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Aleksandra Orman is talking to Father Grzegorz Polok PhD, a lecturer at the University of Economics in Katowice, the Head in Academic Teaching Workshops and Chaplain for students.


There is not so much time for Christmas now, the most family time and kind celebration within a year. However, following the research of Father, about a half of adults do not associate their family homes with love, peace and safety. Christmas – from the one side wonderful families’ times because Jesus was born in Bethlehem for us as a human being, and from the other side – some people think about Christmas with anxiety and fear – because family member will become drunk, some of them again will have an argument, somebody will not stand being long with the family because they are workaholics and run away from the house, because somebody is an emigrant…

I am nervous with these Christmas adverts which shows this holiday in a fantastic way but it is totally different in fact. There are families in which Christmas is positive, when people strengthen their bonds or experiences but there are also such families where such feeling and experiences are hard to gain. It was shown perfectly in Marek Koterski’s film “ Wszyscy jesteśmy Chrystusami” (ang. We are all Christs).


How should the real family look like?


First of all it should be a complete family, so husband and wife, father and mother who love each other unconditionally. When children are born, they are given that unconditional love. In the long run they go from symbiotic relation which relies on total dependence to autonomic relationship in which members of a family have clearly defined limitations. In such relationships children get positive messages: “I love you”, “I am sorry”, “Thank you”, “You have the right to make a mistake”, “You have the right to follow your own path” and a child receives more and more autonomy. That situation is optimal. Undoubtedly, in such a family mistakes happen and people have to correct their behaviour but in such a family the true love exists. For people who believe in God, the basis of everything is the unconditional love from God who supports wife and husband in their marriage and their family.


When a family can be defined as dysfunctional?


Dysfunctional families are these families in which one of the most basic functions is not fulfilled. The easiest way it is to indicate abuse of alcohol of one or both parents as the reason for dysfunctional family. The trauma of alcoholic family which children experience in their childhood results in their adulthood. According to statistics, 50% of alcoholics are alcoholics’ adult children, 60% of them are girls who come from the family with alcoholic problems and are married with partners who have some kind of addiction. It is estimated that if one of grandparents abused alcohol, their grandchildren are more prone to become addicted to it as well. That number is three times higher and four times higher if parents are addicted. Of course, it is not automatic but only some kind of regularity which can arise. But that is the regularity a person should not surrender. I know families in which one of the children follow suit of the alcoholic family and the other child was able to overcome that tendency and function almost normally in the society. There are tendencies but there is always a choice, though. Dysfunctions in the family are not only connected with alcohol. Dysfunctions also seem to be in the divorced families – law or emotional ones in which parents live in the same house but they are separated from each other in a way and children unfortunately become the elements of the game. They are sometimes bribed or they replace the partner of one of the parents. It causes that such families lack of love and acceptance. Another cause for the dysfunctional families is economic migration. A few years ago, when the first wave of economic migrations took place and one or both parents left, the quarter of children in Poland were “Orphans of Europe”. Children were brought up by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, friend or even in the streets… Now we have another wave of emigration. This year in July I was in England where I met people who went there for work and now I know how serious that problem is. Another reason for dysfunctions in families is physical and mental violence used towards children such as mental pressure, intimidating or blackmailing. What’s more, to these reasons intolerance of children’s identity and individualism, the excess of expectations towards them can be added…


“I give you everything, I devote everything to you, and what are you doing with that?”


It is very dangerous when parents have excessive expectations towards their children, when caring about their children’s future they forget about their childhood and they fill their free time with additional tasks like learning a few foreign languages at the same time. In order to meet all those needs parents become workaholics, they are constantly absent in their children’s lives. They think that if they give money, they will ensure their family with affluent standard of living and that would be enough. But the most important thing in life is personal relationship, full acceptance, as much as possible. Therefore, the roots are so crucial. We are created as if we were some modelling clay which once formed is shaped forever. “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree” – the old proverb says. The way we function in our adulthood depends on our family home, some behaviours, ways of thinking, messages e.g. “do not trust other people” – we derive from our house and it stays with us. I know a man whose Father said “Remember only your second marriage will be successful” and that son is now married again because that sentence from his father was so influential. The similar situation is with lack of acceptance. A 30 – year - old man told me that his father never praised him when he did something well, but if he did something wrong – he always dressed him down. That results in his low self-esteem. That is general rule – the level of our acceptance, our self-esteem today is directly proportional to the way our parents accept us. Another problem is with parents who are unemotional, they do not show any emotions towards their children. They perform their obligations but they do not give their children emotional support because they have such problems with themselves because of their past. Children of such parents also have problems with showing their feelings and naming them. Another cause of dysfunctional family can be a mental or physical illness of one or both parents.


As we see, the scale of that problem is really great…


We can say that about 60% of adult Poles come from families which are dysfunctional in some way. Of course, the influence of what happened in the family, depends individually on a person, his temperament, support from the rest of family, school, friends, surrounding. However, in general, the lack of love and dysfunction in a family have their impact on further life.


How can we cope with that?


The most important is to become conscious of our own truth – who we are today and why we are such people. On the website there is a test including questions which can help us to name our today’s problems, get to know their roots. You cannot run away from yourself and your problems. They are inside us and only we – when we find out their causes – can solve them. The test, of course, is not an oracle but its outcome can indicate that we have to join an individual or group therapy and maybe we can benefit from the psychological support. In Poland, the assistance in these problems is well-developed – due to hospitals, residential treatment facility, groups “Anonymous Alcoholics”, therapeutic groups of alcoholics’ adult children or adult children from dysfunctional families. You can write your town in the search engine. Of course there are people who believe that they do not need a therapy. Throughout the years, they have developed some kind of the defence mechanism that helps function somehow so maybe it is worth daring yourself, straighten yourself up and even spread your wings.


Such a title „Rozwinąć skrzydła” (english: “Spread your wings”) has the book which Father wrote and this year the eighth edition of that book has been released.


That book is published on the mentioned website and you can download it for free in the form of e-book. I dedicated that book to everybody who did not experience the full joy of childhood and youth. That book was written for them but they are its co-authors as well. In the book I show how great services are performed in the Catholics communities – due to the psychological support, creating therapeutic groups, support groups and religious support (pray, sacraments, sacrament of the sick which is offered not only to these people who are physically ill but also to those whose soul is harmed as well). God loves people unconditionally and that is the basis on which a person can rely in the process of recovery.


Maybe it is worth beginning just now, before Christmas time, instead of pretending that everything is ok…


Yes, if somebody is brave enough, they should do that test and tell themselves: “This is my problem, but only Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is with me and helps me to find qualified people who assist me to shape my life from the beginning. He will support me in order not to deny their assistance and make me willing to benefit from their help.” The beginning of the change is to say: “I justify nobody, neither my parents, siblings nor my past. I just want to live differently.”


Somebody can think: „it is too late for me, I am too old…”


A therapy is not only the problem for teenagers. We have to remember that in each generation, problems of dysfunctional families are more and more deeper, they are cumulating as if it was a snowball. The awareness of that and taking up the therapy can stop that process. Every person, regardless of age, who recovers from the dysfunctional family problems, can positively influence on the rest of family members. The most crucial thing is to break the habit of ”not speaking!” which is a common feature of dysfunctional families. The chances are enormous, the most important thing is not to be afraid of undertaking that hardship because family is the most precious gift. We have to look at the Family from Nazareth. In spite of the fact that they lived in modest conditions, their mutual love based on God gave the positive atmosphere for Jesus. Such a mutual love I wish every family in Poland and in the world.


Thank you for the meeting.

Translated by Monika Piecha