Set in 1953, A Place Called Home is the insightful portrayal of a wealthy, pastoral Australian family and the impact that the changing times have upon family relationships. The drama examines the costliness of keeping family secrets: Elizabeth Bligh, the family matriarch is the
keeper of a family secret that Sarah Adams, a nurse sharing passage on board ship traveling from England to Australia, unwittingly discovers. The drama unfolds as over a series of events, the secret threatens to unravel in spite of Elizabeth’s best efforts to keep Sarah Adams away. As more secrets are exposed, like a stone cast into a pool of water that sends out ripples far beyond the stones original size, family relationships are tested and fragmented.
A Place To Call Home provides an insight into human behaviour and the extraordinary lengths we will go to in order to hide things that, if exposed, will threaten our safety and security. We witness the negative impact that a family secret in one generation can have upon the generations to come when perpetuated. the On the other hand, courage to expose a family secret carries with it the risk of hurting the people you love, family conflict and rejection.
If you are in a position of colluding with a family secret, I invite you to consider the impact that that secret has had upon family members (including yourself) and family relationships, past and present. Secrets are perpetuated as long as we collude with the secret-keeper to remain silent. The decision to separate oneself and speak the ‘truth’ into the situation is likely to be a formidable task and will be met with powerful resistance however the long term impact will far outweigh the initial cost.
If the place you call home is no longer safe by virtue of the fact that you are no longer prepared to keep a family secret, and as a consequence you have angered or offended another family member, the risk of family fragmentation is high. Speaking your truth respectfully, without becoming belligerent or condescending is no easy task in the face of strong resistance.
Here are 4 steps that will guide you through the process:
1. Seek a professional counsellor to do your own inner work
Blaming others and ruminating over hurts, past and present, feels justified but have you noticed that your anxiety, anger and pain demand 24/7 attention from you? These feelings are harsh task masters, requiring 100% commitment from you; you can’t eat, sleep or think clearly, your mind so absorbed by the family crisis at hand. The overwhelming nature of these feelings spills out on to others as you ‘recruit’ other people to be ‘allies’ whose role is to listen to the retelling of your story of anger and hurt and share their shock and sympathy – offering you a moment of comfort and self-justification. More importantly, the retelling of your story reinforces and escalates the distress you feel as your mind continues to look for further evidence to justify your feelings. Remaining in that state creates ‘stuckness’, ongoing conflict and health problems.
Being separate from your family context, a professional counsellor is able to respond to your story with empathy and compassion without reinforcing the distress you feel. A professional counsellor’s role is to help you to clarify your feelings and understand how your particular family dynamics have informed your own perspective. Your ‘different’ position in the family can be ‘reframed’ from a developmental perspective that views movement away from ‘sameness to difference’ as differentiation and therefore a healthy movement, but at the same time a movement that inevitably upsets the family equilibrium and therefore initially invites a negative response.
2. State your ‘position’ respectfully and without blame
Your counsellor can coach you in how to communicate in a manner that is respectful and maintains your own identity and dignity.
3. Remain connected with the other wherever possible
Remaining connected wherever possible is a statement about the value you give, not only to this relationship but also family connectedness. To achieve this you speak and act towards the other with kindness and care. This behaviour goes against your basic biological fight/flight response already triggered by the perceived threat to your safety. Remaining connected is a counter-intuitive response that will have the effect of breaking the negative cycle of interaction that your now changed behaviour has initiated. By refusing to counter-attack with something equally hurtful, the energy that fuels the negative interaction dissipates and the other party is forced to choose how they respond. Responding kindly and calmly allows you to ‘let go and move on’. It is an incredibly mature position requiring courage and humility. Are you up to the challenge?
4. Remain connected with the extended family
Where two family members are in conflict, extended family members are ‘invited’ to align with a particular party. By implication, an alliance with one person is also a choice to be ‘cut off’ from the other. When you choose to remain ‘separate but connected’ with the family member who has made the choice to be offended, you also prevent the extended family from fragmenting. Make a point to communicate with the other significant people in your family from a position of compassion and humility, recognising the inevitable distress that they will be experiencing, in order to prevent further misunderstanding or untruths.
By being brave enough to speak your own truth, you give other family members permission to do the same as they feel ready.
Has your family broken down? Do you feel excluded, misunderstood or rejected by members of your family? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.
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