It’s a secret. The outside world must never know what goes on behind the closed doors of our house. Our feelings don’t matter as long as we can put on the shiny front for the world. In fact we can’t even admit some of what we are feeling even to ourselves. You deny, deny, deny for so long that those feeling just seem to go away. But the unhappy truth is that they don’t; they are still there waiting for a voice and a time to be heard.
Lately in therapy, we have been working on family dynamics, and I find myself saying things I’ve never said before. Hell, I’ve never even thought them before, but there they are all the same.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My father enabled my mother to behave the way she did because he loved her and that was the only way he thought he could keep her. Sharon Wegscheider assigned roles that are filled by the children of these families – they are the family hero, scapegoat, lost child and mascot Dr. Janet Kizziar, who also deals with dysfunction in the family, also points out three other roles that appear in dysfunctional families, that of the “Princess/Little Man”, the “Doer” and that of the “Family Priest” (to learn more about these roles click here).
I am my Family’s Hero. I am the one reassure the family and the world that we are all right that there is nothing wrong with us, when my mother wasn’t able to do her part. I excelled in school, I was a leader, and I had a good paying job. To the outside world I was a source of pride and accomplishment for my family, I was the good child. The problem was, was that on the inside I was dying, because nothing I could do could fix my family’s pain. I was never good enough or worthy enough so I was saddle with guilt because I just couldn’t be enough and I should have been. With all I do I am still under appreciate for it. I never receive acknowledgement for any of it and it is taken for granted that I will handle whatever comes along. My job after all is to take care of things, this is what is expected of me, this is my role in the family, and it is what I have to do to even exist in my family circle. This compulsive need to succeed lead to my over-working, burning out and succumbing to stress-induced illnesses, because the needs of my family are more important than myself and my needs. All the while, I been left to feel like I am alone, a hypocrite, who wasn’t able to have any real relationships because that would mean lying to that person the one person that I was supposed to be the closest to about who my family really is.
Today my therapist asked me why I was giving up my life because I feel that need to take care of my family. She also pointed out that the one thing that drives me most crazy about my mother – her need to put her parents before everything else in her life including her health, her husband and her children was something that I was doing too. For so long I have been mediator for my parents that it feels like my job, but she asked me where my family was, why wasn’t I getting married and having children? Was I allowing my family’s needs to stand in the way of me having a family of my own?
Suddenly I was realizing that I was playing a role that I no longer wanted and that was standing in my way of finding out what I do want. As we talked more I realized that as much as I want to let this role go; I also want to hang on to it for dear life. Why? Because in a world where I had no control over my body or power to stop what was happening to me, it gave me control and power over my family. I became my family’s driving force. It gave me the power to make the decisions and to get what I wanted when I wanted it. It gave me the ability to get my own way. That is a very heady feeling, and something that is hard to give up. But at the same time, I am ready to quit being in the middle of my parents, I get yelled at from both sides, a blamed for being there ever though it is them that puts me there. I’m tired of making the decisions and being the adult; I’ve been that for 30 years. Now I want to be a child, footloose and fancy free.