Are Your Family Secrets Safe?
All families ere dysfunctional. Some people don’t like to hear that, but it’s true–every family has its problems. If you believe in the reality of original sin, you know that as a consequence of sin, no human functions as they were designed to function by God. That also means that every human institution is marred by sin, including the family. And therefore no institution functions perfectly.
We often use the term “dysfunctional family” to describe a troubled family What we should be saying and thinking is that some families operate in a more healthy way than others, and some families are very unhealthy.
It was in the 1950’s that psychiatry and psychology began to study how families function. There was grant money available to observe and understand families who had a grown child who was schizophrenic. Soon after that, grant money became available to study the families of alcoholics. Out of these studies, and others, we came to understand a lot about how families operate dysfunctionally.
But the interesting question is: What is it that helps to maintain our dysfunctional, or unhealthy ways of operating as a family? The research suggests several things, but two in particular are very interesting. These are “family myths,” and “family secrets.”
What’s the difference between these two concepts?
Let’s define family myths first. Family myths are the things we talk about in relation to our family, but we don’t really do them. One of the most common family myths is that “our family is really close.” I used to say that about my family, but later I had to face the fact that I didn’t even go to my younger sister’s wedding. But beyond that, I didn’t know for over twenty years that it had bothered my sister. But we were really close! Hardly!
The definition of family secrets refers to the things we do as a family, but don’t allow, or never talk about. Some of you have heard about the elephant in the living room idea. The elephant represents a family secret because no one even thinks about asking, “why do we have an elephant in the living room?”
You may have friends who come over, but they are polite and never ask you why you have an elephant in the living room. Perhaps its because when you go to their house, you don’t ask why they have a dead dog in their living room. We honor each other’s familiy secrets.
An interesting fact is that often there is someone in the family that dares to talk about the secret. They eventually are labeled the “black sheep” of the family, all because they dared to speak the truth.
Question: Every family has its secrets. Can you identify one or more of your family’s secrets? What do you think would happen if you started talking about it?