The family is the most common place for anger to erupt. It is also the place where the seeds of anger are sowed. When we live closely with others, when we are bonded to them, attached, dependent or vulnerable these individuals have the power to affect us deeply. In these relationships our expectations and demands greater.
Images Of The Family
We have strong images of how parents, siblings or children “should” behave. We feel we have the right to demand love and attention from those in the family. Parents have strong feelings that they have the right to loyalty and obedience, just because of their roles, (no matter how they treat their children). Children often feel the same. There is a common craving for a “happy family”, where everyone loves and cares for each other, and where everyone accepts all of each other’s difficulties. Unfortunately, this craving is often unfulfilled. For the most part the myth of a happy family is often a dream.
Families are often hotbeds of misunderstandings, resentment, sibling rivalry, jealousy, inappropriate expectations and demands and lack of acceptance. In fact, families are really fine places to work through a great deal of issues and learn how to individuate, grow, love and accept both others and ourselves.
Although many of us blame our parents for all that has gone wrong, the fact is that the parent is not the real culprit. It is the smoldering anger that is being held onto that causes the pain. It is the inability to get over disappointment about not having the parent of our dreams. This anger and disappointment can prevent us from growing up and establishing the life that best expresses our values and vision today.
Identity And The Family
A major factor that contributes to anger in families is the tendency each member has to identify with the other. Parents feel that children are a reflection of them. Parents also project their worst fears about themselves onto their children, or want their children to make up for errors and disappointments in their own lives. This is a huge mistake, which leads to a great deal of pain. It is interesting to notice how little room there is for differences in most families. Most think that a perfect family is one in which everyone is the same.
Individuation – (Becoming Who You Are)
The most vital process that goes on in the family is the process of individuation. This means that as a child grows they are given the opportunity to discover who they are, to be separate and different from those they love. Some experience differences between themselves and family members as separation, or even rejection.
They do not realize that unless family members become who they are, they will not be able to grow and love. Instead, anger develops, deep resentment and pain. The greatest longing most family members have is being known, heard and accepted for who they are. Ultimately, this is experienced as love.
Unfulfilled Needs In The Family
After a certain point of maturity family members enter the larger world and become part of other groups. These new groups are often experienced as new families. Needless to say these individuals automatically and unconsciously begin to repeat the same patterns they experienced in the family they came from. If there were many unfulfilled needs in their original family, they try to get these filled now.
If there were many demands made upon them, they expect that to be true once again and begin resisting demands made upon them in their new groups. (Or, they may turn it around and make those demands upon others now).When they enter a romantic relationship, often it becomes a repeat of the relationship they saw between their parents, or a relationship in opposition to it. One way or the other, the original family remains the main reference point.
Conflicts, demands, unfulfilled needs must fundamentally be traced back to its origin in the family and resolved there. Sooner or later we must make peace with our family, as it was and as it wasn’t. Then we become able to create something healing and new.
Families Of Choice
When we have come to peace with our family, we are then able to “choose” those individuals and relationships, which we value and want in our lives. Although we cannot choose our original family, we can choose friends in our lives and choose to create a significant relationship that reflects who we are and what we’ve always wanted. We can create a new family now that fulfills our dreams and desires. This does not mean rejecting our original family, but learning from it, still giving to it, but, at the same time, going forward to create our lives as we wish them to be.