the continuing process of making sense
March 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
One of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family is the crazy making cognitive incongruity that makes it impossible to build authentic family connections. My family system is no different. This year I am facing one of the greatest challenges to my recovery in the form of an upcoming family event. The work of processing this event is going to mark a turning point for me, for my maturity and for my self-care.
Right now I am hurting and angry. I am abstaining from attempting to convey my feelings or my reality to any family members because there isn’t any one of them that has the capacity to authentically engage with me, my experience, or the reality of my feelings. I know this fact from hard won experience. I have tried many times over the last twenty years to be known by any one of my family members. I have tried to convey what it feels like to be the underdog in the family, the one that no one pays any attention to, but insists that I hold my place in the family photo as if there is nothing wrong. The one who has suffered egregious incidents of abuse or disenfranchisement, but whose experience of these events is invalidated, ignored, or denied.
Well, I turned sixty this year and I don’t have to take it anymore. And I am not going to. Right now I am feeling the pressure because I have opted out of attending a ‘family’ event next September. I put the word ‘family’ in quotes because my family’s definition of a family event and my own definition of family event do not synch up. For my family, a family event involves renting a hall, alerting the media, hiring musicians, and arranging for various family members to get up on a stage and perform songs. These performances are nothing special for my family members that are professional musicians, of which there is a disproportionate representation, but they are not relaxing or easy experiences for those of us who do not play musical instruments or feel comfortable performing on a stage with other family members.
There is this idealized mythology that circulates within my family, that is really the lifeblood of this dysfunctional family system. That mythology is that, because my family can play music together, they are exceptional, and their demonstration of this exceptionalism, as evidenced by public music performances, is evidence that the family is coherent, that the family is secure, that the family is healthy. In actual fact, at least in my experience, the family is discordant, chaotic, incomprehensible, and emotionally depriving.
I have spent my lifetime surviving the insanity of my family, which seems to serve all my other family members as if it were intact. Well, this time I am saying, no, I don’t want to participate in the insanity. That feels good. The email I got from my brother, however, exposes the dark underbelly of the beast.