“Every one has a family of origin and almost no one knows how to cope with them. You love them; they drive you crazy. You wish holidays and phone calls didn’t always end up like your own private reality show where you never get to turn the channel.”
–Andra Medea, author of Going Home Without Going Crazy
Surrounded by our family of origin we, too often, leave our adult lives dazed and confused out on the sidewalk. We find ourselves in painful old roles, with all the emotional baggage that goes with them. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of going home…seeing your old neighborhood and friends; enjoying your mothers cooking and your childhood bed…you enter the front door with a smile on your face, and you’re unprepared for the immediate criticism you get from your parents, or the mockery of your siblings. As you experience the same reaction that you always do (withdraw? Get angry? Want to cry?) you remember why this pilgrimage has become an annual event no more.
As we begin to address the ways we have been affected by our families and begin to change the ways we relate to others as well as ourselves, we will find ourselves moving from a position of adhering to rigid role(s) to building from the strengths of each of them. Our family roles have become the framework for our behaviors in all aspects of life. Our roles affect choices about careers, partners, friends, family and children, co-workers, and the way we feel about ourselves. Especially the way we feel about ourselves. These roles have framed our sense of identity. In recovery we ask, “Who am I, if I am not the role I have played all my life?”
Spending the holidays with family pushes our buttons and re-opens old wounds. In a dysfunctional family we learn ways of thinking that lead to confusion, disorganization, and inner conflict. We learn to believe in ideas that have no basis in reality. Recovery teaches us how to achieve The Five Freedoms In A Healthy Family…
1.) The freedom to see what I want to see. (To perceive what is here and now rather than what was in the past, what may be in the future or what should be due to rigid roles.)
2.) The freedom to feel what I feel. (Rather than what I should feel.)
3.) The freedom to know what I know. (Rather than what I should know.)
4.) The freedom to be who I am. (Rather than whom I should be according to family roles.)
5.) The freedom to want and choose what I want. (rather than what I should want.) – To pursue my own self-actualization rather than playing a rigid role or always playing it safe.
It is important during the holidays that we surround ourselves equally with people who know and accept us for who we are and not the roles we are used to playing. This will
make the risk of being different with our family, stepping out of old roles, less traumatic.