Breaking Family and Relationship Patterns
How taking responsibility plays a role.
David A. Morris, LCSW
Taking responsibility has become an afterthought in our society. The whimsical phrase “get forgiveness instead of permission” has become more of a societal philosophy. The relationships and family attachments we have are suffering from an increase in needing forgiveness or a lack of bothering to even ask anymore. These relationships hurt and are ever increasingly in need of change and breaks in the patterns that cause them.
The Beavers scale (named after psychiatrist W. Robert Beavers) identifies five developmental levels and patterns of relating within the family. See if your family or relationships fit along this continuum:
- Level 5: The “Family in Pain” is characterized by disorganization, feelings of apprehension among its members and a permeating sense of imminent danger. This collective entity lacks authority and clear leadership. There is little in the way of dependable interpersonal connection.
- Level 4: The “Borderline Family” is an effort to master the chaotic family system, this emotional collective has swung to the polar opposite. It adapts a rigid family system of rules. This is a system governed by black and white perceptions, and one intolerant of ambiguity.
- Level 3: The “Rule-Bound Family” is a family in which its participants abide by unquestioned conformity to “oughts” and “shoulds” they have all adopted as their code of family conduct. But here is the essential point: the rules of the system take precedence over anyone in it.
- Level 2: The “Adequate Family” has egalitarian structures and is able to listen attentively to input from all members. In The Adequate Family system, rules are clear but not written in stone. Their purpose is understood as serving the best interests of people, which is top priority.
- Level 1: The “Optimal Family” is able to create a deep sense of security and trust in the emotional connection between family members. When conflicts arise there is firm belief in the possibility of working them out or, if not, respecting the difference of viewpoints. A full range of feelings can be expressed and is even embraced as part of that individual family member’s humanity.
Most likely, you would like to be at Level 2 or even 1, but find yourself in Level 3, 4 or maybe even 5. It’s time to find our responsibility within the system that has been created. We do ourselves a disservice when we don’t see how our part plays a factor in the conflict. It actually discounts our own influence and ability to make change and shift from powerless or proactive.
Here are some early things to either try or start thinking about to shift away from hurtful patterns:
- Find the Edge of Your Ability to be Influenced – relationships constantly returned to their steady-state which makes the relationship function at some level. Unfortunately, often times our steady-states are a cause of the conflict. We need to find the edge of where we are not interested in being influenced and see if we are willing to be slightly more flexible.
- Don’t Run Away – The natural human experience is to avoid conflict. That comes in the form of retreating to our “man cave”, hiding in our social media, consuming ourselves in activities of the children, or building parallel lives with our closest family members.
- Fess Up – One of the great antidote’s to being defensive and critical of others is to find your responsibility in the matter. Going through this process says “I am not completely at fault but I am also not completely devoid of responsibility”. If you can overcome the discomfort of taking responsibility for your part, it could be the first step in healing the hurt in your family.
Taking responsibility can be both painful and confusing. Consider getting a partner at New Directions Counseling to walk along side of you as you seek support. Give us a call today.