When a family is not not functioning at its best there is often an increased amount of anxiety in the household. This anxiety is a chronic, psychological anxiety that is deep rooted and almost intangible.
If we grow up in a household that is filled with this type of anxiety, we are forced to learn how to cope with it. What family therapists have discovered in studying family after family with high degrees of anxiety, is that there is a tendency to take on a role - that is a pattern behavior. These are an adaptive and unconscious way we've developed to handle chronic, subtle anxiety. Roles help us defend against stress and to feel safe. Feeling safe translates into a sense of CONTROL over the anxiety ridden environment.
These roles often manifest when anxiety is high and someone turns to substances, it can be when the addicted person is the child, or the parent. No matter who is living with addiction, family members often try to respond to the additional anxiety by unconsciously taking on one of these roles. The roles however are maladaptive, and appear when we are lacking in the ability to communicate our emotional states, needs and hopes in relationships. Roles limit our functioning and don't allow a full expression of self, or to live to one's highest levels of differentiation.
If you, or someone in your family is living with addiction, and these roles are slightly familiar to you, then perhaps it's time to consider family therapy. We often tend to look at the addict to get help, but really it starts with the family. Understanding the importance of the roles and how anxiety impacts the dynamics within the entire family system is often more important than just getting help for the addict.
Oliver Drakeford provides family therapy and family counseling in Los Angeles. His private practice therapy office is near West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. He offers therapy for individuals, teens, families and has group therapy offerings. www.OliverDrakeford.com