Relationships with family are always interesting and particularly challenging. Mostly because we have created a social hierarchy of “Family” and as such emerged the rules that possibly advantage family over other circles of relating.
And this is what makes it difficult because seldom are these boundaries clear- what criteria determines how far one goes to take care of family or to maintain familial ties? Is it a non-negotiable, inalienable responsibility to the family? or are there situations where one can vary this responsibility? If so, what are these rules? Where are they taught? who is the arbiter if one fails to apply them? Indeed who is the arbiter to whether one has exceed these rules? What are the reward quanta for exceeding the “Targets”/Benchmarks?
This is precisely what makes family ties so challenging. Not only have we used an arbitrary accident of nature as criteria, which then “Everybody” (whoever THAT is) has signed up to and MUST apply, we have also failed to define precise rules of engagement for various permutations of family structures, cultures, and other diverse dimensions of humanity.
This has a paralysing effect on one because of the external locus of control and the under-bounded nature thereof. It is my contention that this is therefore not useful as a coping mechanism. Perhaps what’s useful is to design one’s own boundaries, one’s own rules, without necessarily eschewing the social rules, but perhaps using them as a foundation for your own rule book. This is of course will not be easy because society has developed unconscious and conscious ways to enforce conformity: Social shaming, inclusion and exclusion, rewards and reinforcement,etc. It is therefore important for one to be aware of these and not naively assume one is immune to these forces. It is necessary in creating one’s own repertoire to also take these control mechanisms into consideration.
Finally, one of the biggest mistakes people make is to fail to enroll others into their own repertoire and teach them how to engage on their own terms rather than arbitrarily determined social rules. This can happen because
1) of assumptions people make that “People will notice/they SHOULD notice” and
2) because of the fear to engage courageously with society in this regard or
3) lack of skill in this kind of engagement.
Regardless of the reason, it is important for one to create capacity to do this sooner than later and then apply it consistently- or else risk defeat against social pressures. Even worse, one might end up confusing others and come across as in-credible.
As important as family is within one’s social life, it is also important for people to be aware that social rules relating to family engagement do not only situate out there in “Society”, but also within oneself as a member of society. And challenges one experiences with family engagements may not be solved by just applying some generic one size fits all rule, but by conscious engagement with different components of one’s own personal VAMP as well as that of the different members of the the family system.
To your success!