Visits From The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Written By: Mark Smith
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The first and most important thing that we do with new couples at Family Tree Counseling Associates is to find out everything that we can about their family trees. We can't understand the nature of a couple's issues without knowing where they came from. Honestly, I believe that any relationship counseling that isn't based on a structured and intense search for insight into patterns in the families of origin is not helpful at best. In fact, non-family tree focused counseling can be quite destructive because it doesn't challenge and uproot the sense of victim-hood that is the #1 marriage killer.
The purpose of love and marriage is all about reenacting the themes and the wounding experiences from childhood. I wish that wasn't the way it is, but that is absolutely IS the way it is. When examining unhealthy behaviors in my clients, in my friends and family and even within myself I always remember to grade on a curve. If you were brought up in an extremely unhealthy family, as many of us were, you will marry someone equally as unhealthy and eventually you will find yourself re-living the very same painful repetitive childhood issues that you grew up with. We try so hard to tell ourselves that we have overcome the craziness and the dysfunction we grew up in with our drive, education, successes, beautiful houses with their white picket fences, impressive titles and clean record (thus far). The marriages of normal people who grew up in normal, red blooded dysfunctional American families are ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. If you don't already know that I am right about this, unfortunately, you will some day.
We inherit many positive qualities along with the hurtful and dysfunctional ones. Families are mixed bags. Many times a family's most hurtful and negative qualities also hold some redeeming aspects to them. I've been thinking about my mom of late. She has been gone for 13 years now, but I wrestle with the psychological legacy that she left me every day. The day she died I was on a personal retreat at a little cabin in Brown County. I didn't get the word until 11pm that night. My cell phone didn't get reception and going home wasn't an option because it was cold and all I had for transportation was my old Honda Nighthawk motorcycle and I just wasn't up to that journey in the dark in the saddened condition that I was in. I had a pad of paper, a pen, a lot of words and a lot of tears. This is what came up for me...
"Our Mom was so much fun. She was loud and colorful and spontaneous. She loved music, and parties, and people of any size, shape color, or creed. I don’t think that she would even want her funeral to be a sad, dark occasion, but rather a celebration of her life.
Our Mom loved us. She loved us as best she could. She showed it with her hugs and kisses, with her interest in our lives, with her biscuits and gravy in the morning, and with her famous stuffed green peppers at night.
Our Mom was Doris Day on steroids. She had the unbridled joy of a child, the zest for living of an imp, and a singing voice that made you feel all warm and magical on the inside.
Our Mom loved us. She loved us as best she could. She showed it by showering our kids with attention and love and by sacrificing for us and holding our home together when we were scared and needy little ones.
Our Mom loved to eat, she loved to laugh, she loved to spend, and she wasn’t the least bit shy about flashing that Irish temper from time to time. You always knew exactly what she was feeling. There was never a dull moment with ‘Virginia Pat the Democrat’.
She loved us. Our Mama loved us. And I am very proud and happy to be her son. She was remarkable, and unforgettable, and obnoxious, and wonderful all at the same time. She was sunshine, and roses, and a thunder cloud.
Our Mom has left us a legacy. Although much of her life was uneven, and out of control, and it was many times about robbing Peter to pay Paul, today she leaves a family with many strengths. We love her, and we are also very much like her….
Because we are too loud, and sometimes edgy, and we too really don’t mind at all being the center of attention. We play hard, we eat too much, we’re generally somewhat large and in charge, and we love our families as well. We love them as best we can.
Our Mom will be very dearly missed. However, her memory will live on deeply within us – dancing like a little girl on the screens of our minds. Our Mom was special. She loved us. She loved us as best she could."
MES – 8/7/97
I have been blessed with my mother's humor, playfulness, colorfulness, strength, creativity, spontaneity and largeness of both personality and body. I am thankful for these blessings and I use them with to help people and to enjoy life. However, I have also been 'gifted' with her loudness, edginess, unevenness, emotionally immaturity, food and spending addictions, anger issues, need for attention and tendency to be controlling. I have used her positive qualities to develop a successful counseling practice and a usually fulfilling life. I have battled with her/my negative qualities as they have caused chaos, brokenness, embarrassment and destruction in my life. I am not shamed of them, though. I come by them very honestly. All we can do is work as hard as we can on our issues given where we started from.
You are no different my friend. Your positive and negative qualities list is different than mine (I hope, for your sake) but your family has its far share of demons as well. There is a scary Bible verse that explains this passing down of hurtful family issues..."The iniquities of the fathers shall be visited upon the children and upon the children's children unto the third and fourth generation" - Exodus 34:7 Take pride and joy in your family's collective 'good stuff'. But also be keenly aware of the hurtful, addictive bad and ugly stuff. The more aware you are, the better equipped you will be to live a thoughtful, stable, loving and fulfilling life.
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