Mary Engelbreit had those wonderful mugs and calendars in the ‘90s. Remember those?  The ones with the lady in the hat and the round glasses? She could have been your aunt or your grammie or your best friend. One of my clients way back then gave me a Mary Engelbreit mug that I have to this day. It says, “Let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional.”

My client said it reminded her of me.

Irreverent? Yes.  Inappropriate? Maybe. Compliment? Absolutely!

What does that mean? To put the fun back in dysfunctional? I mean, true dysfunction isn’t fun, is it?

Of course not. We hear terrible things in our thoughtfully appointed spaces. Stories of abuse, of fear, of shame, of intolerable memories. But “dysfunction” is a modern concept that applies meaning to someone else’s reality. All families function, don’t they? Maybe they don’t function well, in our view. Maybe they’re wildly chaotic – a veritable goat rodeo, as we say down here in Texas. Or maybe they’re so rigid you could rest a glass of water on the family hearth and it would freeze right up into cubes.

Either way, dysfunctionality of the system is an inevitability. So let’s treat it like that. It’s a reality, not a disease. Anyone here come from a fabulously functional family? Please raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone??  Hmmm. Looking around, I see that we’re all looking around … .

Our family truths are the great levelers in the world. And one way to make sense of it all – to make those unpleasant truths bearable, indeed tolerable – is to make them laughable.

A sense of wit, of fun, of irreverence, a sense that we’re all in the same sinking boat – these things normalize the human experience. They remind our clients that we’re one of them. That life is messy.  Milk spills.  Eggs break. Parents fail. Siblings rival. Marriages end. Kids disappoint. And everyone dies. These are things that are true in the universe.

So since we’re all a product of the dysfunction and in a sense, doomed to it, let’s admit it. Let’s find some wit in this universal truth.  Let’s laugh a little.  Take the sting out of it all.

Before you know it, your clients will feel normal.  Human.  And dare I say it??  Functional.

Upping your game – a Lifeolgie institute franchising Core Values series –

Core value: comfortable client care

by Melanie Wells, LPC, LMFT