Psychology Dysfunctional Families, Under the Surface…

No family is perfect under the surface or would want to be as the desire for perfection could also be considered dysfunction.

The more damaging forms of dysfunction can last a lifetime without having some insight on how to overcome the deeply ingrained patterns.


Dysfunction at its worst can be; controlling of dependents through physical or mental abuse, neglect, harsh criticism, punishment, isolation or hiding “family skeletons”. Dysfunction can also be not allowing a child to play, to act childish, demanding more than what would be typical for their age and development.

For example: A child’s emotional maturity, a baby cries, gets mad and a second later is happy and smiling. A child will learn to control their emotions as their natural psychology evolves. At this stage, emotions are processed through the Limbic or Reptilian brain. This starts the problematic pattern as these brains operate as “emotional Brain” functions.

This is taken into consideration that children under the age of 7-8 do not have a fully developed Neo-Cortex, the rational and reasoning brain. Up until then, the neural pathways are formed through the Emotional Limbic and Reptilian brains.

The “Fight or Flight” Reptilian Brain is automated. No matter what age we are, when it is engaged there is no ability to think. If you are being chased by a Lion, then run. But if you run at the site of a small non-toxic spider then your reaction could be considered as over-functioning and the result of the reactive Reptilian Brain.

The Limbic Brain is a pattern brain. It learns emotional patterns. I have experienced that before; this was the emotional attachment to the event; so I know this emotion is for example: fear, anxiety or danger. After the events of 9-11, I developed a fear of flying. Looking at the root cause I discovered it is not the actually flying that makes my heart race, but the fear of the unknown, the fear of not being in control, not feeling safe, no-where to escape. So the next time I decide to hop on a plane, I need to use my awareness to quiet my racing thoughts and take control of myself through rational thoughts.

The Limbic brain utilizes emotional information from past conditioning so assumptions can be and often are wrong. For example: You have been chased by a lion before and so you have learned to react with panic. You run fast, however this same response of panic may be triggered when any of those neural pathways are triggered. Possibly when you see a spider, your emotion of fear is triggered and so you run! The Limbic Brain takes small trigger points — emotional pattern history — from the initiating experience and then automatically fills in the blanks of future experiences. Your reaction is to not think about the differences, but to run.

The Neo-Cortex is called the “slow thinking” and is the reason why Homo Sapiens have the intellectual ability to rationalize and reason. “Slow Thinking” means it takes a few seconds before the Neo-Cortex begins to “process” so there may be opportunity for the 2 lesser brain functions to interfere the emotional triggers.

When conditions within the home are dysfunctional, the long term consequences of the Reptilian and Limbic brain being continually activated can affect a person throughout their life, unless they learn to reprogram the Limbic Brain and to use the Neo-Cortex Brain.

For example:

Where it all begins is with dysfunction during the primary years of a child’s life. The child first needs to feel physical and emotional safe in his/her environment otherwise he/she will maintain in “survival mode” (Reptilian brain mentality). The basic needs of the child must first be met before any psychological development can happen.

Once their basic physical and emotional needs are maintained, the child starts to form relationships and learns the values of his/her family and other influences within the home. The child within certain dysfunctional families may learn fear and experience emotional instability rather than feelings of security and happiness.

Children need a secure foundation where their basic physical and emotional needs are met in order to have the ability to focus on psychological growth.

Development can also be difficult if a parent or the social culture the child is embedded in has never had the opportunity to explore the different stages of psychological growth. As we progress we may be good at some things but have deficiencies at certain stages.

If the psychological development is incomplete or un-mastered at any stage, the brain will return to the ingrained behavior pattern every time the correct trigger engages the brain. This is where an Evolutionary Coach can help identify the deficiencies, learn to process, master and move on.



  • Psychology affects every aspect of our life, needs, values, relationships at home, work, and community and beyond.
  • The Reptilian Brain: Action Reaction
  • Limbic Brain: Emotional patterns
  • Neo-Cortex: Ration and Reason
  • As we grow up, the needs of our psychological future evolves as psychological growth progresses — as long as the appropriate conditions exist — through the stages of development.
  • Dysfunction and psychological development will be supported or inhibited according to the conditions within the family, the social structure of the community and culture.

If your dysfunctional upbringing is stopping you from completing projects or pursuing your goals, you would do well with Evolutionary Coaching. If You take yourself too serious and judge yourself to harshly, or tend to lie to avoid blame, need allot of assurance, have control issues, or if you are having difficulty in a relationship, in knowing what is normal, Evolutionary Coaching can help. Concerned with passing your dysfunction to your kids?

Dysfunction can span generations, cultures, religions, societies and nations. You’re not alone.

More articles on dysfunction: compulsive or obsessive behavior, substance abuse or addiction will follow.


Adele Anderson