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How can you recognise dysfunction?

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

In response to my last post (“What and who could you be if you stopped adapting to dysfunction?”), a reader asked this great question: “How can you really recognise dysfunction?”

Without knowing any details, I’d answer this question with, well, more questions. Let’s refer to this “Is this dysfunctional or is it not?” thing as X:

  • If you keep doing X, what’s the likely outcome? What’s been the outcome so far?

  • How does X align with, or at least take you closer to, the purported goal and values?

  • How likely is it to work without some measure of magical thinking? (Examples of magical thinking may be Next time it won’t be like this or I just need to execute this perfectly.)

  • When you think about continuing doing X, how do you feel?

  • From where or whom did you get the idea that X is a good thing or is just how things “should” be? Whose interests does X serve the most?

  • How does X compare to alternatives you’ve found? (Yes, there are always alternatives! Allow yourself the time and freedom to consider them, look them up, and write them down. If you find a part of yourself jumping to reject certain ideas as unrealistic and whatnot, try writing down those objections in a different space, leaving all the ideas intact.)

I can’t say that if you score a certain way or answer a certain number of questions in the negative then it means that you’re dealing with dysfunction here. But I hope this thought exercise leaves you with more clarity.

Let me know what y’all think. How would you answer this reader’s question?


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