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The family’s relationship style is a dominant force that lurks in the shadows and backgrounds of every relationship. Families and individuals have a general style and way of relating to each other. Each family passes its relationship style to the next generation. For most, these relationship styles continue throughout adulthood.
What type of family do you come from, moreover, what kind of family are you creating? Good, bad or indifferent, they are family. Our family type gives us the template we use to connect with and communicate with the others. Some skills are beneficial while others are detrimental. Family traditions, holidays, and crises provide the best measure to determine your type of family. As stated previously, functional families look similar. It is crises and anxiety events that mark and identify a family’s coping and survival skills.
The pack family is an example of a family functioning at its best even with the threat of a crisis. This is why many families will look like a pack when they are not in crisis management mode. It is also why many families aspire to the virtues of a pack. Fortunately, families change and mature as they cycle through different developmental milestones. The arrival of children, toddler years, school-age years, teenage years, the launching of children, back to being a couple, and finally, the visits of grandchildren are just a few milestones to name.
Getting It Right
Successful families and individuals adjust and change with each successful crises and family life cycle. They mature, cope, and grow with the different developmental stages. Those individuals aspire to recreate a better family than their family of choice. Without self-awareness, hard work, and forgiveness, we can only advance as far as our family of origin. It’s important to note that we cannot create a pack within our family of origin if one does not already exist. We can only create a pack within our family of choice, the family in which we lead and have a direct influence.
I believe every family can become a pack and function as a pack. However, some families get stuck in a cycle or become comfortable with their current ways of coping and problem-solving. They fail to evolve and mature to the next level, the pack level. They subsequently, pass on their impairments and dysfunctions to the next generation. The upcoming generation launches from an impaired level with unfinished family business from previous generations. Therefore we must sometimes emotionally return home to mature and grow to the next stage.
It is imperative that we forgive the previous generation. In other words, we must accept our family without shame, guilt, or regret. It is that forgiveness that changes our paradigm allowing us to move on to the next level of interdependence without impairments. We must deal with dependence and independence issues before we are capable of interdependence. We must fully develop a sense of self before we can create a sense of family.
“I’m free to be myself and enjoy being around my family,” Pack member.
Understanding the pack requires a paradigm shift. Pack members are neither dependent nor independent of each other. They are interdependent and have a collaborative mentality hence each member is just as valuable as the family system.
In the wild, the pack is in a category all by itself. The pack has legitimate leaders with clear lines of authority with a pecking order. Leadership is questioned from time to time but is respected once established. The family reinforces social norms and rules through order and discipline among the ranks. Although the packs encourage members to be creative and adventurous, every member has a responsibility and role to support the family.
Individuality does not threaten the identity of the pack because the relationship bonds of these families are secure. The pack values every member. Members have a strong sense of trust and loyalty. They value relationships and tend to develop stable relationships with each other. In addition, they recognize how they are separate but connected. The relationships are interconnected and interdependent. Therefore, differences are celebrated and viewed as strengths. These families are flexible and adjust easily when needed.
Packs are emotionally and intellectually interdependent. “We” is just as important as “me.” They are comfortable with themselves and tend to manage anxiety well. They cope well with emotional distance and closeness without becoming overly anxious and nervous. The relationship is responsive rather than reactionary. Since conflicts do not threaten the relationship, they provide opportunities to define their position and self. additionally, members are competitive but not at the expense of others. They operate from an abundance mentality and do not compete for resources. Consequently, the members tend to be good problem solvers and seek win/win solutions.
Be sure to check out the conclusion in the next edition.
Check out more of Dr. Dave’s work.
“The closer I am to my family, the less I feel like an individual,” The Herd.
The Herd Family
The herd family is highly emotional and reactionary. They huddle and cluster together when anxious. If one member becomes anxious, the whole herd becomes anxious. They are very reactionary and blindly follow each other even if the others are wrong. Being alone is far worse than wrong. Togetherness and traditions are very important. Individuality and differences are discouraged as it threatens the family’s identity.
In the wild, the herd’s survival is dependent on everyone looking and acting alike. They are anxiety driven and reactionary. If one member is spooked, they are all run and ask questions later. “Why are we running?” “I don’t know. Why were you running?” “I was running because you were running.” In the end, no one knows why they are running. This is how stampedes are started. Humans are the same with emotional stampedes. Gossip and rumors run ramped as there are no secrets within the herd.
If you have a conflict with one a herdsman, be prepared to face the whole family. If the herd perceives itself stronger than the threat, outsiders need to beware. The herd will close ranks to protect its own. However, the herd does have a strong survival instinct. Members recognize that they are safe from predators so long as they can outrun the weakest and slowest members. The rebellious or “different” members (different in the sense of being an individual) are easily picked off.
