“No matter who you are, you are part of a family filled with many dysfunctions and plenty of issues.”
The dog days of Summer normally mark the final family reunion cookout and gathering of the summer season. In all actuality, it is difficult to hold a family reunion when there is no union within the family. Along with the cookout, your gathering will probably experience fallout. No matter who you are, how old you are, how much money you have, where you live, or where you work, you are part of a family filled with many dysfunctions and plenty of issues. But don’t despair; you are not alone! The family you have always thought was perfect has been perpetrating perfection; in other words, living a fraud of perfection!
By Dr. Joyce Morley
Isn’t it amazing that just when your family gets together for food and fun, all hell seems to break loose? If family members aren’t verbally fighting, they are physically fighting or close to doing so. Love and forgiveness seem to be the exception, rather than the norm. Unfortunately, with the mixture of alcohol and hidden emotions about past atrocities, and other unresolved ‘stuff,’ the family cookout/gathering serves as the breeding ground and the main stage for telling each other off, cursing each other out, getting in each other’s face, pointing fingers, exposing secrets, and inviting family members to places none of you want to go yourselves. All of a sudden, you look around and your fun gathering with family becomes a time of mess filled with stress.
The cookout or other gathering tends to bring your simmering family issues to a boil. It seems that all of the negative things that you thought should not be said are amplified at the cookout. Everybody seems to become brazen and bold. But the reality is, for many family members, it seems easier to talk trash and act a fool when there is an audience. The family secrets that have been hidden away for years and sometimes decades are no longer secrets. Forget it…they become weapons! There is nothing like a secret-throwing family gathering. Love and forgiveness are out the door while blame and animosity take their place.
Your family matriarch (Maw Maw) and patriarch (Pawpaw) often sit helplessly as the mess is stretched like a giant rubber band, up, over, and around them. Unfortunately, it is Maw Maw and Pawpaw who have probably perpetuated a lot of the mess your family continues to experience. Even though you don’t want to blame your elders for many of your family ills, they most certainly contributed to them. There is no disrespect to them, but they are usually guilty culprits who have pretended that your family does not have any issues, and does not have secrets or ills. As a matter of fact, you probably watched them hold onto petty stuff surrounding other family members. They have carried unhealthy secrets like women carry babies. They have been so pregnant with the truth that at the first sign of dissension within your family, the secrets are born.
However, no matter what the situation or circumstance, it is time for you and your family to learn to love each other unconditionally, as you’ve never loved before. And if you all had love in the past, it is time for you all to learn to love gain, unconditionally. But you must remember, with love comes forgiveness.
And there is no problem with families having issues; all families have issues. There are NO perfect families! All families are dysfunctional. There is also no problem with your family holding secrets. However, when the secrets are toxic to your family, and to the growth, survival, and overall sustainability of individual family members, there is a grave problem!
Expecting individual family members, who are made different by the creator to coalesce with each other, without having issues, is like believing the sun won’t shine. Aside from the unhealthy secrets held by members of your family and used as weapons by many of them, another major issue contributing to family ills is your family members not allowing each to be him/herself.
Along with the aforementioned issues contributing to family ills and friction are issues of jealousy, insecurity, fear, and hatred that have been brewing for years. As the rocks and stones of hurtful words and disparaging looks are hurled at each other during your family gathering, all sense of reason and care for each other seem to dissipate. The expected cookout of gladness is now replaced with a fall-out of madness.
You must come to grips with the fact that your family’s blow up, blow out, or fall out at the cookout or other family engagement didn’t start there. This stuff has been harbored and brewing in the recesses of the minds and the hearts of the family members who ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ for quite some time. They begin to grandstand and are egged on by the audience of other family members and silent supporters in the room or outside at the cookout. But enough gets to be enough! It’s time for family members to begin the healing process by first admitting they have problems. They must be willing to confess their feelings, agree to work together in order to stop the mess, and pull out all stops to eliminate the stress!
However, if your family is not willing to step up to the plate to stop the madness and finally deal with their issues, YOU have to be the bigger person and get the ball rolling! Someone has to do it; and who is better than you?! You will become the first model for your family in showing love and forgiveness. Unfortunately, if some members decide to continue the mess, it means that there will be several family members less at the next gathering!
Steps to healing your family ills with love & forgiveness:
1. Admit that the family has problems.
2. Each family member lists their concerns about other family members; why you carry angst when dealing with them.
3. Stop playing the blame game.
4. Look at the thumb pointing back at you instead of the finger pointing at your family members.
5. Accept individual and family imperfections and difference.
6. Uncover family secrets by talking about them in a private setting and not during gatherings. Remember, skeletons will eventually rattle if meat is not placed on them. Finally, remove the skeletons in each of your closets one by one.
7. Confront your fears and family fears of healthiness and wholeness as a family.
8. Use your “I” messages to give feedback to family members.
9. Learn to speak in the positive instead of the negative; see the glass as half full instead of half empty when dealing with family members. Learn to see and focus on the good in them, instead of the bad about them.
10. Practice saying ‘I love you’ to your family members and mean it!
11. Practice using positive and healthy touches, such as hugs and pats on the back.
12. Make up your mind to love, forgive, and release the family members you are troubled by or with.
13. For each of the issues you listed in number two above, list what it will take for you to forgive the family member who has crossed you. And if you need to be forgiven, list what and how much you are willing to do in order to be forgiven.
14. If you and your family have difficulty confronting and managing your issues, Bring in a professional to help you all to engage in a family intervention.
You and your family will never be totally free to just be, until you learn to love each other and forgive each other…UNCONDITIONALLY! I know YOU can do it!
Dr. Joyce is MarryBlack.com’s Chief Relationship Officer
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