Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family


According to the Handbook of Relational Diagnosis and Dysfunctional Family Patterns by Florence W. Kaslow, the near universal characteristics of a dysfunctional family are the following:

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than he or she deserves, while another is marginalized.
  • Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behaviour, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room.”)
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members)
  • Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven enforcement of rules)

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

30/vii mmxiv


The scientific name for an ice cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. This basically just means ‘nerve pain of the sphenopalatine ganglion’.

Tolstoy said Anna Karenina was the first novel he ever published, even though he wrote War and Peace first.

The most expensive coffee is coffee in which the berries go through the digestive tract of the Kopi Luwak, a small cat-sized Indonesian animal.  The “beans” are then harvested from the animal’s waste, cleaned, roasted, and sold.  This coffee costs $100 to $600 per pound.

In Latin, the numeral “one” has 15 plural forms.

Even though North Korea is ruled by a totalitarian leader who is both chairman of the Worker’s Party and leader of the armed forces, Kim Il-sung (1912-1994) is designated in the North Korean constitution as the country’s Eternal President. The author and journalist Christopher Hitchens therefore dubbed the country a necrocracy.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Anna Karenina Principle


In his book Guns Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond uses the Anna Karenina Principle to explain the success of certain societies as opposed to others by explaining how some animals could domesticated and some could not.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina (1948 film)

Anna Karenina (1948 film)

The first line of Tolstoy’s great novel tries to explain why some relationships work and others fail. According to Diamond, this also applies to the process of domesticating animals.

Just like relationships fail for many different reasons, certain societies failed to domesticate the animals in their respective geographic regions for different reasons.

There are many contributing factors which make a family, or a marriage happy; however, if one of those key components fails, the whole thing falls apart or loses its ability to be considered happy – the same is true for the successful domestication of animals.

Diamond tries to explain how some species of mammals were not domesticated because they were not a good fit with man.

“The Anna Karenina principle explains a feature of animal domestication that had heavy consequences for human history, namely that so many seemingly suitable wild mammal species, such as zebras and peccaries have never been domesticated.” – Jared Diamond, Guns Germs and Steel

According to the Anna Karenia principle – which says that if one of the basic factors of a good relationship fails, the marriage or the relationship will not succeed – applying this to the domestication of animals goes like this: if the animals in an environment were not a good fit for domestication than the society could not access this resource in the same way that the successful Eurasians did because they had animals in their geographic region that were easy to domesticate.

For example, just like happy marriages that have certain factors for success, domesticating animals also have to fit into certain categories in order to succeed in becoming domestic and therefore assisting man in his survival.

1. Diet; It matters what they eat and how much, if the animal eats too much than it isn’t worth the effort to domesticate.

2. Growth Rate; To be worth keeping or domesticating, animals must grow quickly.

3. Problems of Captive Breeding; The animals must be able to successfully breed in captivity, have live births.

4. Disposition; If the animal is nasty or capable of killing humans and are really dangerous, that disqualifies them for domestication.

5. Tendency to Panic; Some species of large animal tend to get nervous and run, this is counter productive to domestication.

6. Social Structure; If the animal lives in groups then it tends to be more easily domesticated, rather than animals who live alone and prowl.

The Stremov Solution


(Part IV – Chapter VI)

