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  • Esther Ruth Friedman

Red Flag Analysis: Word salad disguised as "truth"

Updated: Apr 16

Dear Readers – On social media, anyone can pretend to be a mental health expert. Recently, a client sent me this meme & asked what I thought.

This meme is a little bit culty and I would like to point out the red flags:

It’s meaningless: Do you know anyone in a “functional family system”? What does this person consider “functional,” or “dysfunctional” ? It doesn't explain anything. In fact...


It is word salad: it strings vague metaphors (front door/back door) together to present two vague "choices" (fight or manipulate) as if they are the only options.


It is formulaic: the word salad concludes that this child must ... fight, or manipulate (that is the question) when, really, life is more complicated than that. This brings me to the most annoying culty red flag…

The pseudo psychology: this reductive analysis concludes with, sorry kid, you're doomed to one of two pathologies: selfish narcissism, or self-less co-dependence.

This meme poses family relationships as transactional--it's a win or lose world, kid. You either fight or manipulate. That is pathological and sad. It leaves out love, connection, collaboration, play, joy, fun and more. All of these things exist in several shades and there is no one road to pathology. Those who reduce life down to vague platitudes like this one are untrustworthy at best. So, if you encounter, as Shakespeare put it, “… tales, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing” run away!




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