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Doodling about disfunction

As ertla pointed out, There is no such thing as an ability to divide the population neatly into "healthy" and "unhealty", "mature" and "immature", "moral" and "immoral". ... or "functional" vs "dysfunctional". Especially in terms of total personal traits, it isn't black and white, it isn't binary.
Take, for example, one of my very own "dysfunctions" - paranoia. In certain circumstances, paranoia IS a survival trait. Of course, you could argue that in such circumstances that it isn't a disorder at all, since part of the definition of paranoia is "an irrational fear of...". But where as the same personality quirk is beneficial in some circumstances, it can be very disruptive in others. The person hasn't changed, the circumstances have.

So people who have "dysfunctional" traits in certain situations probably developed them as a survival trait in another situation, and maybe just haven't learned to adapt to the new situation, or maybe even can't.

Also, this idea of tagging people as "functional" or "dysfunctional" is kind of oversimplified. For one, it sums their entire personality matrix up with one crude label. For another, it does not take into account the circumstance they are being evaluated in. Being unable to swim is not dysfunctional on dry land, but can be life threatening in deep water.

To work effectively with a group, either as a member or a leader, your personality traits need to mesh effectively in a non-abusive way with the other members. If you can't, or they can't, there is a dysfunction in that situation/environment.

You may be "crazy as a bedbug", unable to work due to PTSD, but if your interactions with the members of the group do not harm them, yourself, or the purpose of the group, are you dysfunctional with respect to that group? No.

You may be a highly successful manager, responsible for thousands of dollars in revenue, but if your interactions with members of the group stir up resentment and anger due to an imperious "style", are you dysfunctional with respect to that group? Yes.

So is it binary? Nope. It's situational.

What some of the biggest problem that I see in the pagan/heathen community is that people seem to take the situational evaluation of people, and twist it around to say "it's all okay, that's who they are, you've got no right to judge." Ummmm, no. You see, the sticking point is "Does it abuse/take advantage of others? Is it just plain rude?"

When you are talking about groups, and community, you are talking social conventions, and politeness. Just because they're pagan doesn't give you a right to abuse the hospitality, good nature, trust, property, and emotions of your fellow pagans.

If you can't keep from sticking your hand, univited, in some girl's dress, being pagan doesn't absolve you from getting slapped, thrown out, and/or arrested. You might be fine working with an all male group.

If you can't go into a fellow pagan's house without commenting on the contents of their kitchen cabinets and telling them that they "can't be a real pagan" if they have a certain brand of soup in their cupboard, being a big name pagan doesn't absolve you from getting tossed out, never invited back, and used as an object lesson on how to identify assholes. You might be fine only working and associating with a group of like minded activists.

There are, of course, they grey areas that are even more subtle. You can have a personality trait that is not normally considered adverse, but it doesn't mesh with others in the group you are trying to work with. That's when maturity and wisdom come in to play. Mature people usually realize that there's a problem, examine it and its reasons, and will often leave the group or take other steps to mitigate the conflict. Immature people just demand that everyone else change to suit them.

Well, that's all for now. I know this'll get picked apart.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 4th, 2005 01:11 am (UTC)
The definition of dysfunction is quite situational. Defense mechanisms that work perfectly against abuse are horridly inconvenient when employed in non-abusive situations. Dysfunction, in my experience, tends to mean "can't deal with the status quo of the space." If it's the majority of the space required to make a living or the like, then it's a condition for which people are encouraged to seek treatment or methods to avoid the stimulus that brings up the dysfunction (which in some cases, like addiction, are often the same thing).
Aug. 4th, 2005 11:52 am (UTC)
Why should it get picked apart? It happens to be right on. I think that the problem comes when a person is dysfunctional in so many common situations that they cannot function effectively anywhere but in an institutional very structured setting. Then their situational defense mechanisms and dysfunctions have become the overriding or glaring manifestation of their very being. They don't fit in any normal or nearly normal situation.

I am thinking here of the wife and mother who can no longer work at her normal waitressing job because she yells at customers, is rude and grouchy to everyone and cries with great wailing screams when her poor behavior is brought to her attention. At home she either yells and screams at her family or sits wailing because she saw Jesus and he told her she was being bad and crucifiction hurts. Such a person is no longer able to cope with the reality that is her daily life and ends up eithe institutionalized or on meds which she frequently "forgets" to take because she doesn't like that they make her sleepy and she thinks they make her feel disjointed. In such a situation I think that the person has moved from a situational dysfunction to a fully dysfunctional personality disorder that, without effective treatment, prevents her from being able to live in normal society.
Aug. 4th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC)
Right on, and thanks for the citation. I definitely agree with lysana, though jemyl also has a point - some people manage to be dysfunctional in large swathes of their lives, which is probably why there's a tendency to try to categorize the population into "dysfunctional" and "functional", rather than looking at specifics.

The only other thing I'd add is that behaviors can be multi-function. What is the woman in jemyl's example getting out of her behavior, and what other ways does she have of getting those things? Is she, for example, better off on psych. disability than working a dead end job, perhaps one with other problems we don't know about? More usefully, what are various more-or-less successful people getting from parts of their behavior that are sometimes labeled "dysfunctional", and what negative ("dysfunctional") side effects commonly result from behavior considered "normal"?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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