FAMILY SEPARATION AND ANGER
By Cie Ann Scott Ph.D.
Active ImageThey say you can’t pick your family. We can however, choose our actions and words.
one event doesn’t cause a family feud. The stage has been set by a series of past events and
Family feuds arise when the tension that accompanies unresolved conflicts continues to mount,
resulting in a volcano feeling. This emotional intensity is so strong that it’s palpable, and often
causes a reaction or multiple reactions. With such a strong feeling of incompleteness comes an
urgent need to bring hidden issues to a climax.
When small clashes don’t get resolved, and resentments become stronger and more
entrenched, the people involved are left with deep emotional wounds. This causes suspended
tension. This hurt has the potential to erupt any time, under any circumstance. Communication is
often severed, or there is an endless stream of malicious innuendos.
Spouses fight for innumerable reasons. Fights can be healthy, because when they are resolved,
there is a better understanding of one another. It also helps to establish a sense of
independence and respect for the dignity and integrity of both partners. Feuding is not healthy.
Where fighting leads to some sort of resolution, feuding leads to more divisiveness and
Childhood is often the breeding ground for individual anxieties. Behavioral patterns begin there.
Many little irritations are the beginnings of what later can become a family feud. In order to break
through "stuckness", one can create diagrams of the family relationships, write histories of all
that is known, and look for past patterns that repeat themselves. Understanding the family’s
emotional history makes it possible for one to feel some measure of compassion and begin to
melt the ice.
Family discord can be dissolved, (usually) with these three questions:
What was going on in your family when you were born?
What was going on in your family when the rift between family members began?
In exploring your family’s past, what patterns seem to echo from one generation to the next that
might unwittingly be affecting your feelings about your relationship/family member?
These things are often all that need to be considered to heal family wounds.
A seemingly irresolvable situation seems to imply to the person with the emotional wounds that
he or she has no purpose in life. Sometimes the emotional impact of a tragedy is life- altering.
We can be changed deeply, in ways that are likely to affect the rest of our lives.
Traumatic events, usually involving loss, don't always come in the form of death. Losses that
qualify may include loss of a sense of well-being, a loss of a feeling of safety, a loss of
innocence, or a loss of trust in others.
Anniversaries of these traumatic events just give another reason to relive and suffer again over
the same thing. Many people have no idea that this anniversary is affecting them.
The feelings associated with the loss become disconnected from the actual memory of the event.
Nevertheless, people end up having the same feelings they would have had if they consciously
Sexual molestation is commonly fought off in memory unconsciously by enlisting a multitude of
creative strategies. one of these strategies will orchestrate one’s adult life to resemble the life o
ne had as a child. A parent might place his child in the same situation in order to subconsciously
resolve the issues of his past. As these parents struggle to repair their own history, they watch
their child play out the painful drama.
The effect of family myths on family dynamics creates other unhealthy dimensions. A myth is an
unconscious conspiratorial story, shared by family members and usually passed down from one
generation to the next. Given that family members are often so different from one another, and
that each family member typically has his or her own view of "the truth" about the family, myths are
remarkable things. A myth is such a strong, pervasive story that for the most part actually
transcends individual family members’ points of view.
A myth is an illusion, more like a movie than reality. A myth is like a film portrayal of a family,
scripted well in advance and projected on a screen for the family to see and hopefully believe.
Some family members may buy into the myth, while others may reject it.
Myths exist in families usually as a protective device, as a way of keeping family members safe
from a perceived threat. In families in which myths are pervasive, certain family members may
end up feeling disillusioned. It brings about a mystification which is more than just a feeling of
confusion; it's a feeling of even being confused about being confused. This feeling of being
mystified occurs because the family member knows and experiences one thing while he or she
is being told another.
The family members conspire to perpetuate the myth, and the result is that the particular child or
children who experience the opposite are being told essentially that they are crazy. Children get
frightened of the danger and are told that they are safe, when truly something (such as an
alcoholic father) is not safe. A child in such a family faces a dilemma. Which reality is real? They
must choose between the one they can see and hear and the one they are told is true. Wanting
and needing to believe his parents, the child doubts his ability to perceive reality, and is left not
trusting his own perceptions. This child moves forward in the world with a feeling of self doubt.
Living in a state of unreality and confusion, he is unable to solve the mysteries of the world. The
child often stays in a strange sort of limbo, living in a puzzle that's cannot be solved. This mystified
state often leads to deep insecurity.
Family secrets affect the relationship of the members of the family. Secrets are not uncommon in
families. Most families have secrets.
Because the chief purpose of families is to raise children, secrets are not a positive experience.
Children need trust and secrets really create quite the opposite. Secrets tell us that there isn’t
enough trust to share the information. Trust itself depends on openness. People like to think
what they see is what they get. Hidden stories and facts are kept in order to protect a child from
troubling information, ironically can result in damaging that child’s sense of trust and safety.
Family feuds increase secrets, which of course, increases fighting. The openness policy, when
practiced judiciously, is one of the best insurance policies against family feuds.
At certain events, families have unrealistic expectations as to how they will interact with each
other. The families or members may be judging their family like families on TV or in movies.
There is a happy ending in these Christmas stories or lovers’ type Valentine’s episodes.
The media presents ways to have so much love, and often this doesn’t apply. Some members of
the family will not prescribe to it. This assures that the other ‘softies’ will be disappointed, and
issue more blame on the tough ones. Holidays bring back memories of the family together.
Naturally, at happy events like weddings, birthdays, and bat and bar mitzvahs people expect to
succeed at conciliatory confrontations. These times, and funerals as well, are good times for
these confrontations. People, however are unpredictable.
Solving family problems can also be thought of as selfish during a special event. It may steal the
spotlight from the person or people being honored on that day.
Disarming Family Feuds
When implementing a plan of reconciliation, show up in the correct frame of mind. Don’t be
attached to the outcome. Accept the possibility that nothing will improve before the start. Secondly,
admit your part in the drama or how you contributed to the problem. Do not place blame, but
instead invite the possibility that things can progress in a positive manner between family
members. Approach by aiming to create a win-win situation. Don’t ask for the impossible, but try
to promote open-mindedness and healing.