‘Alexey Alexandrovitch had gained a brilliant victory at the sitting of the Commission of the 17th of August, but in the sequel this victory cut the ground from under his feet. The new commission for the inquiry into the condition of the native tribes in all its branches had been formed and despatched to its destination with an unusual speed and energy inspired by Alexey Alexandrovitch. Within three months a report was presented. The condition of the native tribes was investigated in its political, administrative, economic, ethnographic, material, and religious aspects. To all these questions there were answers admirably stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the product of official activity. The answers were all based on official data furnished by governors and heads of churches, and founded on the reports of district magistrates and ecclesiastical superintendents, founded in their turn on the reports of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all of these answers were unhesitating and certain. All such questions as, for instance, of the cause of failure of crops, of the adherence of certain tribes to their ancient beliefs, etc.—questions which, but for the convenient intervention of the official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for ages—received full, unhesitating solution. And this solution was in favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s contention. But Stremov, who had felt stung to the quick at the last sitting, had, on the reception of the commission’s report, resorted to tactics which Alexey Alexandrovitch had not anticipated. Stremov, carrying with him several members, went over to Alexey Alexandrovitch’s side, and not contenting himself with warmly defending the measure proposed by Karenin, proposed other more extreme measures in the same direction. These measures, still further exaggerated in opposition to what was Alexey Alexandrovitch’s fundamental idea, were passed by the commission, and then the aim of Stremov’s tactics became apparent. Carried to an extreme, the measures seemed at once to be so absurd that the highest authorities, and public opinion, and intellectual ladies, and the newspapers, all at the same time fell foul of them, expressing their indignation both with the measures and their nominal father, Alexey Alexandrovitch. Stremov drew back, affecting to have blindly followed Karenin, and to be astounded and distressed at what had been done. This meant the defeat of Alexey Alexandrovitch. But in spite of failing health, in spite of his domestic griefs, he did not give in. There was a split in the commission. Some members, with Stremov at their head, justified their mistake on the ground that they had put faith in the commission of revision, instituted by Alexey Alexandrovitch, and maintained that the report of the commission was rubbish, and simply so much waste paper. Alexey Alexandrovitch, with a following of those who saw the danger of so revolutionary an attitude to official documents, persisted in upholding the statements obtained by the revising commission. In consequence of this, in the higher spheres, and even in society, all was chaos, and although everyone was interested, no one could tell whether the native tribes really were becoming impoverished and ruined, or whether they were in a flourishing condition. The position of Alexey Alexandrovitch, owing to this, and partly owing to the contempt lavished on him for his wife’s infidelity, became very precarious.’

– Tolstoy. L. 1877. Anna Karenina Mattituck, United States: Aeonian Press (1917) p. 306-307

On Darya Alexandrovna


(Part I – Chapter IV)

‘Darya Alexandrovna, in a dressing jacket, and with her now scanty, once luxuriant and beautiful hair fastened up with hairpins on the nape of her neck, with a sunken, thin face and large, startled eyes, which looked prominent from the thinness of her face, was standing among a litter of all sorts of things scattered all over the room, before an open bureau, from which she was taking something. Hearing her husband’s steps, she stopped, looking towards the door, and trying assiduously to give her features a severe and contemptuous expression. She felt she was afraid of him, and afraid of the coming interview. She was just attempting to do what she had attempted to do ten times already in these last three days—to sort out the children’s things and her own, so as to take them to her mother’s—and again she could not bring herself to do this; but now again, as each time before, she kept saying to herself, “that things cannot go on like this, that she must take some step” to punish him, put him to shame, avenge on him some little part at least of the suffering he had caused her. She still continued to tell herself that she should leave him, but she was conscious that this was impossible; it was impossible because she could not get out of the habit of regarding him as her husband and loving him. Besides this, she realized that if even here in her own house she could hardly manage to look after her five children properly, they would be still worse off where she was going with them all. As it was, even in the course of these three days, the youngest was unwell from being given unwholesome soup, and the others had almost gone without their dinner the day before. She was conscious that it was impossible to go away; but, cheating herself, she went on all the same sorting out her things and pretending she was going.
Seeing her husband, she dropped her hands into the drawer of the bureau as though looking for something, and only looked round at him when he had come quite up to her. But her face, to which she tried to give a severe and resolute expression, betrayed bewilderment and suffering.’

