The Rights of An Individual Within The Family System

I’m trying to think about how to write this post.

I want to write about family systems, their power dynamics, and imperfect structure. Well, I want to write about my own family and what I have and continue to learn about it within this context. But I am always hesitant to write about my family. I talk about it with my therapist and think about it sometimes, but I guess the idea of putting it down in words makes me feel like a traitor.

I am so lucky to have my family. Not a family; my family. It ain’t perfect, but duh. (Perfect. We really should eradicate that word and its’ meaning completely.) And even with its’ problems, the intention of my familial interactions and relationships are based on the ideals of love and support. Furthermore, I know I am still here today in large part because of my family, and have always known they would be there for me should I ever need it. And that in and of itself, is an amazing, unique, and rare thing.

I have avoided analyzing my family in past therapy because it felt selfish. But in doing so, I was helping to uphold my belief that even if an action hurts you, if the intention behind the action was positive, the onus is on you, not the one who caused the pain. After all, if they were not intending to hurt you, they can’t really be held accountable for how you choose to accept it.

I’ve applied that unhealthy philosophy to so many parts of my life. I have allowed others to hurt me because I was at fault in my interpretation of actions and/or my role in the relationship. I misunderstood; I was wrong in my subjective understanding. An example: I spent years feeling horrible that I did not like my father because I knew there were factors beyond his control that effected his behavior and actions that hurt me. (I just realized this is an example of a family dynamic, but I guess my dad is not only a part of my family system, our relationship is also a separate entity unto itself.)

But whether or not someone intends to hurt you, does not change or more importantly, does not invalidate the impact on you. Whether they had a bad childhood, or have a myriad of reasons for their unhealthy behavior – even if they don’t see it as unhealthy or wrong – does not negate its’ affect, whatever it may be.

I am not saying I am a complete victim in ineffective behavior. After all, I am complicit in allowing the behavior; in not setting boundaries; in not speaking up for myself. It is my responsibility to take care of myself, even if that does not fit within party lines. Furthermore, I am accountable for the consequences to the relationship due to my personal choices. But I am not selfish to do so. (It should be noted, however, that young children cannot be held responsible for their care, and their complicity is not at will.)

I believe all this to be true, but it still fills me with shame, guilt, and self-hate. Because even if I can acknowledge what I believe to be right and within my rights, the rules of the structure were ingrained in my initial value system, and attempting to change it feels like betrayal.

I’m not going to write about what I specifically have come to understand about my relationship with and within my family, or the most recent incident that triggered it. I think I’ll keep that to therapy. But I will say, like any relationship, there is incredible complexity in its’ structure and system. There is no black and white; right or wrong; victim and perpetrator. And that’s a good thing – because it allows for unconditional, true and authentic love and support. And it also allows for change.

(JT, JIC there is any confusion, know I love you more than words and always will.)




Processing Decisions Without Freezing Up


The current status of my brain


You know when you’re on your computer and you’ve asked it to do eight things at one time and you get that circle that just turns around and around. Your screen is frozen and the circle turns. A part of you knows it’s just processing all of the requests, but after a time you start to wonder: is the machine frozen? Do I have to reboot? Will it eventually process my requests? Or did I just fry the shit out of it?

That’s kind of like my brain now.

I can’t tell if I’m just processing an overwhelming amount of information, or if I’m frozen, waiting to have a breakdown from being overloaded with change and choice. Am I malfunctioning? Because unfortunately, you can’t ctrl+alt+del a human brain.

In fairness to myself, I have a shitload on my plate. Not all bad – just complicated. (And let me note that I’m incredibly aware and grateful that it’s not all bad.) I wasn’t naive as to think going to London would provide a clear future path, but I suppose I did think I would walk away with a clear feeling, a sense of direction. I assumed, based on my previous trips, that London would give me chills inside; would make me feel alive. After all: the accents, the metro, the cobblestone streets. What’s not to love?

The last time I travelled abroad I was in my 20’s. I was depressed, unstable, and self-medicated with alcohol the entire time. All of these things warped my vision. And when I travelled, I saw a place to escape from my demons. Just like going to college across the country, I kept thinking that if I found a new place, far from my geographic life,  I could redefine myself without my depression. The bitch of it is, you can’t escape your demons. Those fuckers will sneak their way into your luggage no matter how hard you zip that baby up.

And being there, fully aware that my challenges, fears, and weaknesses would still confront me, whether on the tube or the London Bridge, was both exhilarating and exhausting. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy London. But I saw the grey now, (and I’m not talking about the fog,) rather than the black and white my bipolar II provided in the past. This isn’t my Mecca anymore. Or maybe there isn’t just one (when working on myself).

Each situation felt different than before – not better or worse, but more engaging and thought-provoking. Was it relaxing? Not really. It was more of a “working vacation” spent attempting to find myself, to face my fears, and to confront my choices.

It was a complicated, thoughtful trip – something I was not expecting. But being self-aware brought a nuance to my time there and allowed me to see my new strengths and continued weaknesses inside myself that I have missed within my daily life here.

Vacation’s over. I’m getting over my jet-lag, getting back to my routines, and have decided to let the circle turn, giving my mind time to process the experiences I had. I’m trying not to freeze up – to understand that just because I don’t have the answers, that my mind is still disorganized and frenetic, doesn’t mean I’m malfunctioning. I just need to take a deep breathe and give myself some more time. Eventually the circle will go away, and the deeper work will begin.