over the last few days, the emotional tension, build up and crisis of the general election, and subsequent fall-out and recriminations, exultation or despair, have been mirrored by a similar relationship crisis in my own extended family. all now tidied away and resolved more or less satisfactorily (I’m only talking about my family, here.) but am feeling ragged and exhausted from both scenarios and in need of a little reflection to help me see the family bust-up in perspective.
as you do (or certainly as I do, anyway) I had escaped the whirlwind for a few moments to collect a child from an afterschool activity and was sitting in the car, humbly praying to the great god Google on my iphone. I think I’d Googled something like ‘dealing with dysfunctional families’ and came up with this great article by Martha Beck, entitled ‘Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional Families’. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it before – it’s one of the articles setting out the joys of dysfunctional family bingo that often make the rounds at Christmas time.
and she has some great advice in it, so well worth bookmarking for next Christmas 😉
but the line that really struck me was her quote from the comedian Abby Sher:
God, grant me the ability to change the things I cannot accept.
ha ha ha. lordy lordy I try to do that ALL THE TIME.
and then I noticed these paragraphs in Martha’s article:
‘Any attempt you make to control other people actually puts you under their control. If you decide you can’t be happy until your mother finally understands you, her dysfunction will rule your life. You could spend the next 20 years trying to please her so much that she’d just have to accept you—and she still might not. Or you could hold her at gunpoint and threaten her into saying the words you want to hear, but you’ll never control her real thoughts and feelings. Never.
The only way you can avoid getting stuck in other people’s craziness is to follow codependency author Melody Beattie’s counterintuitive advice: “Unhook from their systems by refusing to try to control them.” Don’t violate your own code of values and ethics, but don’t waste energy trying to make other people violate theirs. If soul-searching has shown you that your mother’s opinions are wrong for you—as are your grandfather’s bigotry, your sister’s new religion, and your cousin’s alcoholism—hold that truth in your heart, whether or not your family members validate it. Feel what you feel, know what you know, and set your relatives free to do the same.’
and not only did that seem to be written SPECIFICALLY FOR ME, but the name of the author referred to sounded familiar. went on a rummage… and yes, that book lent to me by my therapist, with a casual, “you might find this useful, see what you think” which I have carefully kept in my office drawer unread for the last three months… ahem, it is Melody Beattie’s ‘Co-dependent no more’. am almost afraid to open it… has anyone read it and found it valuable?
one thing I would like to remind myself of is that over the last few days although it has been gruelling, I have been pretty much on an even keel and I think that has transferred itself to those around me.
is it possible that emotional sobriety is contagious?
not saying that I am there yet, by any means, but there is a definite clarity and groundedness in my life which is increasing every day. a willingness to look behind my own immediate emotional reaction to a situation and to wait until I can form a usually more positive and helpful response. and just by doing that I am taking one potential source of emotional conflagration out of a scenario, which means that the forest fire can be contained and managed rather than raging out of control…
there is a plant with various names, that I know by its common English name of rosebay willowherb. according to Wikipedia, it was once rare in the UK and its proliferation in the English countryside came with the Victorian expansion of the railway network. it colonises empty spaces after forest fires and also in the bomb craters of London after the Blitz – hence its other names of fireweed and bombweed. the seeds remain viable in the soil seed bank for many years; when a new fire or other disturbance occurs that opens up the ground to light again, the seeds germinate.
I am hoping for flowers again soon after these personal and national disturbances. wishing you all a blooming beautiful weekend! Prim xx