Closed Systems and How They Affect Relationships

When we look at family dynamics and what is healthy versus what is unhealthy, one way to do that is through the perspective of whether or not the family works from the position of a closed system or an open one. Today’s post will look at the closed system and how it affects the relationships within it. If you come from a closed family system, here are some of its characteristics:

  • Conformity to the system is required. Both for the spoken and unspoken rules, members of the family are expected to conform. As a result, family members struggle with issues of control and rigidity.
  • The group is regarded as greater than the individuals within it. Very often, in a closed family system, children are raised with their parent’s intentions and not their own and as a result, little emphasis is placed on individuality. Acceptance comes at a cost.
  • There is often enmeshment in a closed system due to co-dependence. It is often quite common to have adult children continuing to live at home in a closed system (*note: there is a trend for young people to return home after college to save money – this is not the same as adult children living at home due to enmeshment.)
  • There tends to be more chaos. With greater need to control, rigid thinking, and oppression to individuality, you are creating a breeding ground for conflict.
  • No information comes in and no information goes out. The closed system wants allegiance and is very protective of its group. This can often create hesitation in someone seeking therapy, as they feel a great sense of disloyalty to the family.

Growing up in a closed system is an oppressive process. Some people will take the path of least resistance and will adhere to the system; others will begin to believe in the system as being the “best way” and will continue its dynamics in their own families; others will decide that what they want is an open system; one that is based on healthier principles and optimal growth. Tomorrow we will look at open family systems, followed the next day by healthy strategies.

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