Some families are not close and supportive, were never set up to be close and supportive. Rather, they are dysfunctional.
This is not pessimism, but a hindsight view of families based on research. In these un-family units with unresolvable issues, a holiday together is like hanging out in an ice cave full of demons. It’s fun!
If you come from such a family, the best thing to do is have little contact with them and invest yourself heavily in creating a very different kind of family that is capable of being close to you and to whom you are willing to be close.
Most people who come from alienated, dysfunctional un-families do not do this.
They cling to the idea that their dysfunctional un-family-of-origin was “supposed” to be a loving family and proceed in adulthood to create new families that continue the cycle of alienation. Or, they find some other reason to hang onto the dysfunction.
You might be telling yourself, “I can’t give up on them! They are my family. There is always hope! What kind of monster abandons family?” You take pleasure in your self-righteous loyalty, oh yeah!
However, there is not always hope that a dysfunctional family will heal. For healing to happen, the individuals involved must become interested in healing work, like therapy or personal growth. They need to consciously engage in the process and stick with it over a period of time. Until that happens, healing won’t happen. As long as the people are not willing to learn and grow (and get help doing it), everyone continues to feel bad.
Staying involved is a form self-sabotage. It is hard to avoid because it is very, very difficult to see. And it feels good to wallow in un-family of origin badness, I know. Satisfying in a certain, yummy-twisted way…
(I’m just sayin’…)
Anyway, let’s look at dysfunctional un-families. They:
1. Do not speak freely to each other. Rather, they monitor their words with caution.
2. Do not feel free to be themselves with each other or share their real interests.
3. Are ridden with guilt and shame that they often cannot explain. It seems they feel bad just for existing.
4. They do not reach out to each other and are hard pressed to call upon each other even for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
5. They often hate each other and hold monumental grudges over little things, but do not attempt to settle differences or communicate feelings.
6. They tend to reproduce un-families and continue the fun for generations.
Basically, un-families are torture chambers full of demons looming in the background of our lives, waiting the right moment to show up and wreak havoc. It’s delicious…
So, get on with the party! Keep returning to your un-family, asking directly or indirectly for things they will not provide, participating in activities that are not any fun, hoping for reconciliation that will never happen. It’s very productive and rewarding.
This is called Milking the Rejection of your Un-family
I guess I need to be the one to say it. If you are investing yourself in a family that has dished out decades of misery, then you are milking misery. You may be unconsciously (unwittingly) milking it, however, which may lead to running around with a vague sense of guilt.
The guilt is due to the fact that you are milking rejection, denial, shame, deprivation and other stuff you are unconsciously attached to in that familiar place of misery in your breast that you have come to call home. You are setting yourself up to be knocked down emotionally again and again. Milking it. You.
So, stop. You probably know how to avoid it, right?
Please do not think I am arrogant for letting you in on your secret or poking fun at your troubles. For decades, I did exactly what I have described. I hated my family for not understanding me, for not extending themselves in my direction, for their lack of interest in my life. In my own way, I tried again and again to impress them. They hold a very different view of me than I hold of myself. I cannot change that.
They aren’t INTERESTED! Wow.
But they are SUPPOSED to be!
They are my un-family. (Sigh) (of relief) (major relief) (seriously – painfully relieving) (I’m not kidding).
With that I am free to invest myself more fully in my current life – my family and friends who love me and whom I love.
I get a solid return on my love investment now.