What Else Does My Family Do?
In the previous posting, we identified two factors that help to maintain unhealthy patterns in our families. One was “family myths” and the other “family secrets.” What are some of the other patterns that keep us acting in unhealthy ways. There are two “circulars” that feed into our family’s unhealthiness. One is circular communication and the other is not understand circular causation.
Lets look first at circular communication. A more recent study identified as one of the patterns of health in a family as “clear and direct communication.” That’s the opposite of circular communication. Think of it this way. Your mother calls and asks you if you have heard from your brother. The truth is you haven’t and neither has she. So when you hang up from your mother, but you know it is your job to find out from your brother what’s going on. So you call him and ask why he hans’t called. In your conversation you point out that mother is worried, and he needs to call. But when you hang up, you quickly call your mother and give her a report on what’s been going on with your brother.
Now here’s what happens with circular communication. A couple of days later your brother calls his mother, and nothing is said about why he hadn’t called her, or about what he had explained to you and that you in turn had explained to your mother. It had all been handled by you in a circular way. The communication had been clear, but it had been indirect–it all went through you –no one who was concerned talked directly about the subject to the one they were concerned about.
Now the person who is the messenger has a lot of power in the family. They can spin the information any way they want.. You could have put a little spin on what your brother told you as you relayed it to your mother. Or you could have left out something that might have been an issue with your mother, but you didn’t want her to worry. In fact, if you are the hub of communication in your family, you are like the central operator of olden days–and the truth is, you have a lot of power in your family.
Want to test the hypotheses? Next time, suggest your Mom call your brother herself and ask what’s going on. If you hesitate to do that, look at how powerful you are as the central operator, and at how difficult it is to give up that power. Next posting we’ll look at circular communication.
Question: Who’s the central operator in your family? Talk to them about it. Or if you are the one handling the family communication, notice the power in that. Pay attention to the pressure you feel in being in that position.