Christopher Titmus: The Buddha And His Dysfunctional Family

Dysfunctional families may be surprised to see the Buddha’s family as being dysfunctional. He faced the same challenges as the rest of us. The Buddha’s life offers hope. How can we find our own way?

I found this beautifully written post by Christopher Titmus, powerful, insightful, and am sharing it here. It is one of the most difficult situations to deal with and in all my years of teaching, it is this dysfunctionality that has caused the most trauma, PTSD, for most people that have come into my life.

Here is one definition of a dysfunctional family:

A family whose interrelationships serve to detract from, rather than promote, the emotional and physical health and well-being of its members.

Some of the characteristics of dysfunctional family systems are as follows:

Blaming; failure to take responsibility for personal actions and feelings; and invalidation of other family members’ feelings.

Boundaries between family members that are either too loose or too rigid. For example, the parent may depend excessively on the child for emotional support (loose boundaries) or prevent the child from developing autonomy by making all the decisions for the child (rigid boundaries).

Boundaries between the family as a whole and the outside world may also be too loose or too rigid.

A tendency for family members to enact set roles— caregiver, hero, scapegoat, saint, bad girl or boy, little prince or princess—that serve to restrict feelings, experience, and self-expression.

A tendency to have an “identified patient”—one family member who is recognized as mentally unhealthy, who may or may not be in treatment, but whose symptoms are a sign of the inner family conflict. Often the identified patient’s problems function to disguise the larger family issues. For example, a child may be regarded as a bully and a troublemaker in school and labeled a “problem child,” when he may in fact be expressing conflicts and problems, such as abuse from home, by acting out and being “bad.”

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