Family Systems

What is a family system?

It can mean a lot of things, for instance, people could be brought up with people outside of their natural family but class them as their family. Family could also mean a committed relationship or relationships in general.

Family systems theory suggests that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another-families are ‘systems’ of interconnected and independent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system.

What does it mean to say a family is a system?

  • To understand this better, try and consider the example of a mobile.

When you move any pieces of a mobile, all the other pieces move too! They do not exist in isolation from one another, and ‘movement’ in any part of the ‘system’ will affect all the rest of parts of the system.

What you’ll want to understand about the family system.

Family Roles:

  • The most basic types of roles are ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘auntie’, ‘daughter’, ‘son’, ‘grandparents’ etc. But what is expected from people in these roles?
  • There are also roles beyond this most basic level. For instance: Roles that are given to us by other family members. Examples – the clown, the scapegoat, the delusional one, the troublesome one etc, etc. And in all families there is always one labeled the ‘nutta’, the ‘idiot’ or even the, the ‘golden child’ or the ‘achiever’ etc, etc.

Family Rules:

Family Rules are rules about how a family operates; these rules are often unspoken rules.

For example:

When people are angry with one another, do they express this or keep it to themselves?

  • How affectionate or emotional are family members expected or allowed to be with each other?
  • How do decisions get made in the family? Who has input and who is expected to ‘just tag along’, or ‘accept’ what’s happening. How is the final decision made?
  • Are there limits on ‘how much’ or in what ways people argue with their parents/loved ones?
  • How much are family members ‘allowed’ to talk to ‘outsiders’ about family problems, or in general?

Why do the roles and the rules apply?

Are your family dynamics a trigger and why?

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