Essay: Family Dynamics Family Therapy

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¶ … Miss Sunshine Analysis

"Even though families are far from perfect, hope lies in the willingness, grace, courage, optimism, and selflessness to learn from adversity, grow together, and be authentic" (Rubin, 2009, p 130). In Little Miss Sunshine, the Hoovers slowly go from a family that was pretending to be ok, to actually being ok. Their outward journey across country parallels their inward journey to accepting their eccentricities and providing the love and support that provides a promising future for the family.

Family Roles

The nature of the family roles changes dramatically as they become more honest with themselves. Essentially, "each one of the clan portrays authenticity, albeit eccentric," thus all playing particularly positive roles for one another during the odd road trip that changes their lives forever (Rubin, 2009, p 129). At the beginning, these roles were fake. Yet, as they become more authentic, the roles change and empower the family to be more supportive of each other. One of the more powerful roles is Olive, who "portrays wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance, and perhaps even spirituality" (Rubin, 2009, p 129). Even at her young age, she is confident and caring. Her love for her brother helps him accept that he will never be a pilot. She serves as the primary reasoning for the family to keep going, despite all of the adversity they face on their journey to Redondo Beach, California. She is one of the roles that allows the family to evolve into a more functional and honest group.

The grandfather also serves as one of the primary roles of the family that keeps it glued together. Although he chides Richard, the father, he is the one who provides unending support for his granddaughter Olive. It is his odd personality that empowers Olive to be as strange as she wants to, without fear of objection or judgment from within or outside of the family. He secretly teachers her a provocative, and clearly inappropriate dance for a child's beauty pageant, but because of his unending support she never thinks anything of it. His death threatens to tear the family apart, since they no longer have the glue to bind them together. Yet, with his death, his son steps up and is allowed to assume the role of the patriarch.

Communication Patterns

It is Sheryl, the mother, who has the most positive communication styles. Essentially, she "epitomizes positive psychology principles, never wavering from her optimism and in-the-moment experience" (Rubin, 2009, p 130). Yet, not all the family members begin with such positive communication. On the other hand, Richard, the father seems to try to push his quack philosophy on his own family, and does not come to the realization of who they all are until the death of his father later in the movie. Dwayne also shows clear issues communicating, as he has taken a voluntary vow of silence, expressing his teenage angst without a voice. It is only with the support of his younger sister, Olive, that he realizes this is only pushing him further away from the people who love him the most, even though they are all extremely weird.

System Boundaries

There are a number of including elements that help establish the family's boundaries. The immediate family and their eccentric nature are the including elements here. Each one of them has something they are suffering from. The grandfather has his drug abuse problem, and Fran, the uncle, had just tried to commit suicide. The father, Richard, is stuck in a failing motivational speaking business. Their original denial of this suffering is what makes them so dysfunctional, but as they all band together to support each other, they become a stronger unit. They accept their insecurities and failures, and it is that acceptance that is the inclusion mechanism that supports the family in the end. As such, excluding elements begin to morph as they travel towards their destination. The fake sense of judgment seen in outsiders excludes them from the love and acceptance found within the family itself. As the family begins to be more honest with itself, the dishonesty and superficiality of the rest of the world becomes the primary mode of excluding others from the group. The family represents a closed boundary system which exclude outside members, yet at the same time provides a clear sense of empowerment for those within its group. As she does her strip tease to Rick James' "Super Freak," "one by one, the family jumps onstage to support and encourage her to finish what she so brave-heartedly started" (Rubin, 2009, p 130).

Power and Control

Dwayne, although he chooses to be mute, displays his own sense of power within the family. According to the research, "adolescent don Dwayne, selectively mute and clearly discouraged, shows determination and motivation by lifting weights and keeping physically fit behind closed doors in hopes of one day becoming an airline pilot" (Rubin, 2009, p 129). He acts as he is supposed to, clearly showing a distance from his family, but yet also defers from the typical adolescent model by never openly protesting against the family. His love for his sister is what allows him to control his own objections and go along, thus further empowering the family with additional support, especially when they reach the beauty pageant and outsiders begin to torment little Olive.

Richard, the family father, is struggling to establish his power in the family. His failed business ventures taunt his manhood and threaten his place as the patriarch of the family. It is only until he can be honest with himself in front of his family that he regains some of the power typically associated with the father role. In many ways at the beginning of the film, Richard "refuses to face the hard facts, but rather puts on a charade that leads to a role-playing drama" (Ylinen, 2010, p 12). He is playing the role of the strong father, who has everything all together, but that is clearly not the case. His dishonesty with himself then trickles down and creates dysfunction within the rest of the family. Yet, when the grandfather dies, Richard is the first to stick to the motto, "no one gets left behind," and comes up with the idea of stealing the body. At this moment, he looses his false sense of self and reassures the family that it is their eccentric nature and love for one another that empowers them. In this, "Richard finally reveals the strength of courage, leadership, love, and perseverance (what he has been peddling for so long) and steals the body from the hospital with the help of the family to assure that Olive makes the deadline for the beauty pageant" (Rubin, 2009, p 130). He finally accepts both his father's strange life and the oddities of his own family that he has been trying to deny for so long. In this, he finally assumes the powerful role of the patriarch and leads his family towards a better existence. As he gains a sense of power in honesty, the family moves from being unhappy and dysfunctional to satisfied with one another (Ylinen 2010). With his realization that there are more than "two kinds of people in the world," Richard empowers himself and his family.

Intervention

Really, I do not believe that an intervention is needed. Yes, they all still have a lot to go before they are fully comfortable with themselves, but they have each other's support and that is more than most families have. A recommendation here would be to continue to support their individual desires and hobbies, especially with Olive because she still is vulnerable to the judgment of others. It would also be beneficial for Richard, the father, to work towards a more rewarding career so that he could… [END OF PREVIEW]

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