Families not only have an influence on how we approach problems in life or the blueprint we follow, but it can have an effect on the course of our marriages.
It is important to remember, that regardless of our upbringing and past experiences, we are not prisoners of our past.
With knowledge and understanding, we gain personal power to make better and more appropriate choices.
While family dynamics help shape and mold us, there is another component that can have an effect on our relationships that few people think of.
Long term research confirm that our birth order and position within our family of origins has an emotional effect on our lives in predictable ways. It is a phenomenon that occurs in all cultures and countries.
Where do you fall within the structure of your family? Were you the oldest, the middle child or the youngest? How did you feel about your siblings? Did you feel lost within the family, or feel that others received special privileges while you always had to be the “good one”?
As we reflect on the families we grew up in, we read stories and novels about siblings that perhaps remind us of our own experiences.
If you grew up with a sister you may remember the fights, the tears, the camaraderie, the secrets, and competition. You may have looked up to or felt inferior by the other. Perhaps you felt you were treated unfairly and when you left home, you took with you long-standing quarrels that were never resolved; both going their separate ways, hoping their paths would never cross.
Darlene Dubay is a first time Northwest author who has published her first novel about two sisters, their estrangement, setbacks and personal tragedies. Over the years, the sisters went their separate ways, married and had families. Separated geographically, they live two different lives that are full of tragedies, losses and re-discoveries.
Death, betrayal, troubled liaisons, and new loves and relationships are woven into this story of two sisters who are trying to find themselves amidst the fateful events that have touched their lives in different ways.
Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.
Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.
But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.
And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.
For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.
But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.
What is the earliest memory you have as a child and the relationships you had? Was it pleasant or sad?
We are shaped and molded by people and events as we grow up.
The experiences we had as a child affect our relationships as an adult.
Max Lucado in one segment of “Traveling Light for Mothers” writes about a “wedding reenactment” they did at his church. In this staged drama the thoughts of the bride and groom were revealed to those watching as they stood before the pastor and the altar.
Each had armloads full of “excess baggage” of “guilt, anger, arrogance, and insecurities” they were bringing with them to this new relationship.
Each believed they were marrying the person who would help them carry or relieve them of their load, and would take care of them.
As they stood before the congregation, their “baggage”, typically unseen, was piled high around them.
Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues and spouses.
If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay out of any serious relationship all together?
And yet, we are social animals and require social interaction to survive. Consider this post from Jeney Cadell, PsyD who writes in her blog, How Healthy Relationships Change our Brains,
“We are much more interconnected than we realize. As technology advances and we are able to actually see into the human brain, we now have proof of this.”
Research is literally showing evidence that we are hardwired to connect with each other and “that healthy relationships actually soothe our brains.” Technology is allowing us to see what is happening within our brains.
We were not meant to face “the trauma and difficulties of life” by ourselves. Creating secure bonds is important for our health.
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you stayed home once in awhile instead of going golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – you are always out with your girlfriends shopping again…. ”
And round and round and round it goes. And we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? The anger we feel is intensified as we go along. We dig in our heels believing we are right and refuse to budge.
How did we get into this conflict in the first place? And how do we get out of it? Everybody wants their needs met. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated and respected and….. and the list goes on.
Why have I spent so much time on the topic of anger?
Because it is so prevalent and we see its destructive powers everywhere. Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by reason leave behind a path of destruction. Our lives, too, can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.
As therapists we see the results of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep.
Unless recognized, addressed and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.
Shame, guilt, fear and sometimes downright terror often keep us from getting the help we need. Yet getting that help is the most freeing thing you can do.
Listen to what your anger is telling you. Maybe it’s time to review your priorities and goals. What is most important in your life – your career or your family? Do you spend time with your kids? If you grew up with constant turmoil, conflict and anger, you may be repeating those patterns with your children.
We are entering the summer fire season, when everything becomes tinder box dry and all it takes is a spark to set in motion a wildfire that can wipe out acres and acres of trees and homes in a short amount of time.
Last summer we saw the devastation of such an event in the eastern part of our state.
If caught in time, fires can be extinguished. If not, they soon become a raging, out-of-control inferno.
It is also time when families take summer vacations, kids get grumpy, parents are stressed to the max and the well of patience has dried up. Even minor irritations become tinder boxes ready to ignite. Once a “wildfire” begins, it quickly feeds upon itself.
The Anger Habit
Anger can become a habit. But like any habit, it can be replaced. We can easily become addicted to anger as our first response to situations. We are the ones who decide whether to get angry or laugh, problem solve or walk away.