How Dysfunction Creates Dysfunction – Addiction in the Family

Family Dysfunction Addiction

The following is a brief sample from the book


(Available on this page)

From the Chapter on Paradigms of Addiction
“The Dysfunctional Family Model”

Dysfunctional Family Model

The Dysfunctional Family Model is a variant of the Psychodynamic Model.  It is built on the premise that negative environmental factors related to poor family function are responsible for the development of the “Addictive Personality” and thereby the accompanying addictive behaviors.  This model suggests that addictive personalities develop as the result of family environmental factors only and that social environmental factors only perpetuate inconsistencies originating from the family dysfunction.

This model purports that family dysfunction and the human reactions related to that dysfunction, lead to the development of a “survival based personality type” (I will expand on this later.)  Supporters of this model believe that the development of the “addict trait” (as it is referred to in this model) is an extremely common occurrence in the dysfunctional family system.  Like in the psychodynamic model this set of identified behaviors is termed the “Addictive Personality.”  Once again this is a personality role that is formed in response to adjustment problems and a struggle to cope with the stressors brought on by high levels of family dysfunction.  Physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect are all extreme examples of dysfunction.  (It is important to remember that extreme abuse is not necessary for this personality trait to develop: Individual reactions to family stressors vary greatly.)

Proponents of this paradigm believe that there is a very identifiable pathology which determines the level of dysfunction responsible for the development of and cultivating of this survival role.  It should be noted that all families have some level of dysfunction and that when identifying a family as dysfunctional this model is referring to those families with higher than normal levels of dysfunction in certain key areas.  These areas include; externalization, rationalization, justification, blaming, avoidance, denial, self-victimization, projection, abuse of all types, extreme self-centeredness, neglect and parental personality disorders.

Parental or guardian addiction is believed to just carry dysfunction forward from the previous generation of dysfunction.  If the parental role model is addicted then the dysfunctions detailed above may occasionally be hard to identify and thus not necessary for the addict trait to be carried forward because children often copy the behaviors of their significant role models (both positive and negative.)   If you have a family history of dysfunction or abuse then you might add a note to your list.  (Perhaps; “My significant family members struggled to present a positive model on how to cope with stress in a healthy way.”)  This failure on their part results in an increased level of powerlessness on your part but it does not in and of itself, foster addiction.  One must still make the choice to experiment with and use mood altering chemicals.

As mentioned above there are some types of dysfunction present in all families.  Some of the more problematic areas include; modeling of the addictive personality, codependency in a primary caregiver, lack of emotional support when coping with personal struggles, the failure to pass on positive functioning tools for the resolution of personal problems and personal life stressors like intellectual or functional limitations.

Also problematic are issues around family denial of problems, avoidance of physical health issues, violence and emotional/physical/sexual abuse.  In this model all of the aforementioned types of dysfunction are believed to contribute to the development of the Addictive Personality, a personality developed as an attempt to survive the family chaos termed dysfunction.

(This is just an exert, Learn more by clicking the links on the lest)

Emmanuel S. John, MA, MSW, LCSW


Available on this web site

***(Almost everything posted on this blog/page the data is the Intellectual Property of this author (Emmanuel S. John and should be sighted accordingly if reproduced.)

I STAND BY THE DOOR – Addiction in the Family

shoemaker addiction

I thought that as a fitting tribute, the day after the anniversary of AA’s founding (June 10th 2015 was AA’s 80th anniversary)  that I share a poem of great value, by a man of great value to the founders of AA, as well as to the original Oxford Group members.

I Stand By The Door

An Apologia For My Life
by Samuel Moor Shoemaker

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world-
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only a wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands.
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it…
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door-the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch-the latch that only clicks and
And opens to that man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter-
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it-live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
and open it, and walk in, and find Him…
So I stand by the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in-
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics-
It is a vast roomy house, this house that God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture in a little further;
But my place seems closer to the opening…
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks of all of us,
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia,
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.

The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving-preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.
I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they wouldn’t forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You came in too far and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God and hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from men as to not hear them,
And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door-
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But-more important for me–
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a doorkeeper…”
So I stand by the door.