Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yes, I Opened A Can Of Worms

Based on the responses I've gotten, I think it's safe to say that Sunday was helpful to a lot of people. If you missed it, you can catch the whole service here or by going to

But I also know that this kind of teaching can open a huge can of worms. The conversation where someone puts a relationship on the table is usually not quick and easy - especially if it's a family relationship.

I spent years studying Family Systems Theory, including an entire year of intensive study. I've seen many people struggle through the dynamics of unhealthy family relationships. But I've also seen many break free of unhealthy patterns and live into healthy ones. The journey is difficult, but the reward is worth it.

So I thought I would give you a little more information here that might help.

The first concept you need to know about is balance. Every family system - regardless of how unhealthy or dysfunctional - survives because it operates on a certain kind of stability. The technical term is 'homeostasis', but essentially it means that the system is balanced, even in its dysfunction. Why does this matter? Well, when you - as a teenager, husband, wife, parent, brother, sister or whoever 'upsets' the balance by behaving outside of the normal operating procedures, it will throw the system into chaos.

To put this into our context, when you say, "We're going to talk about why talking doesn't work. We're going to put our relationship on the table, becuase I'm not going to keep living this way." That is almost surely going to stimulate a reaction. Often, it will result in remorse. The person will see your point of view and offer corrective measures.

But a frequent response is what we call 'sabotage'. That means that the 'system' will throw anything and everything possible to get you to go back to the way you used to do things so that the system can get back to the way it used to operate. (back to balance - back to homeostasis) The person may threaten you, threaten to hurt themselves, make you all kinds of promises, guilt-trip you, threaten to leave, belittle you, use knowledge of your weaknesses, knowledge of your past, and anything else possible.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART: IF YOU WANT THE RELATIONSHIP TO CHANGE, YOU MUST NOT GIVE IN TO SABOTAGE! If you do, you will go back to exactly where you were before. That's the way it works. But if you will resist, the system (relationship) WILL change. It has to. That's also the way it works. Now, it may not change the way you want it to. But it WILL change, and it will not be the way it was - the unhealthy pattern it used to be.

You cannot control the other person, but you can effect change in the system by changing the way YOU relate to it and behave in it. You may need a counselor or a wise friend to guide you through it, but you can live in a healthier way if you choose to do it.

There is a LOT more to say about this. I encourage you to take a look at Henry Cloud's book Necessary Endings and another of his books, Boundaries.

1 comment:

Sandy Webb said...

I truly loved this service, it was one that I could relate to. It's not always easy opening up or discussing unhealthy family relationships. The statement you made in your post: "You cannot control the other person, but you can effect change in the system by changing the way YOU relate to it and behave in it" is so true. It took me some time to realize this is what I had to do in order to move foward, but once I did I felt an enormous amount of stress lifted from me. My relationships with others also became healthier because of this new outlook. Also, thank you for the recommended readings, I look foward to picking up a copy of Boundaries.