Friday, 30 January 2009

Breaking Negative Cycles


I spent a lovely day yesterday visiting my niece. Those of you who know my story, will know that my family situation was seriously dysfunctional. Social workers talk about 'the cycle of abuse', I read somewhere. They say it takes three generations for an abusive pattern to disappear. My niece has been estranged from her mother until recently, just as I was estranged from my sister, her mother. So I thought I would tell her some family stories.

When I think about it, there have been patterns that have indeed repeated themselves in our story, though they in themselves were not abusive. My mother married in her teens, as did my sister and myself, whilst my niece had her first baby in her teens. As we talked, we agreed that we had all done so to escape a difficult family situation. Of all of us, I am the only one to remain married to the same person; all the other relationships have broken up. My mother was estranged from her mother for a time, just as I was estranged from mine for over twenty years, my niece from hers. All for different reasons, but it's interesting to see those patterns emerge.

But it is equally interesting to see the patterns break. My own son, beloved, decided not to get married last year, as he felt it wasn't right for him. Another niece is pursuing a university degree, with no signs of marriage imminent. My sister's second marriage is over twenty years old (as it were). Whilst the niece I visited is bringing up two joyful, happy, secure children on her own. I'm sure it's not easy, but she is making a wonderful job of it!

Why am I telling you this? I think, because it is so hopeful. There has been so much pain in our family over the years, but there are clear signs that that pain is, if not over, at least muted. That our behaviours are no longer causing such pain in our children, and hopefully, that they will not adopt such behaviours with theirs, if and when they choose to have them. Tolstoi said that all happy families are the same, but that all unhappy families are unique in their circumstances (a misquote, but it's close). What he didn't add, was that change is possible, and that when it happens, the pleasure of creating strong familial ties is even stronger than it otherwise might be. If you are in the situation I was, take heart. Change is possible. And know that you are not alone, either. Lots of us struggle with such issues, and not only survive, but grow, change and learn. I wish you luck on the journey.

10 comments:

Beth said...

This is so heartwarming....Just to know patterns in families do change....I've seen it in my life also.
Yes, change is possible.

ZudaGay said...

Well put, Marion!! I am so glad you are changing the patterns! People CAN change!

Bonnie said...

The cycle can be broken--I've certainly experienced it and seen it happen too in my family. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Marian.

Yankeegirl said...

So glad your family is healing. I hope you all continue on this positive journey.

thewildhare said...

Dear Marion, I love this message of hope! Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on seeing a positive turn in the journey.

Annie said...

I have known you for a long time, Marion, and I think this is such a beautiful message of hope. I really believe people can take the dysfunctional things in their lives, as we can with society in general, and turn these things into something positive, not just for our own selves, but for our future generations. Good for you for being so fearless to do this. It really does help to break the chains that have held people prisoners for generations. It is not always an easy task, but something very worthwhile for sure. You will be in my prayers and thoughts. Peace and many blessings, Annie

On a Whimsey said...

Patterns do change for all sorts of reasons. It is very heartening to see a bad pattern broken and re-establish itself on a good road. It could even be because the new generation was able to look back and learn from other situations.

Good post, thank you.

Flax and Spindle said...

thank you so much for sharing that....

Zeeshan Amjad said...

Very creative link ...!!!

June said...

It's fine that you can see the patterns so clearly. You have grown, changed, and learned, although when I first knew you I already thought you were very very wise. But your wisdom has just increased over the years. Thanks for sharing.