Having given birth to three beautiful, healthy baby girls and as the mother of a wonderful stepson, I can truly appreciate the concept of celebrating birthdays. The actual birth day is a wonderful celebration of life, miracles, and love. Each year through the concept of birthdays, we celebrate the gift of a person’s birth and their presence on this earth.
Well, at least that’s the best case scenario…
I am writing this post on my twin brothers’ birthday. My brother Stephen would have been 35 had he lived. My other brother Jonathan is 35, but due to unresolved issues of anger with me that can trace back to our family of origin, he has decided to withdraw from me (and my twin) so I don’t have the pleasure of wishing him a happy birthday except through my thoughts. I hope he has had a wonderful day. I wrote before on this blog about my family of origin and how their modus operandi, like many families, is to attack then withdraw or emotionally cut off someone.
As I’ve grown and changed, the old dynamic still remains the same–dysfunctional–but I can see the dysfunction.
As you grow healthier psychologically, you no longer wish to take part in dysfunction.
I am no longer willing to accept behavior from others that diminishes me. And oh boy, this has created an extended version of withdrawal because I don’t think they know how to handle this aspect of my growth. I have also made it known that I am available to them at any point they are willing to reach out so we can work through this. I’m still waiting a year later, but I hold out hope that they will at some point value our relationship enough to talk about how we can heal and move on. My process, as I found out in my studies, is akin to what Murray Bowen calls differentiation.
So, another birthday goes down in our family’s history without certain family members speaking to one another. Actually, it’s mainly me that they’re not speaking to. I want to honor where each person is in this moment, and know that if they knew how to do better, they would. Having just finished up a class in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) on assessments, I know that if we were to view a genogram for our family, we would see a pattern of tragic loss, which for me begs the question:
“C’mon people, why incur more loss? Wouldn’t it be better to work out your issues instead of distancing yourself from them?”
From a psychological standpoint, my family is unconsciously recreating a pattern of loss with the living members. By the way, the genogram is also interesting when used with parental alienation. On my stepson’s genogram, there is a historical pattern of the males being cut out of their children’s lives for various reasons when their children are early adolescents. Genograms can be an enlightening assessment of a family’s patterns. I’m adding them to my counseling practice so that clients can experience a visual representation of their family’s history and patterns throughout generations.
My family of origin has provided me with rich material for my studies of MFT. I believe I am a better counselor and person because of this. I understand what Murray Bowen calls differentiation, emotional cut off, the family projection process, and triangles. I’ve lived these concepts. I unfortunately understand what PA is, why it can develop, when it does, how it feels, etc. And then there’s my first failed marriage–the failure of which did not develop overnight–I married a person who provided me with significant life lessons and an opportunity to heal from years of childhood hurt, neglect, abuse, loss, and abandonment. I married in many ways, a representation of my father. I hadn’t worked out the unconscious issues with my father so I recreated some of them with my ex. Boy, our unconsciouses are genius! These gifts, these sometimes incredibly painful times in my life in which I faced either defeat or an opportunity to redefine myself and align with my soul–these are what make me and countless others invaluable sources of healing for others. If I can work through and triumph over significant challenges in my life, you certainly can too!
But I digress…And if you know me by now, you’ll know that this is common.
Birthdays are a time for celebration–just the fact that you are alive is a miracle!
Even though my brother is not communicating with me, I wish him the best. I harbor no ill feelings. I am compassionate about his experience. I know he’s doing his best to handle his own feelings of pain and loss. He’s been through the nasty divorce of my parents, the death of his twin brother, two divorces, parental alienation–he’s been through a lot. And I know that with time and some good support, I hope he too will heal from his wounds. Maybe it’s presumptuous to imply he hasn’t healed, but I look at his behavior of cutting me off as an indication that he isn’t there. There’s nothing “good” or “bad” about being wounded and then cutting yourself off, but when it affects the relationships with your loved ones, then it is a chance to see whether your wounds are enhancing your life or detracting from it. I already know what he’s going through isn’t about me, but about what’s going on for him. Regardless, I honor his process. I know I’ve been in pain before and acted it out. But I’ve been through years of therapy. I’m in a MFT program. I’m married to the healthiest–psychologically and emotionally–person I know. Day in and day out I grow in new and expansive ways. He hasn’t had these opportunities. He is on his own path of growth and discovery. And I support him.
Happy birthday, Bro. I love you. And happy birthday Steve–my advocate on the Other Side.