The Comfort of Chaos
Each of us has places in our lives where we draw back from the demands of change into the comfort of our current circumstances. It’s a case of the old car or the old shoes. We’ve long since grown past the place where the old approach to doing things was beneficial or even serviceable, but we’re set in our ways and we keep doing the same old things in the same old ways and at the same old times and with the same old triggers. Somehow, our unconscious mind has concluded that what we really want or really need under the present conditions is to keep everything going just as it is. When family members bring home a partner that isn’t accepted, it’s often simply the case that they don’t vibrate to the same dysfunctional frequency.
Maybe they’re loud and jovial in the name of being authentic. That’s a strategy that they developed to cope with having many siblings and seldom being heard. They teased each other in the name of family bonding, because there is stuff that you simply cannot say to several older brothers and a very assertive mom without asking for a whole lot of trouble. But they’re coming into a family where the yelling meant that mom was going to pack her suitcase again and go stay with grandma for the weekend. That meant that the kids had to go too and were going to miss sleeping in their own bed. All of his happened when dad met up with his buddies at the bar mid-week and came home later than he said he would. So yelling meant Big Trouble and everyone avoided it. Because if mom started yelling, it meant that things were going to get bad, fast.
Each family had different reactions to their difficulties and made decisions about how to navigate their circumstances without conscious engagement. Once these patterns become set, shifting them can feel terrifying. Contrast the two perspectives that follow. The partner being brought home might have some not-quite-conscious conclusions about how the world works. That’s the way that it’s always been. We’ve always been a noisy group. People who are quiet are holding something back. And whatever it is, they’re not going to get it without speaking up. Honestly, they’re wimps. Loud is good! It’s fine. As long as you’re not mean. The partner bringing this very expressive and seemingly assertive person home might have some thoughts of their own that are not-quite-conscious about how the world works. They’re drawn to the openness that they feel with their new partner, sure. But how does that fit in with their family’s culture? It’s good to be open, but I’d hate for things to get heated. Keeping everything on the smooth side keeps everyone happy. And safe! Sleeping in my own bed, hanging out in my own space- all of that. When someone yells, people pack up and they go away. They’re usually mad and they aren’t coming back for more anytime soon. It all starts with getting rowdy and it all goes to hell when someone gets their feelings hurt. Quiet is where it’s safe.
Now, to complicate things, when these two cultures mix, any one of a spectrum of reactions is possible. The two partners may mesh fairly well, but the families may be uncomfortable. Or everyone may navigate their way forward for a few family get togethers before a blow-up and a break-up occur. The break could be between the partners. Or one partner and their opposing family. Or one partner and their own family. Or both partners could cling together and both families find themselves on the outside.
Whenever there’s energy in the space that’s left over from old, unresolved issues, it can become triggered. Stress heats this leftover energy into a point of discomfort or of psychic pain and one or more members of the family system react. They may act to restore the normal way of doing things in the family, going with what feels familiar, comfortable and caring. They may act to incorporate the new element by trying to insist on conformity with their own values. Or a host of other options. We tie moral values to what we’re familiar with. “Good families do things the way that we do…”. Or, more likely, “this is just the way that things have to be in order to keep on going…”.
The challenge that most of us face is that our internal systems are already mapped by the time we are old enough to consider doing things differently. Even when we oppose some of the values and traditions held by our birth family, we’re still incorporating the energy of that original pattern or way of being into our psyche, as something that must be resisted. What we want to do instead is to transcend the original imprint of our early formation in our original family system through the medium of a consistently engaged conscious mind. Before we can dispense with the influence of the past as sole arbiter of our current choices, we must first address it, assess its impacts, deconstruct it and integrate any outstanding points of pain that present themselves as places that need protection when stress is high. And bringing a partner home, as in our example above, reveals the way that our families have mapped our mindset.
When you find yourself in any situation that taxes you to the point of pain, it’s an opportunity to see your own mindset in operation. Or- you can get out ahead of the next challenge by doing some work on your mindset now. Call one of our compassionate, caring coaches for a free consultation. We’re here to help.