A Portrait of Family Dynamics


What do you think a family is? How would you define family functions? What is its purpose and role?

In this blog I take an abbreviated look into the dynamics of family for a 2-part series being live recorded with iCAAD Events for Facebook Live Tuesday 23 Jan and 20 Feb, 2018 at 8 PM GMT.

Myth Busting

Firstly we will be busting a few myths around the notion of families. For example, in Western culture, certainly in the UK culture, often people hold up this idea of what’s called the nuclear family, a male father, a female mother and then somehow 2.2 children (I don’t know how that works… it’s a sort of a mathematical formula). This has never really been the truth about families in the UK context, or any context to be honest. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s nuclear families represented about a third of British families. We are nowhere near those levels anymore; families are much more mixed… always have been actually.

Did you know, we’re actually designed when born to be able to attach to a number of people, not just mum? It’s a survival function. Then as we grow-up we’re designed to form relationships to a large group of people.

There isn’t one ideal makeup of a family, it’s whatever works. Yes, there are several varied cultural contexts but we do know that there are certain things that if you get them right, will make your relationships work. So in terms of families, you work together on solving problems rather than turn that into a problem itself. You can get the emotional climate right so that it’s loving and supportive and fosters attachment, which is oxytocin in the frontal lobes of the brain. If you get that right, you’re going in the correct direction.

Culture Codes
Then we address the organization issues, which are really about role boundaries within families. What sort of roles are people taking on? Are they appropriate for their culture of individuals and do they fit in or not fit in with the wider culture? What do those sort of tensions bring back towards your understanding of how you resolve those types of tensions if they exist? There isn’t a specific set of cultural rules here rather, it needs to be within the culture of the family that people are comfortable with those rules.

Again, you may have a primary care-giver that could be male, it could be female, it could be one person, it could be two people, or more. These are roles, these are functions that need to be found. And we know primary care becomes less important as the child grows up. So one thing a family can do is bring children into the world and nurture them and get them moving on into their life.

Whether yours is considered a traditional or non-traditional family, nuclear or extended, together we will explore further the functions involved, why they even exist and how they seem to happen across cultures and times? We will discuss our human existence and evolution as it relates to families, so we as a species can continue. Families have evolved over thousands of years.

Evolution of Family
Human beings relating to each other as social animals. We tend to be better off in groups and learning to navigate groups starts in this small family clan type situation. When you move on from that intimate situation into the wider world you’re going to be much more successful on so many levels, if you develop the range of skills there, they are healthy and broad and flexible. There will be a lot of skills that we need and a lot of different types of relationships that we’re going to have to navigate. We can think of a family in one sense as a sort of laboratory for us to try out all the sort of skills that we’re going to need as we move around in the world.

It is just as important to note the need for our family/home life being a place in which we feel securely loved. That’s going to be the key message about this. How do we get to a place where we have a secure sense of love from the people that are closest to us?

Fixing Family Issues
What the types of problems would a family, a grouping, or a clan have, and how can we go about putting those right and who might be involved? The issues are sort of complex these days and it can’t just simply be a therapist turning up and saying okay well let’s do a bit of therapy and I’ll sort everything out. There are numerous legal and safeguarding issues to look at.

It Takes a Village
There may be mental health issues, you may need to bring in a whole range of people, when a family is in crisis, to support that family and to create what I think of as the village around the family. That’s what’s needed you know, and in cultures like in the UK that village now, what that looks like is a range of professionals who may get involved from
social services, if there’s safeguarding issues, to mental health professionals if that’s going on or other health professionals of this addiction issues, etc. This is what the modern village looks like from the UK context and how families and professionals navigate these types of issues.

By sensitively bringing the range of professionals in, it’s what we call multidisciplinary team working, which is something that my company looks at a lot; bringing people together so they’re all working towards a common goal with a family that may have problems or issues or indeed being crisis. These teams, our modern day villages, come together in support of the family through the crisis into a more stable path without contributing to it.

Join us LIVE
If this topic sparks some interest in your heart and mind, do tune in to the Facebook Live series 23rd of January and 20th of February, 2018 at 8 PM PST. Feel free to leave comments, and send your suggestions, I welcome your thoughts, feedback and opinion. This is open to professionals as well. I’d like to really get a great dialogue going on around this topic.

Watch Live here: www.facebook.com/noel.mcdermott1
Follow us here: www.facebook.com/PsychotherapyConsultancy
Send your comments to: info@noelmcdermott.net

To your good health,
Noel McDermott

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