Dysfunctional family dynamics R US

Dear President Trump,

Looks like you’re keeping it light today with just three things on your schedule so far. Probably good for a Friday that falls on the 13th day of the month since I bet you can’t help but worry about such things. I just looked up why people are superstitious about Friday the 13th’s and it appears that someone decided it made sense to conflate the number of people reportedly at Jesus’s last supper, which was 13, and the day of the week it happened, which was a Friday. Weird, weird logic. People are so odd. It did give me a little chuckle, though, to look up your schedule and to see that at 11:45 “The President receives his intelligence briefing” as though someone is going to try to force-feed you intelligence. Hah! I wish them luck.

Alright, moving on. The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about how similar our current political mess is to dysfunctional family systems. Because I don’t remember the formal names of the different types of messed up family systems I learned about in graduate school I did a quick Google search and found loads of sites with different takes. The one that comes up first is geared towards people with addiction problems (the website is realisticrecovery.wordpress.com) and delineates these four types:

  • The Alcoholic or Drug Dependent Family System
  • The Emotionally or Psychologically Disturbed Family System
  • The Physically or Sexually Abusing Family System
  • The Religious Fundamentalist or Rigidly Dogmatic Family System

To me, these are handy meta-labels, but they are too high level to be of much use when it comes to understanding what the people in those families may be going through or to unpacking my argument that the current political situation we are in is akin to a dysfunctional family system. The next one I came across (the website is keepyourchildsafe.org) is way more useful. Even though the labels are shorter, they pack lots more information:

  • The chaotic household
  • Emotionally distant families
  • The dominant-submissive household
  • Chronic conflict
  • Pathological households
  • Violent homes


There’s a tidy little comment at the end of the litany describing each type of messed up family noting that “families may share two or more of these particular conditions.” Uh yeah, and apparently so may countries. Seriously, we can check off every damn one of these subtypes. You, yourself, as the POTUS are at the center of the whole thing and all by yourself you embody all of them – you are chaotic with your nutso statements and reversals, you freeze people out you don’t like or pretend they don’t exist, you play the dictator/strongman role to the hilt whenever possible, you sow conflict constantly, you are certifiable, and you encourage violence against people you don’t like. Check marks all down the row.

Plus, and here’s the kicker, you’ve enlisted the GOP (and now the Supreme Court) to aid and abet you in tearing apart the country (family). Yes, some of them are passively standing by and watching rather than throwing proverbial punches themselves, but they are all complicit. They are like the neighbors who hear the kids scream in pain and do nothing or the friend’s parent who sees bruises that look like finger marks and says nothing. There’s a special place in hell for all those people.

And here’s the other kicker: just like how people in dysfunctional families generally figure out how to soldier on and go to work and school, buy groceries, tune up the car, go to soccer practice even though they are being hammered physically and/or psychologically at home, most all of us are doing all these basic life things day in and day out while you and your minions trash democracy. And the planet. And put countless lives at risk. And stress us out with your insane unpredictability and nastiness.

I was talking with someone the other day and she said we are all in crisis with what is going on politically. We talked about how most all of us seem to be stressed, anxious, angry, and flat-out scared and yet we are (mostly) going about our days as though things are normal. We aren’t in the streets like people in Hong Kong even though there’ve arguably been as many assaults on democracy here as there in the last two years.

Maybe we’re geographically too big and spread out to get enough protest energy going. Maybe we’re still too comfortable and can’t really see what we’ve already lost or can’t imagine what’s in peril if things continue on the path you’ve set. I’m not sure what it is that’s keeping us so complacent, but I sure as hell hope we snap out of it soon and that it doesn’t take something truly horrific to get us off our asses.

I just remembered a woman I met in college who was legendary for having brought charges against her father for raping her repeatedly as a child. In doing so she totally blew up the abusive family paradigm. I have no idea how she had the wherewithal to do this as a child but fortunately she did, and fortunately he went to prison. I’m not sure how this could translate to our current situation vis a vie you and the abuse you are heaping on the country, but wouldn’t it be incredible if you suddenly had to contend with 50 million charges against you for undue psychological and/or physical injury?

May we be safe in our families and in our country.
May we not be willing to put up with abuse from anyone, including from our POTUS.
May we stop putting up with crazy-making dynamics that jeopardize our health.
May we not make peace with the bully psychopath in the Oval Office.

Tracy Simpson

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