What’s your family’s psychosocial health scorecard?: The Dance of Life Article Series
By Dr. Joyce at The Caring Heart from Spokane Washington

March 2013

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”
(Romans 12:10)

According to neuroplasticity theory, our repeated experiences shape our brains, especially the brains and personalities of youngsters.  The family environment is incredibly powerful to influence the molding of either well-balanced, thriving, happy, kind individuals or dysfunctional, stressed, unhappy, unkind and cruel individuals.  Which is YOUR family producing?  Do you know?
Have you thought about your family relationships lately?  Do family members keep in contact, pay attention to one another, do positive, fun things together, affirm one another by noticing and commenting on nice things done, let one another know they are “there” in times of need?  Can family members feel reasonably secure in one another’s nurturance, now and in the future, as circumstances will allow?  Are misunderstandings talked about openly, and easily resolved, with good spirits?  Do family members act as though they are genuinely interested in one another’s lives, and are attentive and enthusiastic to hear how someone else is doing, and to share in what others may be excited about?  Is everyone equally valued and shown ongoing consideration, eliminating rivalries?      
On the down side, are there family members one seldom, if ever, hears from?  Does the family generally expect all its members to go find others to relate to and to do things with?  Do family members’ commitments to one another feel really insecure and superficial, because expressions of real valuation and interest don’t actually happen?  They’re all “busy” and otherwise involved?  Are the number and variety of topics which are “ok” to be talked about very limited, so that get-togethers can be described as superficial and, in fact, quite boring?  In a worse case scenario, are there unresolved issues which are taboo to be brought up or worked through, with periodic flare-ups of ugly drama with concomitant hurt and trauma to those involved?  Do frozen misunderstandings go on year after year, with no possibility of being cleared up?  Is there physical or verbal bullying going on?  Teasing?  Are some family members lauded and applauded while others are mercilessly scapegoated?  The list of very harmful interactions and manipulative game playing could be infinite.  Of course, all the above is exceedingly sinful, and not at all what Jesus is about.  For Jesus, love and caring are “for real,” critically needed, and should be consistent and ongoing.  We are created gregarious.
Probably few individuals now days have taken a good look at what actually happens in their family interactions.  And, probably fewer individuals realize the very real mental, emotional, and physical harm negative family relating can cause – low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, crippling anxiety, loss or minimizing of achievement in life, physical problems, mental illness, alcoholism, suicide, etc. and etc.  Very real felt pain and very real damaging of persons.  Such environments do not provide the basic, gut feeling of SAFETY that all beings need.  Moreover, children growing up in dysfunctional, abusive families usually exhibit the same type of dysfunctions through their lives, perpetuating these very harmful dysfunctions generation after generation, having brains that developed without adequate (or any) conscience, and perhaps angry explosiveness, abusiveness, and countless other negative patterns.  Callous indifference to the suffering of others, including animals, is often an outstanding characteristic.
Probably a significant percentage of people alive today do not really know what relating and living in a genuinely kind, nurturing group of people feels like because they did not experience this as they developed, and don’t now either.  They DO NOT REALLY KNOW what a crucial difference loving, caring, committed, stable relatedness makes in happiness and general well-being.  The joys and pleasures of truly mentally and emotionally interactional synchrony are not even “on their radar” of experience.  The specifics in this whole area have not been taught or lived in this culture near, near enough.  TRAGIC!  
Tragically, the end-of-the-line victims of dysfunctional family (or friend) relatedness are the innocent, helpless family pets and other animals who receive cruel and/or neglectful treatment from angry, frustrated family members.  They get picked on, especially, because they (usually) can’t hurt the cruel family member back.    
- One round of hurt and pain after another that doesn’t have to be that way.  I know family relatedness is VERY hard to change, but so much could be done to increase the health of family relatedness with good information as to how, and consistent, kind effort.  Core problems are that (1.) many people don’t realize its importance, and moreover, (2.) don’t know what to do to make things better.  Detailed specifics are not taught in school or in church, and Emily Post’s clear guidelines for good manners aren’t around anymore (no wonder people can’t do better!)
I am inviting you to “hang in there” and read my hopefully helpful list of kind, non-intrusive ways thoughtful family members can work to enhance truly good, beneficial, happy family relatedness for any and all members.  I am calling it “A Checklist for Caring Hearts.” 

Copyright 2013 The Caring Heart

Go on to: Checklist for family caring hearts
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