family ties

An excerpt from Dr. Ronald W. Richardson’s book, Family Ties That Bind

A family is not just a collection of individuals who simply “do their own thing”. A family is more than the sum total of the persons in it, just as one hand is more than the sum total of five fingers and a palm. Each finger on the hand develops its own “personality” in relation to the rest of the hand. If one finger is lost, the whole hand is affected and can no longer function as it has; each finger has to adjust to that loss and learn some new functions.

Families are the same way, but a lot more complicated than fingers. Each family member develops a unique personality, but not in a vacuum. Your personality developed in relation and response to the other personalities in your family. And all of their personalities developed and changed in response to yours. Every member of a family, whether it’s mother in the same room or great-uncle Henry who ran away to Australia 30 years ago, affects every other family member in some way. Nothing happens in isolation in a family. If one member gets sick, the others are affected and adjust to it in some way. Then the sick member adjusts to their changes, which brings about further change. It can go on and on, like a hanging mobile (the type that hangs over babies crib) being blown and shifted by the wind. Every time one part of a mobile adds or loses weight, or moves toward or away from the centre of gravity, all the parts hang off balance until the changed parts returns to it’s original place or the other parts adjust themselves.

The way individuals balance themselves or create an imbalance in their family determines the general health and happiness of all the family members. The balancing and counterbalancing of our families of origin affects us our entire lives, even if we never have any contact with family members after adolescence. Next to our biology drives, it is the single most powerful influence on us. No one escapes it’s impact.

When two people get married, we tend to think of their relationship as a separate entity. Their happiness and problems in living together seem to be purely a product of their own personalities and entirely up to them. However, reality is much different. Any marriage is merely a link-up of two mobiles. It may not sound very romantic, but they are who they are as a result of their experiences in their families. The married couples self-expectations and expectations about each others behaviour come out of their family experiences. Their marriage is more than two people coming together. it is two family mobiles bumping into each other.

For example, the wife says, “He’s a spendthrift. Money burns a hole in his pocket.” While she says she wants to put more money into a savings account, he says, “She is too tight with money and unable to enjoy it. What’s the point of having it if you can’t enjoy it?”

These attitudes they have toward money, and spending and saving it, were shaped in their own families of origin. They may be the same as or the opposite to our parents, but their attitudes developed in response to their parents ideas about money. The wife’s parents barely made it through the great depression and emphasised the necessity of saving and their daughter decided they were right. The husband’s parents story is similar, but placed more restrictions on his spending, calling him irresponsible regardless of how much he spent. Now when the issue of his spending is raised he finds it revives the battles he had with Mum and Dad. He sees statements about money through the filter of his own family, his wife does the same thing.

What are some of the conflicts you have in your present intimate relationships that trouble you?

Are you able to trace any of your reactions to experiences or conflicts in your family of origin?

If you have any further queries on this matter, feel free to contact me (see contact above) or grab a copy of the book it is a treasure trove of helpful information.