Page 20 - Peace-Centered Family

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were never discussed. Even though this was what drove his parents far-
ther and farther apart.
Joe’s picture illustrated exactly what dysfunction looked like in his
birth family. Of course your picture will be different. Dysfunctional pat-
terns in families vary. But they are always
conflict-centered
, meaning
conflict itself has become the organizing principle of the family. Like the
tail wagging the dog. This is the reason family members caught in per-
petual family discord feel powerless to change it. And when someone
within the system tries to change, the rest of the family attempts to pull
that person back into his or her role so the family pattern will stay the
same. No matter how dysfunctional the pattern, it is what’s “normal”
for this family. Many families fracture [become estranged] at this point
because leaving, either physically or emotionally or both, feels like the
only option open to its various members.
Many of us grow up in families like Joe’s. And many of us have got-
ten by. We even have children of our own and do the best we can. But
others of us are so wounded from being in
conflict-centered
families that
we can barely take care of ourselves much less go to work, run a home,
bring up children. Maybe the question to ask is, “Or
have
we gotten by?”
The effects of the wounded family on children are all around us. For
fifteen years, before I became a marriage and family therapist, I had pio-
neered Montessori education on the Monterey Peninsula, establishing
three pre-schools through first grade and a teacher-training center. I saw
the effects of unresolved, repetitive conflict at home in the two-and-a-half
to seven-year-old-students. To me, the signs were obvious in certain chil-
dren from the moment they arrived at the gate in the morning. What to
the untrained eye would look like a behavior problem I understood as
signs of trauma. Children from
conflict-centered
families didn’t appear
like the other children who skipped gaily into the classroom, eager to
start their day.
The traumatized children looked shell shocked, passing me at the
door with barely a greeting. They were dazed and emotionally unkempt.
Long after the others had become engrossed in their activities, these chil-
dren would remain unsettled. Often they would be listless. Or hang
back. Or they would lash out. Or bite. Some, barely three, were already
showing big holes in their emotional development; in their ability to
function. As a family therapist I have discovered that such wounds in
12
1 – DISCOVERY