Herdsmen tend to develop fearful-attachment relationship types. That is, they have a fear of abandonment. These individuals need constant
contact and reassurances and become nervous with emotional distance. Herdsmen are very sensitive to emotional changes within the system and are keen at reading others. When upset, they need others to “talk it out.” Outsiders may view them as clingy and smothering. Herd members are emotionally dependent on each other and hold others responsible for their emotional security and wellbeing.
To be heard in these families, members talk loud and fast. Some members complain of no privacy. The bonds of these relationships are enmeshed and intertwined. The boundaries are often weak and inconsistent. It is difficult for members to define their self as they do not understand where they end and others begin.
Members play a reluctant role within the herd. Sometimes the emotional intensity of the herd is too great and specific roles develope to help cope and remain connected with the others. Or, they attempt to escape by withdrawing. When withdrawing is not a viable option, these members may explode away by creating a conflict or rebelling against the family. Other members become the lightning rod for trouble, the black sheep of the family or the butt of every joke. Some manage to become the favorite or the golden child who can do no wrong. The peacemaker, the lost child, nevertheless, each member has a role to fulfill. When one member leaves, another emerges to take their place. The herd needs its cast of players to reduce or cope with the emotional tension within the family.
Herdsmen loyalties are ambivalent and reluctant at best. The herd puts down individuality and growth with sabotage. Members are pressured, threatened or bullied into compliance and put back in place. Guilt is often the weapon of choice. “Who do you think you are?” Or “how dare you think you’re better than the rest of us.” Herdsmen tend to be very competitive and have a win-lose mentality. Within the herd, it’s all about “me” and survival.
The final family type, The Pack, is coming soon.
Check out more of Dr. Dave’s work.
“I left home at 17 and haven’t been back since,” the Solitary Hermit.
Solitary hermit families are loners and withdrawn. Their motto is “every man for his self.” Independence and individuality are promoted and is more critical than togetherness. Members tend to be logical and react to emotions with distance. Solitary hermits tend to develop avoidant relationship styles. Avoidant relationships seek emotional distance to regain a sense of self and reduce anxiety. Rigid boundaries are often put in place to protect and keep others from getting too emotionally close. There are little communication and trust of others. Respect is the codeword for love which is far less threatening. Their loyalties are to their selves.
In the wild, solitary hermits tolerate others to procreate. They prefer to be alone, or in a small group, however, they will assemble if food and prey are plentiful. Sometimes, members are kicked out or chased away. They are very patient, quiet, and don’t mind being alone.
In relationships, solitary hermits become anxious when others are too close and tend to withdraw when stressed. When confronted, they become aggressive or merely walk away. They are easy-going until they are backed into a corner, then they tend to become aggressive. They emotionally explode to create distance. Rather than work through emotional hurt and pain, solitary hunters will emotionally cut off family members. It’s not uncommon for these members to hold and nurse a grudge for years.
Members have a no-deal mentality and simply withdraw rather than work out their problems and conflicts. They fear conflict but will use it to push others away. They mask their insecurities and present themselves as decisive, independent, and confident. Others may perceive them as emotionally cold and disconnected. Members are emotionally and intellectually independent of each other.
Be sure to check out Part Three, The Herd; coming soon.
Check out more of Dr. Dave’s work.
The Colony motto is “That’s the way we’ve always done it, and that’s just the way it is.”
Colony families are task oriented and mission-driven. Achievements are significant. Many families start with the intent to be a colony. They try to be well organized, following rules and schedules to create the perfect family. When anxious, the colony relies on the basics, muscle-memory, and standard operating procedures.
They rarely question or challenge authority; unless it’s in violation of policy. These members need regulations and policies to feel safe and secure. They like to know the rules and boundaries up front. Their boundaries are often rigid. Members enjoy and usually stick to a routine and are bound by tradition. Change is challenging for the colony.
In the wild, the colony is loyal itself as its members are expendable. The members exist for the good of the system. Members willingly sacrifice their life for the good of the colony. Very few deviate from the establishment. The colony moves and thinks as one organism. Members are intellectually dependent on each other and are not free to be creative or think for their selves.
Colony members are very good at networking with others to accomplish a task or goal. Their strength and survival are based on numbers working toward a common interest. However, they tend to develop dismissive relationships styles. Meaning they fail to establish meaningful emotional bonds and relationships. This is why these members can feel lonely within the crowd. Their relationships are functional and pragmatic, serving a purpose. Their conversations are superficial and rarely deep and meaningful. Members are passive and have a lose-win mentality. They may see their selves as peacemakers but often come across as martyrs and victims of the system.
