Feb 22

3/4 Flexible versus Rigid FOO and Conflict Solutions

 So far in this series on Personality Issues when facing conflicts, we have been looking at the Family or Origin Differences. 

We have discussed how important your Family background is when learning to resolve conflicts.  As we have seen every area of your relationship with our partner is influenced by the family we first knew. 

We have also included a personal worksheet as an example for your own FOO model.

Then we went on to show different family models, starting with the enmeshed versus the disconnected styles.  In this fourth post in our series, we will examine the Flexible versus the Rigid family of origin styles and the influence this family system has on couples.  (Remember to complete your personal worksheet to see where your FOO is on the scale!)


A.  Flexible Family of Origin Influence on Conflicts

1.  What do we mean with ‘Flexible FOO’?

When we discuss the word ‘Flexible’ we are referring to a family’s ability to make and adjust to changes under stress and crisis.  This includes changes in who is in charge and who makes decisions, who give leadership and discipline when a family or individuals within a family find themselves in unstable events.

If we grow up in a family where roles and rules are too set and rigid, families and individuals, may feel restriction and loss of independent thought.  If the opposite is true, when little emphasis is placed on who leads and who brings discipline, the family may feel disconnected again and lost impulsive actions and decisions.

2.  Levels of Enmeshment

As we saw with the Enmeshment versus Disconnected family, we can also see a continuum line where you could find most families:

Inflexible —- > somewhat Flexible —- > Flexible —- > very Flexible —- > Overly Flexible

 B.  The Influence of Inflexible FOO

1.  Difficulties Handling Crisis and Change

Children growing up in ‘Inflexible’ Families often have difficulty handling change and crisis.  With this family style, one person has the leadership role, either Mum or Dad or a mixture of both.  These roles seldom change.  Discipline is strict for breaking roles.  Relationships within the family are usually inflexible and unbending.  There is little discussion on issues within the family.

2.  Inability to Express Emotions

Expressing your true feelings is an inflexible family model is hard or even impossible.  Children and teens are often pressured into going alone with the leader’s decisions wither they agree or not.  Other ways of control were used beside physical and verbal abuse.  Withdrawal of love and privileges can result in more buried feelings.

The need to please to win approval can be strong, or sometimes, the child may grow into defiance as a way of gaining freedom.

3.  Being Overly Responsible

Being overly pliable and overly responsible are important values for the inflexible family style.  Joint decisions seldom happens, therefore problem solving is often stifled, even into adulthood.

Being treated as an equal or having enough worth to be listened to can result in low self-esteem and self-worth.  Even having differences of opinion can be seen as personal attacks on ‘the leader’ in the family.

As you could imagine, conflict is seldom brought into the open as any disagreement is seem as a betrayal of the person in charge.  If conflict is allowed, it is usually behind closed doors or away from the children.  As a result, children often learn the same conflict resolution patterns, usually with domination, avoidance, compliance top of the list.  Expectation would be that everyone else follows the same inflexible rules when forming a new relationship.

C.  Most Families fit somewhere along the Enmeshment Boundaries

1.  Most families would be grouped between the very flexible, flexible or somewhat flexible continuum line. 

This means that in times of crisis, roles can change and be based on what’s the common good of the family.  Boundaries are set but without inflexible responses or harsh discipline to keep things on normal paths.  Expectations are adjusted to the situation and the behaviour of the child within reasonable lines.  Togetherness is not a top priority but often is seen as a valued goal for the family.

2.  The opposite is true for families that are overly flexible.  

No one seems in charge, neither are the roles clear on who does what.  Decision making is avoided or impulsive.  Discipline is usually erratic and haphazard depending on the mood of the adults in charge.  Rules may change with the situation, leaving the child insecure and fearful in the void of consistency.  Household responsibility may be shifted from one person to another, often based on guilt, withdrawal of love and pressure to get compliance.

3.  Everyone seems to have ideas and acts on them independently of others.

Important decisions are made with little consultation.  Little is pre-planned or organised for the whole family.  Conflict, on this end of the scale, is also unresolved as everyone has their own opinion and little time is give for joint discussions.

Uncertainty over major roles happens, such as who pays the bills, who buys food for everyone or who set the guidelines for disciplining the children.  Overly flexible families flow into and with the crisis, acting in their own way to endure or get through the drama.  Disorganisation usually marks the crisis as things don’t seem to get done or discussed.

4.  Since there are few set rules, it is hard to know what the others are facing in their life. 

If the family does come together, it can be for superficial gatherings, more for appearance than from any long-term depth.  No one seems to ask others in the family for help and compromise is the usual method of activity.

D.  Knowing your Family Type can help you understand others in a Conflict Situation

We all come from very different FOO styles.  Sometimes when faced with conflict, you will need to negotiate for your own space and boundaries within relationships.  Remember open communication is an essential for working through these issues.  Often one person or the other will need to learn new skills, such as problem solving or expressing their true feelings.  We will cover more of this in our post on Communication and finding Conflict Solutions.

This has been the fourth in the series on the influence of our Family of Origin and Personality Issues when facing conflicts.  Please go onto the Personal Worksheet to see where your own FOO is placed on the Inflexible-Flexible scale.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>