to be done! Now put that stuff away and clean the house so that mommy knows you love her."

Lesson Learned: Anything you want is not worth protecting. Only those you love can tell you what is important and what's not. Quit thinking for yourself and just do what makes everyone else happy..

Motto: Because others are more valuable than you, you don't have the right to maintain your own boundaries or to make decisions.

 

The Seventh Commandment:
Thou shalt be hyper-vigilant

Sample Situation: A child is constantly reminded how dangerous the world is. People can't be trusted either. Therefore, stay aloof, don't get too close to anybody.

Lesson Learned: The only way to be safe in this world is to be careful and insulate yourself from others. Be careful. Always be on guard  They might hurt you. If you need help, don't ask for their help. Do it yourself.

Motto: Always be on your guard. The wise person is always over prepared and distrustful of everyone and everything.

 

The Eighth Commandments:
Thou shalt not let anyone do anything else for you. Do it all yourself.

Sample Situation: Parents continually remind the child that no one is to be trusted. If they do something for you, they're doing it to manipulate you.

Lesson Learned: Stay aloof and don't make friends with anybody. After all, if you get too close, they'll use, hurt and abuse you.  And remember this: nobody does anything for anyone unless they want something from you.

Motto: Do everything yourself.

 

The Ninth Commandment:
Thou shalt be perfect

Sample Situation: "Just because you got all 'A's on your report card doesn't mean that you couldn't have done better. You're lazy. Now get to work and let's see you get some more 'A+'s'!"

Lesson Learned: If it's not perfect, people won't love you. No matter how good it is, it's never good enough...but keep trying!

Motto: You're only as good as your performance and that's still not good enough!

 

The Tenth Commandment:
Thou shalt not forgive yourself or others.

Sample Situation: "You're always in my way, child! Why do you keep asking me to play with you? Don't you know I played with you last year? Wasn't that enough?! You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Go to your room. Don't bother me."

Lesson Learned: The only way I can be forgiven and loved is if I can earn it by being perfect.  The guiltier I feel, the harder I must work to gain other's approval. If I make any mistakes, even a small one, they'll reject me or think I'm incompetent or worthless. I'm afraid I will make a mistake, I know I will, I feel so guilty. Therefore, even if I think I can do it, I won't. After all, I could make a mistake and then what would I do? Oh, I could never go back and say I'm sorry!

Motto: Since Jesus' doesn't forgive me, I can't forgive you either.

 

The Ten Commandments Of Dysfunctional Families:
A Summary

The First And Great Commandment Is This:

"Be a "good" person: Be blind, be quiet, be numb, be careful, keep secrets, avoid reality, avoid relationships, don't cry, don't trust, don't feel, be serious, don't talk, don't love and above all, make everyone think you're perfect...even if it makes you feel guilty."

The Second Is Like Unto It:

"Since you're worthless and nobody loves you anyway (including yourself), don't try to change yourself. You're not worth the effort and you couldn't do it if you tried anyway. God won't help you either. So get back where you belong. There's nothing wrong anyway so what's your problem! See, I told you that you were stupid."

Thomas F. Fischer

Topical Index    Articles 1-49    Articles 50-99   Articles 100-149   Articles 150-199   
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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:07 PM