Be sure to check out Part Two; The Solitary Hermit.
Check out more of Dr. Dave’s work.
Most people do not like or appreciate my definition of forgiveness. I don’t even like my description. Forgiveness means giving up your rights to retribution and not holding the offense against the offender even though you know they will probably re-offend and do it again. Forgiving an offender does not mean we agree or condone their actions. I will also caution the reader not to forgive too soon without considering the risks.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting because you will always remember a painful event. However, it does mean choosing not to recall. Recalling is the conscious choice to bring the event up and to ruminate on it. We will all experience flashbacks of the painful offense from time to time. I am not referring the resurfacing memories that are beyond our control. Recalling an event at will is a way of re-victimizing yourself. Choosing to recall and dwell on an offense fuels our anger and keeps up stuck in the past. In essence, it keeps us locked in a feedback loop as our anger justifies us hating the offender and thus blaming them for our fixation and trap.
Resentment is a powerful tool and sometimes a motivator for revenge. Bitterness is our futile effort of trying to punish and get back at the offender. However, it rarely works. Meanwhile, the offender is free to move on with their life; never realizing the power, we surrendered over to them by hating, blaming and resenting them. Resentment infects the soul like a virus. It moves through the self like a metastasized cancer and tethers us to the past like an anchor.
Forgiveness, love, and resentment cannot coexist. We must consciously nurture forgiveness. Unchecked resentment is free to grow wild like a weed pushing out the flowers. What we choose to feed and water will always grow. The antidote to life’s ailments is forgiveness. Forgiveness is rarely for the offender. It is for our self, especially if we choose not to continue a relationship with the offender. Forgiveness frees us and cuts the tie between the offender and our self. Thus, forgiveness allows us to move forward and frees us from the offender and the past to pursue happiness.
10 Steps of Forgiveness
1) Acknowledge the hurt and pain caused by the offense.
2) Recognize which of your values were violated.
3) Consider how the offense will affect you in the long-term, mid-term and short-term.
4) Distinguish the person from the offense and recognize the person is responsible but not defined by the offense.
5) Choose not to re-victimize yourself by not recalling and dwelling on the event.
6) Acknowledge your limitations and that you have no control over the person.
7) Give up your rights to retribution and revenge.
8) If you plan to continue the relationship with the person, you must redefine your expectations and future consequences.
9) Work on gratitude.
10) Repeat the above process daily as needed.
If you’re having problems forgiving the one you love, it might be time to seek some outside help. Make your appointment today.
I discovered the power of the genogram while earning my Master’s of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy. A genogram is a hand-drawn family tree with symbols. The symbols represent the cast of players from the life of a client. The symbols convey a story of conflict, closeness, accomplishments, secrets, disappointments, and many more. Genograms are a potent therapeutic tool because it helps clients visualize their family connects and retell long forgotten legacies.
Likewise, countless people have benefited from creating their family tree through programs and websites like Ancestry.com. I recently had the experience of requesting my DNA through AncestryDNA.com. Looking back in time and history through this powerful tool was incredibly empowering and grounding. As an African-American, the records and archives can only help me but so much. Since DNA sequencing has become available to the public, the sense of groundedness among African-Americans has exploded with possibilities and curiosity. Having a sense of history has provided me a richer sense of self. Not that I lacked having a sense of who I was before. It was reassuring and validating.
A family tree is like a genogram except you don’t need a therapist to construct it. I believe the results can be just as powerful and profound. What kind of story does your DNA tell? If you ready to start your journey of self-discovery, click here for your discount link. Otherwise, make an appointment with us and we’ll guide you and walk with you through the painful parts of your journey.
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Married to an Entrepreneur
Remember Your Spouse
As for the entrepreneur, you need to be sensitive to the needs of your partner. You need to take time away from the office and not get stuck in the phenomenon of just one more thing. Don’t get distracted by the many squirrels that you can chase or the shiny object syndrome. Work-life balance is difficult when you’re in business for yourself. Trust your partner to bring stability to the relationship and your life. Together you will have a synergistic effect building your empire.
Your life together can be incredibly vibrant, exciting, and dynamic. However, it can also be lonely and depressing. If you need help finding balance and reprioritizing life, we can help. The Fredericksburg Relationship Center can help you rediscover the support, value, and joys of your relationship. Take our Brief Relationship Risk Assessment survey to see where your relationship stands.
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