One Encounter with Family

October 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

All it takes is one encounter with family to unleash this awful queasy sick feeling in my stomach.

I observe that I did not have this feeling on my four day road trip with my sister and my mother. We got along fine and I never felt like I did not belong or like I was a placeholder.

A week later I attended my cousin’s funeral and I came away with a whole trunk full of distressing feelings.

Yesterday, two days after the funeral, I had a terrible day. I had this very old, very familiar, but at the same time, strange, feeling. It feels like it is in the pit of my stomach. It is a feeling that I am the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time and there is no where that I can go or no one that I can be that will make it go away. It is a deep seated feeling of discomfort but extremely hard to put my finger on. I had been feeling it for hours before I finally identified it.

What this tells me is that the feeling was very, very old. It was rooted in childhood. And it was activated attending the funeral.

I was listening to a brain science podcast yesterday where the author, Carol Tavris, discussed her research in cognitive dissonance. It was really interesting because she, and her colleague, Elliot Aronson, have identified the relationship between cognitive dissonance and pain. Although it wasn’t the focus of their research, I believe their findings could be applied to understanding the irrational persistence of self deception in families that have endured catastrophic adverse childhood experiences.

For the past couple of weeks I have noted comments from each my mother and her two sisters that indicate that their mother was an emotional and physical abuser. I have also noted evidence that they have suffered some form of debilitating adverse childhood experiences by their demonstrations of toxic co-dependence. It is possible that their co-dependence is a result of cultural norms given the period they were raised in. But there is a deeper stress to their disabling system of belief, self-worth, and behaviours.

If it were merely societally constituted, they would have also gone through the consciousness raising of later decades and been able to see themselves and their actions from a different perspective. My idea here is that socially constituted experiences will have different effects at different ages and during different times of cultural change. Family constituted experiences will not be affected by societal change except in the situations where societal change contributes to an opening of possibilities for looking at the effects of family systems on individual mental health.

Today I am feeling more hopeful. I can identify the internal and external perturbations in my field of perception and make new choices about how I want to respond. I don’t have to be ruled by these ‘icky’ feelings. I don’t have to be subjugated by a family system that is unable to provide me with legitimate protection, validation, and support.


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