There are certain truths in life; what goes up must come down, the sun is a big ball of fire, snow is frozen rain and families put the FUN in dysfunction.
How families put the FUN in dysfunction is unique to each family, like an individual fingerprint. As you read this, you may already be recalling situations, behaviors or events of your family putting the FUN in dysfunction.
Families will let their freak flags shine in many different ways. Maybe that’s what family crests were for, to advertise and warn others about each family’s dysfunction. If family crests were a thing my family’s crest on my moms side would look different than my dads side; but underneath they are very much the same.
My moms family crest would be the perfect Facebook family photo for the world to see, but underneath a giant shit show of resentment, competition, gossip and secrets. My dads family crest would be the aftermath of a Lioness catching and eating a weak Gazelle then leaving the remaining scrapes for the Hyenas to fight over. Both crests clearly different on the outside, but similar on the inside.
I’m saying everything I’ve said and everything I’m about to say with complete awareness that I also play a role in the family dysfunction, I’m no angel. There isn’t one family member free from the claws of the dysfunctional family monster that has passed its torch from generation to generation. The difference is I’m willing to talk about it authentically and honestly with family members and the world. I know talking about it with authenticity and honesty is the only way to end the generational dysfunction.
In my experience, I’ve noticed three different types of family members:
- The passive family member
- The cancer cell
- The scapegoat
The passive family member is the family member who hates confrontation and will avoid conflict at all cost. In fact, you can often find this person trying to make peace for everyone. They inevitably stick their nose into other family member’s business with good intentions for peace talks, but often end up becoming a ‘go between’ and getting eaten alive. Peace keepers rarely find peace. What they do find is exhaustion, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. They often feel like people are mad at them. They don’t understand why everyone can’t just ‘get along’. The peace keeper often ends up being taken advantage of because the other family members learn they will do anything to keep the peace, even putting everyone else before themselves. Peacekeepers are often found living for everyone else around them, not themselves. They often don’t know who they are because they change who they are based on who they’re with. They make themselves responsible for the moods of other people, they are under the illusion they can control the moods of other people. Tools the passive family member typically utilizes: pouting, guilt, shame, manipulation, playing the victim, to name a few.
The cancer cell is the family member who enjoys conflict, in fact they enjoy it so much they love to create it and spread it. They love gossip, and love to share it. They love to be the center of attention and can be found making everything into a big deal, interrupting other people and constantly changing the subject back to themselves so everyone knows how awesome and amazing they are. They love getting people on their team and growing a courtyard of ‘teammates’ supporting something they feel they have the right to judge and criticize another family member for. They can often be found making things their business, even though it is absolutely NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. Cancer spreads and can spread quickly if not treated, that is how the cancer cell family member gets its name. Tools the cancer cell utilizes are: manipulation, martyrdom, guilt, shame, peer pressure, false authenticity, to name a few.
The scapegoat is the family member who goes against the grain of the family standards and expectations. The scapegoat can be someone who makes drastic decisions of their own free will the rest of the family disagrees with (moving their family far away from home) or someone who decides to make healthy decisions for themselves (setting healthy boundaries and holding people accountable for their disrespectful behavior). A scapegoat is often identified and labeled when family members as a whole (or because the cancer cell told them to) choose to be uncomfortable with the scapegoat’s choice to make decisions for themselves that aren’t found in the family policy and procedure manual of behavior passed down from the ancestors. The scapegoat is blamed for everything, for example, if one family member across the country is inappropriate to another family member, it must be the scapegoats fault. Scapegoats are used when family members don’t want to be accountable for their own shitty behavior. Tools the scapegoat utilizes are: honesty, passive aggressiveness, avoidance, defensiveness, acceptance, tolerance, to name a few.
There is one family event that has the power to maximize and highlight the FUN in a families dysfunction; and that is The Family Reunion. In my family, for scapegoats like me, The Family Reunion is otherwise known as the thing to be avoided at all cost. At a family reunion I am metaphorically weighted and measured. I am judged and criticized. Assumptions are made about what I am thinking, texting, saying and laughing about. Those assumptions are then turned into gossip, which inevitably turn into false truths and before I know it, I’m an asshole because I did something I didn’t do. And I know I’m not the only scapegoat.
I am most certain if particular family members read this blog post they will think I am writing it directly to them, send me an emotionally charged text message accusing me of being disrespectful, hurtful and passive aggressive. Therefore, allow me to clarify my intentions in writing this blog…
I am writing this blog post to the world, not one particular person. I am sharing my experiences from MY OWN filters and perspectives because it is my mission to model authenticity in hopes to inspire and empower as many people as possible to believe that better is possible.
Because better IS possible.
One can still love their family members and have healthy boundaries. People in this world need to know and be given permission and direction to set boundaries with family and it’s okay to do so. Many people are hurting greatly because of family but feel shame and guilt for operating a different way. I’m saying you CAN operate a different way and still love your family. You don’t have to hurt, you don’t have to continue feeling the way you do.
If you are relating to this blog post and think it’s about you, may I suggest you look inward first. Then google and read about ‘psychological projection’ before lashing out at me.
So family reunion?
Maybe next time.