– Tolstoy. L. 1877. Anna Karenina Mattituck, United States: Aeonian Press (1917) p. 23-24

On Stepan Arkadyevitch


(Part I – Chapter III)

‘Stepan Arkadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them—or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.
Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society—owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity—to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat. If there was a reason for his preferring liberal to conservative views, which were held also by many of his circle, it arose not from his considering liberalism more rational, but from its being in closer accordance with his manner of life. The liberal party said that in Russia everything is wrong, and certainly Stepan Arkadyevitch had many debts and was decidedly short of money. The liberal party said that marriage is an institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction; and family life certainly afforded Stepan Arkadyevitch little gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which was so repulsive to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb to keep in check the barbarous classes of the people; and Stepan Arkadyevitch could not get through even a short service without his legs aching from standing up, and could never make out what was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about another world when life might be so very amusing in this world. And with all this, Stepan Arkadyevitch, who liked a joke, was fond of puzzling a plain man by saying that if he prided himself on his origin, he ought not to stop at Rurik and disown the first founder of his family—the monkey. And so Liberalism had become a habit of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s, and he liked his newspaper, as he did his cigar after dinner, for the slight fog it diffused in his brain. He read the leading article, in which it was maintained that it was quite senseless in our day to raise an outcry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up all conservative elements, and that the government ought to take measures to crush the revolutionary hydra; that, on the contrary, “in our opinion the danger lies not in that fantastic revolutionary hydra, but in the obstinacy of traditionalism clogging progress,” etc., etc. He read another article, too, a financial one, which alluded to Bentham and Mill, and dropped some innuendoes reflecting on the ministry. With his characteristic quickwittedness he caught the drift of each innuendo, divined whence it came, at whom and on what ground it was aimed, and that afforded him, as it always did, a certain satisfaction. But today that satisfaction was embittered by Matrona Philimonovna’s advice and the unsatisfactory state of the household. He read, too, that Count Beist was rumored to have left for Wiesbaden, and that one need have no more gray hair, and of the sale of a light carriage, and of a young person seeking a situation; but these items of information did not give him, as usual, a quiet, ironical gratification. Having finished the paper, a second cup of coffee and a roll and butter, he got up, shaking the crumbs of the roll off his waistcoat; and, squaring his broad chest, he smiled joyously: not because there was anything particularly agreeable in his mind—the joyous smile was evoked by a good digestion.’

– Tolstoy. L. 1877. Anna Karenina Mattituck, United States: Aeonian Press (1917) p. 15-18

A Rose Among Nettles


(Part I – Chapter IX)

‘And the more he tried to compose himself, the more breathless he found himself. An acquaintance met him and called him by his name, but Levin did not even recognize him. He went towards the mounds, whence came the clank of the chains of sledges as they slipped down or were dragged up, the rumble of the sliding sledges, and the sounds of merry voices. He walked on a few steps, and the skating-ground lay open before his eyes, and at once, amidst all the skaters, he knew her.

He knew she was there by the rapture and the terror that seized on his heart. She was standing talking to a lady at the opposite end of the ground. There was apparently nothing striking either in her dress or her attitude. But for Levin she was as easy to find in that crowd as a rose among nettles. Everything was made bright by her. She was the smile that shed light on all round her. “Is it possible I can go over there on the ice, go up to her?” he thought. The place where she stood seemed to him a holy shrine, unapproachable, and there was one moment when he was almost retreating, so overwhelmed was he with terror. He had to make an effort to master himself, and to remind himself that people of all sorts were moving about her, and that he too might come there to skate. He walked down, for a long while avoiding looking at her as at the sun, but seeing her, as one does the sun, without looking.

On that day of the week and at that time of day people of one set, all acquainted with one another, used to meet on the ice. There were crack skaters there, showing off their skill, and learners clinging to chairs with timid, awkward movements, boys, and elderly people skating with hygienic motives. They seemed to Levin an elect band of blissful beings because they were here, near her. All the skaters, it seemed, with perfect self-possession, skated towards her, skated by her, even spoke to her, and were happy, quite apart from her, enjoying the capital ice and the fine weather.’

– Tolstoy. L. 1877. Anna Karenina Mattituck, United States: Aeonian Press (1917) p. 66-67