Family of Origin

Still image from the opening of the television show Family Matters.

Family of Origin

“The Ties that Bind us”

What does your family of origin look like? Even though there are have been immense advances in the ways in which we are able to stay connected with love ones, keeping in contact with your family may not always be a favorable choice. For example, you may have a lot of tension in your relationship with your family, or no relationship at all.

Relationships with family can take on a variety of forms throughout the course of our lifetimes. While psychical distance and time are often relevant in an individuals relationship with their family, the emotional ties and associations that we hold with our family of origin often remain.

Our families are the first contact that we have with other human beings. Therefore the way that we interact with our families when we are children, directly influences the way that we learn to socialize with others. While no patterns or behaviours are set in stone, the attachments that we make to immediate siblings and caregivers, can have a large impact on the ways in which we form attachments with others as adults.

Going home

Through family theory, the concept of differentiation, refers to the ways in which we separate from our family of origin and into adulthood. If this separation occurs in away that may be fused or unresolved, it is common to carry these feelings with us as we move forward.

For example, if you live away from your family, and occasionally return, do you notice the way that you feel or react to your family members when you spend time with them?

Often times, regardless of how mature, wise, or developed we have become, it is common to retreat to old patterns and reactions that existed with our family of origin when initially leaving the household.

Maybe you left when you were a teenager, and haven’t lived there since. Do you notice that even if you have developed into the most tolerable, well-rounded adult, that after a certain amount of time, your family still evokes that adolescent re-activity that you experienced the last time that you lived there? Sometimes it can feel like a reverse transformation back into a teenager.

Through family theory, it is often extremely helpful to begin to acknowledge the depth and consistency of these patterns and fusions. Often times these patterns occur over generations of family members. Observing and understanding these patterns is the first step towards resolution. With that being said, moving towards resolution aids in our ability to build healthy relationships with new loved ones or spouses.

In order for this new insight to be of any value, we have to be willing to catch ourselves in these moments of tension. We have to be willing to change the ways that we react to and interpret our family members. Most importantly, we have to challenge our old perspectives.

While each situation is different and some relationships may be too traumatic to resolve, we can start with small challenges to ourselves when interacting with family members. Challenging ourselves to tolerate and understand our family members rather than jumping to our old immediate reactions, can in turn aid us in healing and moving forward.

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Marlaina Jaques

Counsellor and Art Therapist. Providing services in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. If you or someone one you know needs help, please reach out.

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