Living with dysfunction starts when your life, or another person's life, ceases to operate normally or properly.
Of course, you may now be asking that eternal question: "What is normal?" But perhaps it's better to ask: "What ISN'T normal?"
Normal isn't indefinitely putting your life on hold for someone who refuses to take responsibility for theirs.
Normal isn't constantly living with (and, even worse, thriving on) drama, problems or stress.
Normal isn't regularly waking up uninspired, numb or apathetic.
Normal isn't chronically being solely in the one emotional state.
And normal isn't incessantly enduring feelings of resentment, despair or frustration.
One way to know if you're dealing with dysfunction is by asking yourself, "Is this working for me?"
When you ask yourself this, you'll receive an intuitive answer; you'll be able to see if your behaviors and your environment are all working in a way that is FOR you, and not AGAINST you.
Living with dysfunction kills connection, joy, serenity and creativity.
Quite frankly, it's toxic.
My life changed when I took a zero-tolerance approach to having dysfunction and dysfunctional people in my life.
And, I can tell you, it is truly liberating!
Here are four signs you may be living with dysfunction:
1) You're always having to give up something.
Most people will tell you having to compromise is a sign of a functional and beneficial relationship -- and they're right.
But are you really compromising, or are you just always having to give something up?
Do you give up your values, your beliefs, your power or your passions because you have someone in your life you're either trying to manage, appease or keep around?
This is not compromise -- this is dysfunction.
Compromise is going to the Mexican restaurant your partner chose when you felt like Italian because you knew you'll get Italian next week.
Dysfunction is when you never get Italian.
Compromise is the settlement of differences by mutual concessions. So, are you the one having to always make the concession? If so, that's not compromise.
If you are always having to give something up, it's worth your while to reflect on why you do. It's on us to examine why we accept the behaviors we do: What you choose to put up with is a very good indicator of your self-worth.
2) You, or others, keep talking about the same problems over and over again.
If you have a person in your life who is only ever talking about their problems, or you are that person, then you're living with dysfunction.
Continually hearing the same problems from the same person without anything changing has the listener feeling powerless to make a difference. They know the only person who can change it is the one who is offloading -- not only that, it also leaves them frustrated and defeated.
Relationships should be in a constant state of growth, not stifled, and you shouldn't only be bonding over problems: Healthy relationships will bond over all of life's events.
If you're the listener, you must first look at what benefit you believe you get from doing it: there is always a payoff from our habitual behaviors.
And if it's you who is the one continually sharing your problems, and you believe that's because you can never seem to be free of them, then that's also a pretty clear sign you are living with dysfunction in other areas of your life. And only you have the power to change that.
3) Somebody in your life refuses to take responsibility.
Most people's ears close over when they hear the word responsibility -- like it's some dirty word.
Personally, I believe it's the best word in existence and the most powerful -- when it's employed it's got the power to change your life.
Some of the more detrimental ramifications from someone refusing to take responsibility include: a child ending up having to assume the role of the parent; a spouse becoming a "single parent" by virtue of their dysfunctional partner becoming, in effect, a child. A good example is when grandparents end up raising their grandchildren because the parents are not stepping up emotionally or with care giving.
Anybody who has had, or has, someone in their life who refuses to take responsibility will very likely relate to the experience of having their life put on hold due to that person's problems or, at the very least, having their life extremely affected because of them.
If one person's life dominates the family system, and that person has the capability to take responsibility for their behavior but chooses not to, then you're living with dysfunction.
If somebody else's life disturbs the normal functioning of YOUR life, then you're living with dysfunction. Period.
4) Somebody is overstepping your boundaries and you're not doing anything to stop it.
A personal boundary is an invisible line that marks a limit, and allowing somebody to overstep your boundaries is a clear sign of dysfunction.
We all have internal boundaries but issues can arise when we've lived too long with dysfunction and have started accepting unacceptable behaviors. One way to re-establish your boundaries is to get present to the feelings in your body when such a situation arises.
You don't need to consciously know what boundary is being crossed -- you just need to know when something doesn't sit right for you. When you get that feeling, there's a good chance someone's pushing at your limits.
The overstepping of boundaries is likely to become regular when you either remain ignorant of your boundaries or continue to not enforce them.
Either way, only you can resolve it.
So, can you see where you may have been allowing dysfunctional behaviur? What exactly have you been putting up with? And what do you think you can do to change it? I'd love to know.