Understanding The Family Dynamic

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 month ago

Dr John Demartini offers a new perspective on resolving conflict through understanding family dynamics and cultivating fulfilling family relationships.


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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 month ago

Many people look back on their childhoods with judgments and wishing their childhood circumstances were somehow different. Sometimes they perceive that they had an absent parent or they perceive their siblings’ behaviors were challenging.

Sometimes they say things like, “My father was never there for me”, “my mother was emotionally unavailable” or “my brother tormented me and never gave me a moment’s peace.”

Sometimes they grapple with feelings of loss or a sense of missing out, particularly when they measure their family dynamics against an idealized notion or fantasy of what they think a "good" family should resemble.

I often speak about how depression is a comparison of your current reality to a fantasy of how you perceive it should be or should have been, would have been, or could have been. So, I have a different view of family dynamics to offer in this blog post that I hope will be mind-expanding for you.

When I was 14 and living independently on the streets, I realized that nothing was missing from my life. During this time away from my parents, I began to observe people around me fillingmaternal or paternal roles in my life, as well as other people stepping into girlfriend-type or sibling-type roles.

In other words, my experiences taught me that everything you seek is present in some form of your life, albeit perhaps not in the form you expected or fantasized about.

This period of my life was a profound learning experience. It demonstrated that life has a way of morphing elements that I perceived to be missing, into new forms that I initially may not have recognized or been conscious of.

This leads me to the first principle I’d like to share regarding family dynamics: if you make a list of everything you’re looking for in your family relationships and then identify who fulfills these roles, you’ll likely become conscious that both your biological family and people outside your family contribute to fulfilling your needs.

For example, if you perceive that a close relationship with your father is lacking, you may become conscious of a male teacher, coach, or a friend's father assuming a fatherly role. In my own life when I was a child, a third-grade teacher became a daytime maternal figure during my mother's work hours.

In other words, those roles you perceive to be missing may actually be there but in another form.

As such, it is wise to make a list of everything you’re looking for in a family relationship and then take the time to identify who provides it until you perceive it to be present in your life to the same degree you initially perceived it to be missing.

The realization that nothing is missing can transform your life.

For instance, someone who felt abandoned by their mother, when they look to find the new form, they might find that an aunt, a friend's mother, or a teacher provided the needed support and opportunities, enriching their life in unexpected ways.

Acknowledging the benefits that these alternative figures bring, and freeing yourself from limiting perceptions of what a family should be, helps you become a master of your life as you discover the transformation of form.


By examining the roles that different individuals play in your life and appreciating the benefits they offer, you can gain a deeper understanding of the family surrogate systems around you, challenging the notion of absence and transforming your perspective on family dynamics.

Initially, there might be a sense of loss or feeling of being short-changed due to a strong attachment to specific expectations of how these roles “should” be filled. However, adopting the position of being a victim of your history instead of a master of your destiny is far from empowering.

The key lies in recognizing the form these roles take in reality.

Through extensive experience with thousands of individuals in my signature 2-day Breakthrough Experience program, I’ve seen firsthand how powerful this shift from a narrative of victimhood to one of empowerment can be.

The story of Sir Isaac Newton is another wonderful example. With his father passing away at his birth and his mother unable to provide for him, Newton was apparently left in the care of an apothecary. During this period of separation from his parents, he developed a profound connection with nature and a quest to understand the divine, pursuits that eventually led to the creation of the Principia, the greatest scientific treatise on gravity.

I love how this powerful story demonstrates that even in the absence of traditional parental figures, significant personal growth and discovery can occur.

To sum up so far: The first principle of family dynamics is that nothing is truly missing.

As such, it is wise to:

  • Identify and value the forms that these supposedly missing elements are now taking in your life today; and
  • Move beyond the fixation on an idealized version of family roles and appreciate the diversity and complexity of relationships as they exist in your life.

The second interesting aspect of family dynamics is the presence of pairs of opposites.

If you visit my website and complete the free, Value Determination Process on each family member, you can identify complementary opposites within your family unit.

It’s common to find siblings who act as antiparticles to each other, displaying opposite behaviors. For instance, while one might be intensely focused, driven, and goal-oriented, the other might prefer a more laid-back, go-with-the-flow approach.

One sibling might prioritize building wealth, saving money, living frugally, and deferring gratification in the financial area of life, whereas the other leans towards immediate gratification in spending, indulging in shopping sprees, and accumulating depreciating consumables.

Differences can extend to social tendencies as well; one might be outgoing and extroverted socially, engaging in social activities, while the other could be introverted socially, preferring solitude with video games or books. This contrast can be seen in various aspects, from academic pursuits to social inclinations, forming a dynamic of opposites within the family.

This phenomenon often reflects the psychological concept that individuals tend to connect with or marry partners who embody the traits they have repressed or disowned in themselves. They might even give birth to children who represent these disowned parts, perpetuating a family dynamic characterized by pairs of opposites.


When you believe that your value system is the correct one and impose it on your family members, it often results in conflict.

This is because they, too, are likely to believe in the validity of their own set of values and will respond in kind, resulting in clashes. It’s for this reason that, in every family, there exists a delicate balance between harmony and discord.

Throughout my years facilitating my signature seminar program the Breakthrough Experience, I have consistently asked participants whether they have experienced periods of tranquility as well as turmoil, peace as well as conflict, unity as well as disputes. Without exception, all hands go up. In other words, it is a fantasy to expect to have peace in your family home all the time, not to mention that people are unlikely to grow where there is peace without conflict.

Continuous peace and support mostly lead to juvenile dependency, while unrelenting challenges and conflict can result in precocious independence. However, when both dynamics coexist, as they often do within families, they promote optimal growth. As I often say, maximum growth occurs at the border of the pairs of opposites, support and challenge.

