The Family Boss

Years ago, my colleagues and I, while working for the same agency, attended a day-long professional retreat. The purpose was to identify problems in our practice and to build cohesiveness.

At one point we were asked to reply in writing to the question, “Who is the most powerful person in this agency?” Then, one by one, we revealed our answers. Each person whose name was mentioned was shocked to hear it. Me? You’ve got to be kidding!!

This was a very revealing moment. Now, think about your family.

How would you and the others in your family – or just your two-person relationship – reply to that question? And how would the conversation proceed from there?

I currently meet with a very nice married couple – call them Jack and Jill – with three children; two are teens, and the third is ten years old. One of those kids, “Betty”, has an enormous amount of power, because she has struggled with an emotional disorder which often shows up as oppositional and defiant behavior. Her attitude can shift from neutral to dramatic several times in one day. Betty has also self-harmed. Her parents and the other kids feel they are always walking on eggs. So, the mood in the family depends almost entirely on how she is feeling on any given day and at any hour.

Jack and Jill do not know how how to handle Betty’s erratic behavior. They have seen to it that she has received a lot of psychotherapy, and she is doing much better. But apart from that, they do not understand how to respond when Betty acts out, making irrational accusations and acting disrespectful in general. They tend to try relating to Betty as if she were a normal child. That is a mistake.

As we work together, Jack and Jill know that help is available. In order to benefit from that help, they will need to change their thinking about Betty. They will understand the source of Betty’s bad attitude and behavior, and will learn strategies to discourage her from resorting to anxiety-based attempts to dominate the family.

Are you puzzled about how to deal with someone who lords his/her power over others? If so, it might be advisable to work with a professional.  If you are ready to get started, be assured that this is an area of expertise in my practice, and I would be happy to share my experience with you. The phone number is (219) 309-3928.

For more thoughts, click here Conflict # 34 – Manipulation

Thanks for reading!