HOW DO I FIT IN,
& still be me?
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“If you believe”
• Most organizations still function is a hierarchical system, with clearly identified Roles✶ for their members, as in governments, corporations, sports, law enforcement, social groups, most religious congregations, schools (esp if students are under-age) ….. and of course, families. Yes, it IS possible to have consensus or democratic rule in some of these, BUT ONLY when they are made up entirely of adults
✶ Roles are ‘social expectations & norms held regarding an individual’s position & behavior within a group’ (Simon, Stierlin & Wynne, 1985)
• To function properly, family systems need to organize themselves to carry out daily challenges & responsibilities, as well as adjust to the developmental needs of its members. But to understand the dynamics of any family unit, it takes more than just listing who the individuals are – we need to know how they come together & interact. The family system exists in paradox: it has to be stable to provide continuity over time, while being able to adapt to fluctuations. It’s a balancing act: too much change – the system breaks down, too much stability – it atrophies & dies
• All families organize themselves into hierarchies & then into subsystems, which may be grouped by generation, age, gender, etc, to accomplish their tasks & goals. These smaller groupings can be the grandparents, aunts & uncles, parents & children, the males & the females, the older & the younger, the skilled & unskilled, the sick & the well…… Naturally, individuals & the subsystems are influenced by & dependent upon one another, so what happens to one affects the other
• Related to the issue of hierarchy are Boundaries, for:
— a demarcation between subsystems
— flow of information into, out from & about the family
— influence the flow of people allowed in & out of the system
• According to Family Systems Theory, all families strive for a sense of balance or homeostasis, in an effort to find equilibrium between life’s challenges & the family’s resources to handle them. New patterns of interacting with each other will show up to keep inevitable changes from getting out of hand. When this doesn’t work, additional family rules or dynamics have to be added or adjusted to restore balance. This happens in both healthy & unhealthy systems, but the solutions will be very different!
• This balancing act includes morphostasis, the ability of a system to hold its shape & structural stability – by trying to conform ‘perfectly’ to a situation, keep strictly to its rituals, allow only those changes that do not threaten the existence of the family…. in the face of all types of stressor, AND morphogenesis (creation of life), the systems’ ability to change its form, grow systemically over time & adapt to the changing needs of the family
• To keep the unit going & make things harmonious, each family member needs to have an age-appropriate role, which should be stable but not rigid. Ideally, members have specific jobs, governed by rules & strategies
✶ PARENTS are expected to fill a wide range of needs for themselves such as financial stability, relaxation & hobbies, mental stimulation, community participation, having a satisfying sexual relationship….. and providing for their children:
The Basics – Daily maintenance, provision of food, clothing, shelter & health care
• Nurturing, warmth, a sense of home, a genuine feeling of safety & security
• Inclusion, fulfilling the need for love & belonging
• Esteem, giving self-worth, personal value, support, encouragement
Mental & Social needs
• Privacy, respect for each member’s autonomy & separateness
• Information, how things are done, help with homework, how to be social, handling of finances
• Understanding, having the right to make mistakes & learn from them
• Age-appropriate discipline, setting boundaries, correcting & guiding
• Recreation, opportunities to have fun together
• encouraged to have meaning & purpose in life, suited to the child
• gain a sense of the larger community & their place in it
• permission to develop a relationship with a Higher Power
✶ CHILDREN are expected to learn from, cooperate with & respect
their parents, all of which need to be age-appropriate
— helping with tasks around the house
— attending school keeping up with homework
— expressing their intellectual & artistic gifts
— trying out new & interesting skills, games & social settings
• People play many parts in life (social roles) such as parent, sibling, worker, student, lover…. each with it’s own set of requirements & functions. This is normal & healthy as long as they have a clear sense of a positive core identity to underpin the roles, & feel free to express many different aspects of themselves.
• However, in dysfunctional homes, roles are distorted & narrow in scope.
Virginia Satir defined 5 Roles: Blamer, Computer, Distracter, Placater & Leveler, sometimes used in Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) training.
They’re broader than the familiar ones discussed in future posts – Hero, Placater, Scapegoat, Lost Child & Mascot.
NEXT: Toxic ROLES – #1