State, national lifestyle columnists

Lightening up the ‘dysfunctional’

By From page A2 | July 16, 2014

We hear the word “dysfunctional” used a lot these days to describe individuals, families, or even organizations. But this kind of labeling may not always be helpful. I’d like to suggest that we put some “fun” back into dysfunctional. Accepting that there will always be flaws in the fabric of our lives makes it easier to deal with them.

Once issues are identified, most people spend time and energy working to repair them, but none of us can do it all by ourselves – or all at once – so it’s important to give ourselves a break. Take a step back and see what needs to be corrected, but don’t beat up yourself or anyone else because of what’s going on.

We need to learn to put in positive energy, where necessary, and to smile at some of the ways we deal with our daily lives. If you can learn to move through those awkward moments in life, perhaps with some laughter or even a light sense of humor, things will become much easier, and you will no longer feel like there is something odd going on with you. For example, if you continue to forget things at the market, accept that you don’t have a perfect memory, chuckle at the fact that you think you do, and start making lists before you go to the store.

We’re all human, and we all have our quirks and issues. The trick is not to take our own or other people’s too seriously. Other people – including those with whom you live and work – may not always behave the way you’d like them to. You’ll be much more comfortable if you can maintain a little perspective.

Understanding how to deal with dysfunction will make difficult times less difficult and give you more energy to heal what is vexing you at the moment. Giving yourself and those around you the room to be human and to mess up from time to time makes dealing with issues that arise much less toxic.

If the dysfunctions in your home or at work become a way of life, it may be time to get some counseling or to consider moving on. Yes, it helps to learn to accept and even laugh at some of the difficulties that come your way, but no one can do that all the time. There may come a breaking point, but if that happens, I would suggest speaking to a professional before you pack your bags or briefcase.

Most dysfunction is temporary. Dealing with one thing at a time, as well as learning to get in front of your difficulties, helps. For example, if you know that your partner is crabby at the end of the day, allow him or her some time after coming home to unwind. Simple acts like that can make a big difference in relationships and maybe even put an end to the pattern.

So keep your sense of humor as you navigate this crazy world, and understand that the dysfunctions in your own life are no better or worse than the rest of humanity’s. As you develop more appropriate skills to deal with difficulties, it will become a little easier to cope with whatever arises.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at[email protected].

Barton Goldsmith


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