ON THE SOFA: Family; Friends or Foe?

If your parents were not your parents, would you have wanted to know them? If your siblings were not your siblings, would they have been your friends? Let’s take this further, if your kids were not your kids, would you care for them? Does the affection we have for our family go beyond blood ties?

For some, functional family life serves as a good model on how to set up functional society. When father and mother (or parents) are in agreement about how their family is supposed to function and pursue that with duty, passion and consistency it serves as model for their offspring to repeat and support the stratus of society they exist within. However, this comes with certain presuppositions. Parents must love each other enough maintain such consistency or be consistent enough to garner the respect for each other, which harbors a decent amount of love. Parents must also be in able to provide for their offspring the fundamental needs of nutrition, affection, clothing, shelter – one might add education (secular and spiritual). Offspring must be positively receptive to the efforts of the parents and ideally are inspired to repeat this pattern or improve on it when they are in position to do so. Offspring, if more than one, are to trust and love each other as siblings working as teammates. They will take a backseat to the parents who drive the car to a certain point in the journey where both parties will then switch seats and the siblings will be responsible for the parents till the parents are then resigned to nature’s process. If each family in society were to do this, we would be able to observe peace, order and productivity. Supposedly.

However, how many of us come from families where this occurred in perfect order? How many of us come from situations in which there is little to no fracture to the functional model proposed above? As much as I am quite enamored by such a model and hope to build that someday, I am also quite aware I do not come from a perfect model. How many people out there have had to grow up with parents who did not get along? And had to grow up exposed to abuse, spousal infidelity, one parent (or both) mentally unstable and most likely divorce? How about parents who never lived in the same household and did not share the same vision of family? How many have grown up with a single parent out of wedlock or sadly, widowing? These are just some out of many examples of fracture at the parental level, which may complicate the guidance process for the next generation if we are working with the model of family as the basis of societal structure.

Studies have shown the societal peril that lingers in the aftermath of such fracture. Several people struggle with traumas that result in depression, addiction, compulsive behaviors and on the transgressive side, psychopathy, violent behavior and narcissistic imbalance. We see behaviors that could have tempered into moderation by stability explode into public dysfunction as we then affect people outside of our immediate family circle. There becomes a negative impact on our surrounding society and interpersonal relationships where people are less obligated to tolerate our fracture (while ignoring theirs) and therefore predisposed to using what society affords as their measure of redress. Unfortunately, sometimes what they are best able to do is also just within symptom of their fracture and thus woe betides all.

Now we each inherit the blessings and ills of the generations before us. Generations that were more like prone to influence us than we could influence them. So how does one begin to address such fracture?

Is it the job of society to addressed fractured families or families to prevent a fractured society? The reasonable answer is both; but the nuanced perspective asks which one deserves more focus at this time; which one deserves more focus in my life – your life?

In western society today, we are seeing a rise in narcissistic disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and many other emotional imbalances brought on by fractured support systems. With loneliness is on the rise, how does a society of fractured families come to the rescue? Are we ready to be better stewards of ourselves? Are we able to be? At what point does the buck stop?

So as you look within today at your imperfect family situation, what decision are you making? Has your family broken you or have you broken it? Do you feel they owe you healing or have you asked for forgiveness? Have you forgiven yourself? If you are indifferent to these questions, I have to break it to you; you are at risk of either hurting someone unknowingly or being hurt by someone else. Whether hurting or healed we have to participate in our lives and most often than not our emotional availability is highly dependent on the weight of our burden or in some cases the magnitude of our grace.

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