Holidays are a time for thanksgiving; for gratitude of all the gifts, family, and friends in our lives. Then why is it that family gatherings are inevitably like a drunken family therapy session? I cannot be the only person to both dread, and look forward to, spending the least amount of time humanly possible with my entire family. Don’t get me wrong, I love each of them dearly. Just not all of them together. I look forward to opportunities my children can create memories with each of them. But I am always hoping lots of wine will be served, and that for once, I learn to keep my mouth shut. (Which I don’t, by the way.)
I’ve realized I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I vow every single time to NOT fall into old family dynamics and I promise myself I WILL act my age and be appropriate. And when I’m so proud of myself that I’ve shown how evolved I have become, they get so pissed off. I’m not playing the expected role in this show. And they are not happy with this sudden and unwelcome change. Yet in the many moments I fail at trying to rise above it all, I still lose. I get the “Oh look, there she goes again. Of course she would…..”
I experienced how ingrained these family dynamics were on a trip abroad a few years ago with my entire family. For two weeks we traveled together and were inseparable. (I am pretty sure I was drunk when I agreed this would be a fantastic idea.) Those two weeks were the loneliest and most isolated days of my entire life. I was able to step back and watch all the dynamics play out. And I realized in sad horror that we all have roles to play; and that the scapegoat was always me or my father. My mother and sisters have their own brand of Bat-Shit Crazy going on, but somehow, my father and I have been assigned the Bad Guy roles. I felt so lonely because my personality and value as a person did not matter nearly as much as the role I had been assigned.
This is a really hard dynamic to break free from when no one else in the group wants to shake things up. After all, whose family would it be then? If we change the dynamics and the expected roles that we’ve grown up with, and that we’ve grown into, who are we? I guess that is something to be thankful for then–a place to easily fit into that feels like home. Like family. There is nothing else like it. Thank God…
The sentence that speaks to me the most is: “I felt so lonely because my personality and value as a person did not matter nearly as much as the role I had been assigned.” You’ve really nailed something for me there, Susanna. I’ve learned, partly through family constellation work, that my family of origin has been desperate to keep each of us in our place, using anger as currency but fueled by fear. Fortunately I’ve been able to break free of it, with help, and also as a result of my mother’s death creating an opening for a shifting of roles.
To the question of “Who are we?”, a deep knowing of the answer has emerged for me. I don’t have words to put to it. Just a newfound solidity that lets me say to my father, sister, and brother, “I am.”
Yes, there is a desperation for the entity to maintain status quo. I am glad you have a calm, steady knowing of who you are. I find I broke free to find who I was a long time ago, but my family entity refuses to acknowledge it and really has no real interest in knowing. And it’s nothing personal, but they’re on autopilot in regards to the family dynamics. One-on-one interactions are very different. I find allowing them to be who they are, and the dynamics to be as they are, and breathing deeply through it all helps. Some moments 🙂
Family=Tough. I totally get what you are talking about. We all have roles we play in our families, try as we might, it is so hard to change family perspectives of “me’, even if those perspectives are ages old and no where near accurate anymore. Family seems to be the last to notice sometimes. Because it changes, well, everything, known. Brave heart, you are, putting this down for all of us to reflect on. Well done, you.
Thank you so much. Means a lot. I have come to realize my family has no real interest or ability to see the current and accurate “me” because if they did, everything would have to change. The power and momentum of this family unit is greater than any of us individually. We all love each other so much, and I need to remember that more often, and understand the irony of this not being personal! And self-control…I need to work on self-control… 🙂
Thanks for linking this post, Susanna. Family dynamics are an amazing (and sometimes frightening) study. I believe your reference to “…dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t…” pretty much sums it. 🙂
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“Amazing” is the right descriptor for it!!
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Thank you so very much for your authentic thoughts. This has helped me sort a few feelings in to a more realistic perspective on our family dynamics. ALF