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What would family be without drama? Sometimes that drama can make a family thrive, because a family without drama would just plain be...boring.

But how does one draw the line between dysfunctional and functional drama? Perhaps the criteria could be when a member of the family is harmed by their own intentional participation in the drama, or their unintended participation. One of the things that make for a family with "healthy" drama is the concept of boundaries, as stated in the original article.

For example, do I really need to get my sister involved in my dispute with my wife over how our kids should be raised? What could she possibly contribute to the debate? It's one thing to have a sibling that you can confide in when your own life is not going great (and vice versa) but would I really need her to advocate for me with my wife?

I've noticed that some families crave and create drama because, frankly, that's the way it has always been for them and probably has been for generations. But being able to avoid the whirlpools that suck everybody in to a particular family member's drama is, I think, a keystone to family therapy. The distinction needs to be made between families "sticking together" or just being sucked into a morass because they can't respect other family members' boundaries.

The challenge for family therapists is to come up with a way to teach about boundaries while considering three things: the family's hierarchy, the family's strengths, and the entrenchment of the dysfunctional behavior. It's for the family to discover these things via the therapy, which takes time but is well worth it.


You make an excellent point about healthy dramas. Families are where some of the most important events in our lives are celebrated and mourned; marriages, divorces, births, deaths, sickness, graduations, new jobs, lost jobs, and holidays. Families come together during these times to laugh, to grieve, to unite. And these dramas are what bind our lives together as you astutely point out.

Unhealthy dramas create chaos, erect barriers between people, violate trust and create hard feelings over issues that are manufactured or exaggerated. They drive us apart and leave everyone with hurt feelings not to mention being extremely tiring. When a family is constantly in an uproar with manufactured dramas there are no feelings left for the authentic ones.

Thanks for the comments.

Paradoxically we can learn from this drama and eventually discover that the days of our worst struggle become our most beautiful.

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