Borderline Personality Disorder: Who Burdens Who?

Most personality disorders are in actuality a family affair, but saying this has become politically incorrect. Political considerations can trump scientific ones in science.

Dysfunctional Family Role: The “Loser”

Some adults who are actually perfectly normal act out in ways which ensure that they will always fail in life. They remain dependent on their parents for the sake of the parents.

Why Parents May Sacrifice their Own Children

Under certain circumstances, we have inherited a biological tendency to sacrifice ourselves and our children for our kin or social group. Abraham and Isaac's story is illustrative.

Performance vs. Ability in Psychology Research

Unwarranted assumptions invalidate research on personality disorders

Addict Cleans Up, Then Is Shunned by Family

Addiction is in the news again, and everyone wants to believe it's caused mostly by genetics. But a letter to a newspaper advice columnist reveals hidden family dynamics.

Intrapsychic Conflict and Dysfunctional Family Patterns

Conflicts within parents' minds over certain behavior can lead them to give double messages to kids, who in turn develop dysfunctional mental models about what is expected of them.

Family Dysfunction: How Therapists Get the Whole Story

Therapists have several useful techniques for getting shameful, protective, or guilty patients to open up and tell the whole story regarding dysfunction in their families.

Your Children Will Give You What You Seem to Expect

When parents are overly preoccupied with something their child does, the child may think the parents need to be thusly preoccupied, and so increase the behavior's frequency.

Questionable Study About Implanting False Memories

A study shown on "Nova" puts a subject in the position of having to call her parents liars. The experimenter ignores her behavior during the study in drawing conclusions.

Borderline Personality: Why They May Not “Get Used to It"

A recent study showed that persons with borderline personality disorder do not "get used" to the sight of unpleasant pictures as others do. Error management theory tells us why.

Genes, Environment, and Strategic Planning in Human Behavior

Today's mental health professionals are over-emphasizing biological determinants of behavior and minimizing the importance of the environment, learning, and our ability to think.

Parents Cut Off by Adult Children: Clueless? Part 2

In a previous post I opined that most parents whose adult children have cut them off know the real reason. That is not always the case. This post describes one common issue.

Psychodynamic Vs. Cognitive Therapy: Defense Mechanisms

Different schools of psychotherapy often use multiple names for the same phenomenon — and act like they're discussing completely different things. Here's a prime example.

Ambiguous Family Communication: Explanation, or Description?

People involved in repetitive dysfunctional family interactions may non-answer questions about why they did something by paraphrasing an earlier description of their state of mind.

Ambiguous Family Communication: Descriptions or Judgments?

People involved in repetitive dysfunctional family interactions may use the intrinsic ambiguity of language to mislead interested third parties. One way is make global judgments.

How Parents Prolong the "Terrible Twos" Into Adolescence

Mental health professionals label as mental disorders child misbehavior that is created by certain parenting practices that have increased in incidence over the last few decades.

Ignoring Social Context in Studies of Borderline Personality

Whether an individual seems to be overly cautious or overly optimistic regarding their expectations of others is determined by experience and learning, not by brain abnormalities.

Family Discussions About Dysfunction: Use of Disclaimers

In discussing repetitive dysfunctional patterns with important family members in order to improve relationships, one helpful strategy is the use of certain introductory statements.

The Last Time Biological Psychiatry Over-Reached

Purely genetic explanations for a variety of psychiatric and behavioral disorders are currently in vogue in many mental health circles. It is not the first time.

The (Sometimes) Myth of the Wicked Stepmother

New spouses often volunteer to take the blame when divorced parents want, for whatever reason, to avoid their children from a previous marriage.

Immigration and Family Dysfunction

The children of immigrants to the United States from traditional societies often get double messages about which cultural norms they should follow, creating serious conflicts.

Do Panic Attacks Really Come Out of the Blue?

It is often claimed that panic attacks are not triggered by specific environmental or interpersonal stressors because they seemingly happen at any time. This is misleading.

I'll Enable You if You'll Enable Me

The concept of enabling in alcoholism is just one example of a much wider phenomenon seen in couples, and it is two-way street. It both connects a couple and drives them apart.

Family Dynamics in Song: "A Boy Named Sue"

Sometimes, writers come up with insights about psychology and family dynamics that seem to escape most practitioners in the field. The song "A Boy Named Sue" is a prime example.

Hateful, Abusive, Neglectful Parent, or Doting Grandparent?

How does someone react if his or her parents, who had been guilty of abusive, neglectful, or invalidating treatment of them as children, dote on their grandchildren?

Inflexible Behavior in Personality Disorders

People who rigidly engage in the same behavior over and over again despite the consequences are often acting out a false self for the sake of their families.

Neglectful Parents and Eldest Siblings

When parents neglect a large brood of children and leave child care duties to the oldest among them, dysfunctional patterns of relationships between the siblings as adults emerge.

Parenting: Opposite Strategies, But the Same Results

Extremes of parenting (such as being overprotective vs not protecting at all) may often lead children to act out in very similar ways -no matter which extreme the parents are at.

Risky Behavior and Victimizers: Two Issues, Not One

A teen passes out drunk at a frat party and is raped. A woman whose husband beats her goes back to him repeatedly, despite having the ability to leave. Lately, anyone who even brings up the subject of risky behavior by people like this are accused of "excusing" the victimizer and "blaming" the victim. Nonsense. Though connected, these are two separate issues, not one.

How I Learned About the Family Dynamics I Write About

In the comments by readers responding to my blogposts about dysfunctional family dynamics, I am often accused of naively believing my patient's "distorted" descriptions of their interactions with their family-of-origin members. In fact, I have observed these processes directly in a variety of ways. I describe those ways herein.

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