coloured line
Mind Your Head
Mind Your Head

Learn More

If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression or have suicidal thoughts, you can learn more by clicking on the links below.

Getting Help

Mind Your Head is your link to help and a happier life. A qualified counsellor can talk to you about issues you may be experiencing and help you implement strategies to be happy and healthy again.

You can find a qualified Counsellor in your vicinity here: Counsellor Search

If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of grief, pain, loss, anxiety or having thoughts of ending your life, please call the Lifeline Crisis Line immediately.

Lifeline Crisis Support

13 11 14

Lady Sitting

a dysfunctional family unit

Counselling professionals have identified at least four different kinds of dysfunctional family systems:

  1. The alcoholic and chemically dependent family
  2. The emotionally or psychologically disturbed family
  3. The physically or sexually abusive family
  4. The fundamentalist or rigidly dogmatic family (Matthews, 1995)

It matters little whether your family of origin failed to meet your needs and those of its other members because of problems with abuse, alcohol or drugs, or dogmatic attitudes. If you grew up or are still living in an environment where it’s not ok to talk about or express things openly, where issues or relational matters are not expressed directly, or where there are many injunctions prohibiting you from normal expression (such as: “don’t be selfish”, “don’t be playful”, “don’t rock the boat”, or “don’t talk about sex”), then you are living the effects of long-term exposure to an unhealthy system. Such systems discourage the honest communication without which relationships are ineffective, or even harmful.

Participating in such a system may have induced chronic shame, guilt, or mistrust in you. You may have learned that being “perfect” is more important that being “real” and your deeper self may have gone into hiding, because it couldn’t risk showing itself. You may have learned that it wasn’t ok to take care of yourself – that that would be “selfish” (seen as bad) – and you may need to now unlearn that. You may have learned that, rather than your behaviour being unacceptable, it was yourself that was unacceptable: permanently.

As a result of these dynamics, you may in your adult life experience such challenges as:

  • Mental health issues (including anxiety, depression, and/or thoughts of suicide)
  • Becoming addicted to a substance, or exhibiting compulsive behaviour (e.g., gambling, spending)
  • Difficulty being playful and childlike, or conversely, taking sufficient responsibility as an adult
  • Struggling academically or in your career
  • Fearing failure
  • Needing constant approval from others; being a “people pleaser”
  • Finding yourself lonely, even in a crowd, or spending major amounts of time alone
  • Needing to control or be controlled, or possibly, be in rebellion against authorities
  • Having issues with anorexia or bulimia
  • Leading a highly structured life
  • Having a love/hate relationship with some family members
  • Having low self-esteem or a poor self-image
  • Tending to choose abusive partners
  • Being in denial about how bad things were in your family (Matthews, 1995; Wikipedia, 2013)

Counselling would probably be very helpful for you. While you will undoubtedly work on some of the problems resulting from the family dysfunction, it is also important to develop with your counsellor a sense of what a functional family is like. The cohesiveness, nurturance, pervasive sense of love and peace, and capacity for support and intimacy which occur in well-working families can be available to you, too. You have a right to be loved, respected, communicated with honestly, and to grow in an affirming, non-judging environment. You have a right to live with others who are open, fair, and willing to compromise and negotiate with you so that all parties’ needs are met.

Mind Your Head
Australian Counselling Association

ACA - Australian Counselling Association

Mind Your Head is an initiative of the Australian Counselling Association, a national professional association for qualified Counsellors.