I always longed for one of those TV families. You know, the ones where everyone is happy-face close, there’s a kindly father and a devoted mother, and all siblings are best friends.
That’s not what I got.
But really, that’s not what most of us got. The ideal TV family is just that: an ideal. Few families successfully get there.
Of course, I didn’t know that until I was well into adulthood. I believed my family was the odd one out. And in some ways it was. But in terms of not meeting the ideal, well, they just joined the club that most families belonged to.
Generations carry on what they see modeled, whether they are conscious of it or not and often, even when they vow never to be like that, well, more often than not they are JUST like that.
That’s just the way psychology works. And it happens because their parents were also badly parented, themselves. The cycle goes on.
But if we are awake and aware, growing up in a dysfunctional family provides many lessons. True, many people are not awake and aware. For some reason, though, I was. Maybe because I was open to doing the work required by good therapists. It was a matter of survival for me because I moved away young and had only myself to depend on. I had to do the work or fall apart.
I wasn’t going to fall apart.
Lots of people go to therapy but doing the work? That’s another story.
So here’s what growing up in a dysfunctional family taught me:
So much of what we do is knee-jerk.
Which is to say it’s unconscious reaction to life based on our programming. You really have to work hard to act consciously. I know I have to. Still. Because what I saw is still programmed into me. I see it in my siblings, too.
Love is not a guarantee.
When Anderson Cooper eulogized his mother, saying that he knew he was loved from the moment he was born, I was thrilled at his words. And wondered what that would feel like. Lucky guy.
If all you see modeled is fear and distrust, love can be hard to come by. You just don’t know how to feel it and certainly not how to show it.
My parents were awkward with love. We were, too. And maybe still are. We need to work at it.
It’s hard to look in the mirror.
The guy who cheats like his father did. The woman who is as hands-off with her children as her mother was.
Do you think they see this when they look in the mirror?
And maybe they avoid mirrors at all costs. Even though the only way to fight against negative programming is to first recognize it in the mirror.
The legacy will continue unless we stop it.
I didn’t have kids. But those in my family who did have made so many of the same mistakes. There’s no way to make up for them, either, because in raising their own kids dysfunctionally, they have pretty much guaranteed that the legacy will continue. Unless the adult child works really hard to break the cycle.
This seems like a bleak scenario. It’s not as bad as that. We can’t make up for past sins but we can go forward with a new understanding of ourselves and our behavior simply by recognizing the roots and the parallels. That consciousness allows us to go forward in a new and healthier way. If we choose. And if we work at it.
I can’t say I’m 100% conscious, myself, but I do see a lot of it and I am open to accepting responsibility when I am not careful enough to counter the programming.
TV in the 1950s and 1960s sold us a bill of goods. We know that now. But there’s no reason we can’t look to the healthiest parts of that mythical family culture and work toward adopting it in our own families.
If you’d like an intuitive session to help air some of these issues, get in touch.