Connect with Family Dynamics During the Holidays

Its my busiest time of year at work as a therapist. Its really hard for some people to spend time with their families and so they need a little extra guidance through the landmines of family during the Holidays.

I always tell my clients that the ones that most need to be in therapy are not and therapy is where the healthy ones are. Could you be the reason someone goes to therapy?

This is what I have noticed, sometimes there is a family member that appears to be on the outside looking in during the family Holidays. Some think of this person as the black sheep. It has been my experience that the one who calls others out on their unacceptable behaviors, is often the black sheep, the healthy one.

We excavate and learn in therapy that the stories perpetuated in families are not always accurate. They are typically only part of the truth and only one persons truth passed down through decades.

You see some family systems operate around generational stories that have never been challenged. There has never been one person healthy enough to challenge the story passed down by an unhealthy family member and so everyone continues to perpetuate the unhealthiness and live in it. Then one day, there is a brave one that realizes, hey this doesn’t really make sense, these things I have always been told about cousin G, well they aren’t all fitting together, I see holes in this story. And so they challenge it. The story that was told by one person, to benefit that person and all the other sheep followed along mindlessly. Then one day the boat gets rocked and whoa, things get a bit wonky and the boatrocker is suddenly taboo. Because there is no place for the truth in this family. If the truth were acknowledged then a lot of folks would have to make changes and get healthy and well, that sounds scary and like a lot of work. So the only ones wanting to keep the status quo are actually the ones benefitting from it. Another reason to rock the boat.

Ask the questions, do the research. There is always another layer if you are brave enough to go there. For most it is much easier to go with the flow and play dumb. Be a flying monkey. If you follow the story line, it will lead you to the Oz behind the curtain spinning the stories to maintain control in the family. Now is a good time to wonder why? What do they get from this and how do they benefit? Why do they need only their story to be circulated?

We all know there are two sides to every story. Why do we sometimes get sucked into only hearing one? For example, poor Mary who got left with 6 kids by her cheating husband. Is this the entire story? Is Mary living her best victim life decades later and how does it benefit Mary and now all of her kids to play the victim? I wonder what it would be like if Mary ever did the work on herself and told the truth. She never liked her husband much and found early on in the marriage that she preferred women so that was the secret life she lived, pushing her husband away further and further everyday. Then one day he found true love and left . Mary pulled the victim card and it got her the attention she so desperately craved so she enhanced this story line and played it well. It served her well. She even began to believe if after while. At this point the truth was so far removed it all seemed logical. On the surface.

And so these kids spent their lives never knowing their father because he was the bad guy. That was the story they were told and it never dawned on them to challenge it. Until one day , one of the kids began to ask the right questions. The curtain was pulled away and truths came to light. Everything changed. It only takes one healthy one in a crowd of flying monkeys to be brave and be the catalyst for lasting change. Healthy change.

Lives can be edited and questioning stories are the beginning for healthy change. Family dynamics can be shifted and the Holidays can be better. Is this easy? No, there will be a lot of push back. Oz did not go down easily as you will recall in the classic movie with the wicked witch and her flying monkeys. But Dorothy was brave and pushed the status quo. She did not accept the surface story but dug deeper as she traveled the yellow brick road to truth and what was really behind the curtain. Lives changed. The Land of Oz changed.

So this year during the Holidays , don’t take things for surface value. When Mary cranks up about her husband that left her decades ago, ask the right questions, be the first one to ever challenge Mary and her story. When one person in a family is healthy and challenges the status quo, good things begin to happen. Things get real.