1halffull's Blog

Familial Reconnection: Yes it is possible
November 30, 2011, 2:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I was in college – all three times – I studied both psychology and sociology/social work.  In case you don’t know what those are – both study people.  Psychology is more about mental states and emotions.  Sociology/social work is more about people and their culture and how they function in various situations.  Both studies are very much intertwined because people don’t function just as a thought or emotion, but in relation to their culture, nature and nurture.

Which brings us to families and how we relate.

I learned a long time ago that it is not uncommon for adults, when they get back together within their traditional family of origin, to revert back to the position they held in that family while growing up.  If you were the agitator between the ages of birth and 18, you will most likely still be one now at the family gatherings.  If you were the bully, you may try to reenact that behavior as well.  If you were the whiner, the crier, the helper – whatever role you assumed as a kid, it shouldn’t surprise you to look in the mirror the second day of Christmas vacation with your siblings and see that same person staring back at you.  SURPRISE!

For a really long time, I thought that theory made sense, even if it did seem a bit immature.  But recently I’ve gotten a bit of a different view of the subject.

While there are many families whose siblings seem to stay relatively close, making the return to roles obviously about resuming the family of origin’s initial traits, there are also the families where the members grow apart – sometimes far apart – for any number of reasons.  For some, obstacles of personality, jealousy, addictions or disinterest got in the way of the relationship.  For others, they built invisible walls as a means of emotional protection.

The question is:  how do two (or more) such people reconnect?

With no current affiliation or context by which to relate, sibs may be left with only one thing to draw on – the past.  This can be a good place to start, but only if you’re reaching into the hat that held all of the ‘good’ stuff.  You’re not going to encourage a relationship by bringing up the embarrassing things that were done in the foolishness of youth!  Most of us want that stuff to be left where it belongs – in the past, under a rock, at the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean.

Reaching, rather, for the recollection of the happy times that you shared with your sibling could be a better way to start.  Vacations, playing in the neighborhood with friends, watching that really scary movie – 100 times.  Remember the supportive moments between you when one or the other got punished for something.  Pull out the things that used to make you both laugh, especially antics that bound you together against the common enemy:  the parents!

If some interest is shown in these shared good memories, you might then venture on to clearing away the cobwebs by carefully exploring what caused the separation.  Speak kindly; really hear the other person’s point of view and ask them to hear yours.  Find a common ground.

If damage has been done, forgiveness needs to step up to the plate and be given and received.  Grudges have no place in a healing relationship nor do feelings of superiority.  We’re all fallible; we all fall down.  It’s in the getting back up again that we find our courage to plunge forward.

No, I’m not Pollyanna – although that is one of my favorite movies.  I do realize that sometimes the most we can hope for is just to make the best of being in the same room with the other person.  In real life, we don’t necessarily like everyone we meet, including family members.  In spite of that, hopefully, we can find a way to love them enough to treat them with care.

I hope in this season that throws family members together, you’ll take time to reach into your memory hat for the spark that just might rekindle a relationship that was once important to you.  Someday, it may be all you have left.