Finding Balance in Family

Finding Balance in Family

One of the most important and difficult aspects of recovery work is finding balance in our lives.  During our traumatic experiences, our inner parts split off in an attempt to keep us safe.  In doing so, they stored their childlike beliefs until they had the opportunity to heal from their past experiences.  And these beliefs consider the world from a black and white perspective.  It is not a balanced view.  But in healing, we can find that balance.  Not surprisingly, it takes time and patience to get there.

While we need to find balance in every aspect of our lives, one of the most significant is how we view our family.  I have heard from most survivors that they struggle to let go of their family.  We usually have at least one part who feels an inextricable connection to them.  This part is tied to them through blood, DNA and traumatic experiences.  All these things can create a contract with those who treat us horribly.  Strings are attached and they are hard to cut.

But that is only one side of the pendulum swing.  Within us, we also hold that inner part who despises the family.  And while that anger is not misplaced, that same anger may also be aimed at the self.  “If the family is bad, so am I.”  “If the family is capable of horrible abuse, so am I.”  And on some level, that may be true.  All people are capable of both good and bad.  But it is our choices that make the difference.  We aren’t born with an unfulfilled destiny to commit evil written on our cells.  We make that choice to go one way or the other (or somewhere in between).  But we may be using our own DNA as a reason to hate ourselves.

Coming to a place of separation and understanding can be critical to our healing journey and quality of life.  And yes.  We can hold both.  We can understand that our family members made horrible choices because of their own trauma and the trauma of the generations before them.  We can also understand they have good characteristics and strengths that were used for very bad things.  We can even understand they may have had strengths they used for good things on occasion.  But we can also separate from them because their behavior is abusive and does not allow us to heal.  We can do all of this simultaneously.

While that may feel dissonant and impossible to hold, it is important to consider all these aspects.  I have been separated from the majority of my own family for the past eight years.  I did it for the safety of my own children (and inner children).  I knew the pedophiles in my family would move in on my kids too.  I was not going to let that happen.  I have expressed intense rage and anger toward my family through my own healing work.  And all of it was justified and valid.  At the same time, I have come to some balanced understandings about my family.

My parents did not invent the trauma they perpetrated on their children.  They were acting out a pattern of behavior hundreds of years old.  My mother enabled the abuse and trafficking of her children because deep down inside, she believed she was keeping us alive.  She chose “traumatized and alive” over “dead”  in her mind.  And she unconsciously believed that was the only choice she had.  More than likely, my parents remember very little of their abusive actions because of their dissociative state.  All of this is true.  But none of it excuses what they did.  They could have chosen another path.

I have also come to understand that the generational trauma may have been in their DNA in some ways. (Yes, I do believe it can be changed through recovery.)  But I also understand my family has powerful strengths.  These strengths were used to wreak havoc on the world and cover it up.  And that is far from a positive thing.  But I can see how these strengths, when not mired in trauma, could be incredibly powerful.

Recently, I was privileged to see my son act in a play.  He was incredibly good.  And that isn’t just his mother talking.  He received so many compliments.  I have never been an actor, but I do enjoy the spotlight.  There is no doubt the apple did not fall far from the tree in that regard.  However, I could not help but look at the family history (despite my desire not to).  My grandfather acted in many plays and musicals over the course of his lifetime.  And he was not the only one.  But even more important is the connection between acting ability and what it takes to mask trauma in a family.  Every one of my family members was acting, whether they knew it consciously or not.

So maybe we aren’t meant to fully shun our families who perpetuate trauma.  Maybe we don’t deny their strengths and the characteristics that come with the name, heritage and history.  But maybe we are meant to shun their choices and actions.  Maybe we are meant to reject the way they used their strengths.  And maybe now, we can embrace who we were meant to be without the trauma to screw everything up.  Maybe we can love the family strengths while rejecting the trauma.

And maybe, just maybe, that will help us love ourselves a little bit more.

 

Family Acting (1)

Generations of acting

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Elisabeth,

    I’ve also, seen talent in my family used in very abusive destructive way. I’m talking ugly stuff! Some of them made really bad choices. Most of them follow one another. As a matter of fact I’m positive none of them understand my distance since my mothers death. I’m strong and able to live my life in a positive way without them. As always, I love and appreciate you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Sending love to you Katrina! Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Well.. there is lots to think about in here. I have never thought about it this way. Interesting – I’m going to go process for a while now. Hahaha! Thank you.

    Reply
    • It is a deep one, isn’t it? I am not sure I have processed it all myself. 🙂 Sending love to you.

      Reply
  3. Thank you Elisabeth, all that you stated resonates with me. I have estranged myself from my family out of necessity, not anger or resentment. Necessity to provide a safe container for me to process and heal what I was previously unaware of. To keep in contact with my family only meant ongoing invalidation. They had to protect their ‘reality’ and the only way to do so was to invalidate me.

    I’m crazy, I need help, there is something wrong with me, I have a mental problem. These would be the ongoing messages I would receive from my family – even to this day. As you can see this would not help my ‘little one’ who already thinks these thoughts.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have run into people “on the path” who continuously tell me that I need to forgive. I’m just not ‘there yet’. Ha! Ha! What those people do not see is that their statements are only further invalidation. There is another part of me that recognizes that and luckily is stronger. I actually call people out on their perceptions when they try to throw them on me. It is harmful – not just for me – but others like me and that makes me mad.

    It took great strength to walk away from my family and say goodbye to everything I have ever known but I would never have started to find myself otherwise. I HAVE NO REGRETS! In fact, it is the best decision I have ever made. So for any of you who resonate with this, take heart – if it FEELS right then it IS RIGHT! Do what FEELS right for you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Hugs to you all xoxo

    Reply
    • Thank you Wendy. It absolutely did take great strength for you to walk away from your family! There are so few people that get that. I am glad you are on your healing path.

      Reply
  4. Wow, I totally relate to this Elisabeth, as well as the replies and their experiences with letting go of family. In my situation it is their “superior intelligence” and education that has my parents and siblings (who were abused like me) that what makes me feel still abused as an adult. They are using their supposed logic to act alright and to tell me to just forgive and it’s really me with the problem. I’m the stupid one, the one who is a failure at life, the one who won’t grow up and get past it. I see it differently. I am working on replacing their awful analyses of me and the repeated abusive messages. At least I am not in denial anymore. At least I’m working at stopping the abuse instead of taking it and forgiving. It’s been hard to hear them tell me that I’m the only one who has issues, when in fact I am the only one working on it. It helps to think of comforting my inner child when the hopeless and helpless feelings arise.

    Reply
    • Thank you Stephanie for your courage to stand up to that kind of manipulation. Love to you and your inner child.

      Reply

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