As you watch the family drama unfold before your eyes as an audience member viewing a performance such as “True West” written by Sam Shepard it is hard to not think about the characters in your own story.
The bonds of love, loyalty, and friendship run deep, especially within families. Most people would do anything for their family—a brother…a mother… siblings.. the familiar faces that are part of who you are. Your stores may have a similar beginning, yet your lived experiences are completely different, shaped by the things you value most. What do you value and what are you seeking? Is it love, success, acceptance, respect, connection, or approval? Perhaps it is a sense of safety and security in an uncertain world. What if you both wanted similar things without realizing it? It is amazing how family can be so inter-connected, so much alike but complete opposites. It is paradoxical—like completing truths.
It is hard to run away from the dysfunction that feels so familiar, so you play out that familiar role of survival while enjoying a few laughs along the way. You may not always feel emotionally or physically safe, especially when they are “not in their right mind”. Maybe it is the liquor bottle. Perhaps untreated mental illness. Likely a combination of both.
Family members (especially siblings) know how to push all the right buttons—they know your vulnerabilities and can test the limits to your breaking point. You feel like you are “walking on eggshells” so tiptoe as to not create disagreement. We know that conflict can provoke anger and hostility. You really don’t want to see what they are capable of, so you do your best to calm the chaos, to keep the family secrets swept under the rug. You feel alone and confused. All you really want is to find some relief but are afraid to seek help.
The roots of your family tree grow as deep as the family secrets—aspects of self that are kept hidden along with the generational trauma while living in a world impacted by collective trauma. Resentment builds. You said that you could never see yourself acting like them. But here you are sitting with competing emotions and coping strategies.. hatred and forgiveness, suffering and compassion. You are in a juxtaposition as you see your common humanity.
If some of the themes mentioned above relate to your own experience, Care Counseling has a team of trained clinicians who can work with you to understand yourself, your family history, and the challenges that you are facing. Whether you are seeking a place to process thoughts, feelings, and experiences or looking for skills to cope, CARE Counseling is here to help.
Specific areas that you may want to explore include the following:
- Personal struggles with feeling depressed or anxious and the impact that this has on daily living.
- Processing the impacts of generational and collective trauma.
- Coping with traumatic events such as violence, abuse, grief/ loss,
- Help coping with substance abuse impacting yourself or a loved one.
- Exploration topics such as boundaries and values.
- Support developing skills such as emotional regulation, effective communication, and conflict resolution.
- Exploration and acceptance of self, including gender and sexuality.
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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