STRAIGHTEN UP:

STEP 18

It is time to separate from our original families and recover the hurting child inside us. We do this with love in our hearts as we draw the lines of healthy boundaries between us and our family of origin. By ‘our family’ we mean the people who raised us.

 

Some of us have family members who have their own issues regarding excessive alcohol use, emotional unavailability, potentially harmful codependency traits, over-controlling behavior etc. Spending time with them can hinder our recovery. Even though we love our family, we have a right to find recovery from the effects of being raised by them.

 

We have a right to feel better by finding our own path. We don’t have to feel guilty for choosing our own path even though it is different than our family members’ path. We can challenge the old loyalties that prevented us from taking care of ourselves. We can love our family, but at the same time, separate from them while addressing our fundamental issues.

 

Our family may try to pull us back into the family line because they cannot accept or don’t understand our desire to walk a different path. They may create a drama, build allegiances and tell us we are crazy. They may even dis-own us, all because they cannot bear to face their own issues. And it is their right to refuse to face their own issues. However, it’s our right to pursue a different future.

 

Our separation is not permanent. We can go back to the family whenever we want. However, we must go back on our terms.

 

Dealing with old family issues while continuing to be enmeshed in the family dynamic is like trying to learn a new dance while the teacher is telling you how to perfect the old dance. It’s simpler going into another room to learn the new dance. We look in the mirror and see ourselves as separate dancers. We feel what it’s like to dance for ourselves. We recognize our feelings as our own, and not as a result of being responsible for others. Time away from the family shows us that they can manage without us. We can strive to find a new life for ourselves.

 

Once we have a clear picture of who we are, we can go back into the original room and dance to our own tune, regardless of what song is playing. We begin straightening out our own lives with the art of detachment. Learning the art of detachment helps us understand how to release and detach from others. We begin to see how our use of willpower has been misplaced and abusive. We begin by facing our feelings rather than trying to change others. We stop acting as the victim of others’ abandonment and begin to identify how to better love ourselves.

 

Although a physical separation from our family is what some of us need to do, the act of separating can also simply mean separating emotionally. This is when we draw a clear line between our family and us. We can detach from old relationship cycles by behaving in different ways.

 

Examples of how we can do this are:

 

  • We pause before we respond

  • We are polite but distant

  • We buy time by saying “Thank you for your comments; I’ll get back to you on that”

  • We don’t jump to conclusions

  • We don’t try to fix someone’s pain

  • We don’t rush to judge someone else

  • We recognize none of us are perfect

  • We lower our expectations of others

  • We take care of ourselves

  • We acknowledge our family cannot meet our needs

 

EXERCISE

 

Answer these questions:

 

  1. When you go back into your family dynamic, what happens to you?

  2. Give an example of when you could not keep your boundaries in place.

  3. Write something about the way you do or say things you wouldn’t do or say away from the family.

  4. What feelings stir up in you?

  5. How do you manage your feelings when you are back in the family group?

  6. What do you fear might happen while you’re there?

  7. Looking at the Drama Triangle, which role do you most frequently adopt?

  8. What is it you want to say, but can’t?

  9. What do you listen to that you don’t want to hear?

Moral Evaluation

- Separating From

Our Original

Family