Cut-Offs and Estrangement
“… the person who runs away from his family of origin
is as emotionally dependent as the one who never leaves home.
They both need emotional closeness,
but they are allergic to it.”
— Murray Bowen
Family members often fail one another in painful ways. When hurt, frustrated, angry, anxious, fearful, sad, lonely, or frightened people may act as if family relationships were optional – they cut each other off because of conflict, or because they claim to have ‘nothing in common’. The truth is one cannot divorce their family of origin.
A family is an emotional system interconnected over generations. It is ever present. Whether one is enmeshed in terms of never being able to leave home, or cut off emotionally and/or physically, their behavior is reactive rather than consciously and responsibly functional and pro-active. Either way one is entrapped in the family emotional process rather than developing a solid differentiated self.
Questions about how best to respond to family conflict and disagreement in a productive, self-differentiated manner include:
- (1) What can you do to help resolve the conflict, reduce stress and anxiety, improve communication, and promote active problem solving and healing?
- (2) How do you maintain both your autonomy and the connections with emotionally important people in your life?
- (3) Which behaviors will help make things better no matter what anyone else does?
- (4) How do you deal with differences without loosing connection?
The goal is to solve problems in current relationships so as not to leave a damaging legacy for the next generation. Whatever is not solved in the present is left for
our children, grandchildren, and future generations to try and resolve. The greater the amount of unresolved family emotional attachments the more difficult it is to function at a high level.
Working to break negative cycles of attack-defend, criticize-stonewall, and pursue-withdraw involves becoming more “responsible” for self so that one can act more “responsibly” toward others. The appropriate motivation is developing one’s own maturity and growing oneself up.
The practice of Mindful Relationships can help you maintain autonomous thinking in the context of emotionally significant relationships.
To learn more and/or schedule a consultation click here.