Breaking Out – How Our Family System is Influencing Our Life

Did you ever feel guilty towards your family because you couldn’t fulfill their expectations? Did you ever feel like you’re not enough to them and that you’re supposed to live a life that is not yours?


Welcome to the laws of family system. We are born into a family and grow up with them, so of course there is an influence. But what most people don’t know is that there is much more to it. Not only our living family is influential on us, but also the family members that aren’t alive anymore or have been excluded. It can be people that our parents don’t talk about like your crazy aunt who is a trouble-maker, the Polish ex-lover of your grandfather, the chain-smoking ex-fiancé of your father and the first love of your mother. 


Everyone who was born into our family – even generations before, also miscarriages and abortions – or who became part of it – wives/husbands, lovers, rapists, murderers or victims – are part of our family system. The known and the unknown. And if we don’t accept them as righteous parts of our family system and deal with them, they will have control over us without us realizing it.


According to the laws of family system we start substituting the abandoned and hushed up ones unconsciously. Especially after wars, family systems become dysfunctional. Most families don’t accept the soldiers – who were killed by the brothers and fathers or who killed the brothers and fathers – as part of their system. Guilt and rage continue. 
Also the black sheep of the family don’t experience emotional acceptance and remission. The abandoned, forgotten and hushed up ones are not recognized, but ignored.


If your grandparents have lost their first child it might happen that you represent it in action and behavior and are treated like it to plug a hole. If your mother is highly depressive you might become the grown-up in the relationship and she the child. If the controlling grandfather and aunt are hated and emotionally excluded (you don’t need to stay in touch physically), you might become the one who is taking control over your parents and siblings.


You might say that it’s all about genetics and education, but there is more about it than you can imagine. There is a reason why the same kind of life stories and relationships happen to a family from generation to generation – even to foster children who haven’t been in touch with their original family. And I’m sure that you’ve heard about family curses before which is an indicator for repetitive topics that haven’t been processed in the generations before and will occur in the next generation if you don’t deal with it.


There are proverbs that might help you understand who you’re representing and who is excluded from your family system.  There are great books that deal with the topic like the ones by Bert Hellinger. And there are family constellations: therapeutic (group) sessions that help you understand and process. 


Just try one of the most essential proverbs yourself. Lay down, close your eyes and relax by slowly breathing in and out. Imagine the person that you are talking to and look into his/her eyes. The words need to be true when they come out of your mouth. You will realize that it might be hard or even impossible to say these words to certain people that you imagine, because you don’t want to include them into your family. And you will have tears in your eyes and strong emotions when it comes to other people that you imagine, which could be a sign that you or a sibling are representing them. This proverb might already mean the first step of healing for you and your family.


Here it is: [Name of the family member / Baby of my grandmother who died right after birth / You, the ones who were killed by my grandfather in war / You, the one who killed my granduncle in war / You, the one who raped … / You, the unknowns who are part of my family / You, the one who is influencing me at the moment] I see you, I recognize you, I appreciate you and I give you the place in my heart that belongs to you.


These words might appear simple to you, but simple words usually have the deepest meaning.


My brother who had never known home sickness towards the village where we grew up at felt a deep longing for home. He had no idea where it came from until he said the proverb thinking about each and every family member one after the other. And then there it was: he felt a deep connection towards the brothers of our grandmother who were killed in action. They had been away from home for so long, missing their family, the house, garden, woods and fields. Letters from their sisters who wrote about everyday occurrences that made them happy. And then they were shot thousands of miles away from the place and people that they were longing for. Not even their dead bodies ever made it home, they were buried in mass graves far away. They were young, victims of war and politics –  as soldiers and also offenders.
My brother talked to them. By paying attention to them, their story and their longings, he lost the homesickness that didn’t belong to him, but to them.


Next month I will tell you about my experience with family constellations and how it healed my relationship towards a relative…..

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