It’s for this reason that, within your family, you'll likely encounter both kindness and cruelty, positivity and negativity, construction and destruction, support and challenge, and a mix of extroverted and introverted personalities. This dynamic also helps to ensure that if you're committed to a certain trait, its opposite will likely be represented within your family dynamic.

In other words, nothing is missing in your family.

Aiming for a reality that only embraces one side and not both is a recipe for feeling incomplete and discontented. This can also lead to attempts at changing others to fit your ideal, overlooking the fact that everyone operates according to their own set of values.

Instead, one of the keys to harmonious living is recognizing and respecting the differing values within your family by finding ways to communicate YOUR highest values in a manner that aligns with THEIR highest values. This approach facilitates a sustainable, fair exchange.

Every challenge within the family dynamic serves as a lesson in achieving this balance, encouraging you to explore how the dedication of family members to their own paths supports your own pursuits, and vice versa. By adopting this mindset, you’ll likely discover that there is no need to “fix” anyone; instead, you can learn the art of communicating in a way where they perceive they’re winning and you perceive you’re winning equally.

That is what life is about, and your family dynamics can help teach you that.

The ultimate lesson of family life is not about seeking happiness, but rather about becoming authentic, embracing both sides of life, learning to be conscious of the fullness and abundance, and recognizing that nothing is missing.

After all, how can you expect to lead a fulfilling life if you perceive things as lacking, empty, or based on false expectations? Expecting either yourself or others to conform strictly to one set of values is futile.

Think of it this way: family dynamics encompass a spectrum of value systems.

Consider a scenario where every individual in the world prioritized family values and child-rearing - without any interest in work, urban development, engineering, or finance. Such a scenario would be unsustainable. Why? Because society thrives on a multitude of values and pursuits, as each individual holds a unique hierarchy of values, influencing their perceptions, decisions, and actions. This diversity is intrinsic to the functioning of the world.

This is mirrored in your family – it is a basic unit of society that teaches you how to grow. It’s for this reason that your family is likely to have a complementation of opposites.


In the Breakthrough Experience, I teach people like you to transform your resentments towards others - resentments often rooted in the belief that you are superior and they need fixing. I delve into recognizing how you exhibit the same behaviors you criticize in others although they are expressed through your own unique set of values and uncovering the benefits of these actions.

This process reveals that there's nothing to fix but much to appreciate.

Any inability to appreciate aspects within the family stems from your own misconceptions, rather than their actions. In other words, you often judge certain behaviors as negative without realizing that they serve to balance the family dynamic. What one individual suppresses, another expresses, balancing the family dynamic and maintaining equilibrium.

This approach to family dynamics emphasizes the importance of embracing the full spectrum of life experiences, encouraging a shift away from unrealistic, one-sided expectations towards a deeper appreciation for the complexity and richness of more balanced human relationships.

Family dynamics function as a profound lesson in embracing the dualities inherent in life.

Like magnets, there are countless pairs of opposites at play within the family. By learning to appreciate both sides and understanding how each contributes to your growth and well-being, you are more likely to cultivate resilience and adaptability.

However, when you judge situations through the lens of moral hypocrisies, expecting others to adhere to standards you yourself don't follow, you’ll perceive chaos instead of order, judgment instead of gratitude for what is. This chaos serves as feedback, reminding you of your unrealistic expectations and guiding you to reassess your approach.

In the Breakthrough Experience, I often work with individuals who come with resentments, often times linked to family or relationships. I guide them through the process of dissolving these polarized perceptions, neutralizing their expectations, understanding others' highest values, recognizing the pairs of opposites, and restoring balance to discover the hidden order in the apparent chaos.

If you’re inspired to move beyond perceiving yourself as a victim of your past, start setting realistic expectations, and embrace the unique dynamics of your family, then the Breakthrough Experience is designed to help you see the balancing perfection of your life as it is, offering relief from needless frustration and helping you to awaken a deep appreciation for your life past and present. This shift allows you to focus on pursuing truly inspired goals, rather than living with a desire to rectify what cannot be changed.

Join me at the Breakthrough Experience to awaken your perspective. We'll explore how to see both sides of every situation, appreciate the principles that underpin family dynamics, and then proceed to live a life filled with love and inspiration for what you do and who you're with.

To Sum Up

  • Recognize What's Truly There: Understand that the family roles or support and challenge systems you seek are present, just not necessary in the expected form. Acknowledging this can shift your perspective from perceiving absence to recognizing the presence and diversity in your immediate or extended network.
  • Embrace the Spectrum of Family Dynamics: Your family is a microcosm of society, embodying a range of value systems and behaviors. Recognizing and appreciating this diversity can enrich your relationships and lead you to greater fulfillment.
  • Learn from the Pairs of Opposites: Observing and understanding the complementary opposites within your family dynamic - such as introversion vs. extroversion or thriftiness vs. spendthrift behavior - can uncover the balance and fullness in your life.
  • Balance Expectations with Reality: Holding unrealistic, one-sided expectations about family roles can lead to dissatisfaction. It is wise to see the benefits of the complexity and richness of your actual family dynamics over an idealized one-sided version of how you wish it would be.
  • Communicate and Appreciate Differences: Discovering how to communicate your highest values in a way that resonates with your family members’ highest values fosters mutual understanding and a sustainable, fair exchange.
  • Personal Growth through Family Dynamics: Challenges and opposites within the family serve as opportunities for personal development, teaching you to navigate life's dualities and cultivate resilience and adaptability.
  • Shift from Victimhood to Empowerment: Moving beyond a narrative of victimhood and embracing the roles and dynamics as they are can transform your approach to appreciating your family and life itself.

Join The Breakthrough Experience to expand your understanding of family dynamics, learn how to embrace both sides, and live a life of deeper meaning, love and appreciation.


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