What Were the Rules in Your Family?
Every family operates according to a set of rules. These rules may be spoken or unspoken. Nevertheless they exist and they affect our family’s activities and behaviors. Even without saying a word, our family lets us know what is and is not acceptable, how various circumstances are to be assessed and responded to, and how different individuals ought to act and react in different situations.
In any family there are likely to be rules to control such areas as communication (“We don’t talk about Mom’s drinking”), the display of emotion (“Men in this family don’t cry), how boundaries are to be observed (“We don’t hug in this family”), the kinds of people who are acceptable (“We don’t marry people like that”), and many more. Here are some of the unwritten rules we might have grown up with:
1. We don’t feel. We keep our emotions guarded, especially anger, although there is often one person in the family who is allowed to express their anger.
2, We are always in control. We don’t show weakness. We don’t ask for help, which is a sign of weakness.
3. We deny what’s going on. We don’t believe our senses or perceptions We lie to ourselves and to others.
4. We don’t trust–not ourselves, nor others. No one can be relied on, and no one confided in.
5. Family business stays family business. We don’t ever talk about what goes on in our family with anyone.
6. We are ashamed. We are to blame for everything bad that happens–and we deserve it.
Often it is hard to recognize these rules when we are living in the midst of them. But when we take a step back and look at our family system as a whole, the boundary rules emerge more clearly.
Question: Can you identify some of the unwritten, even unspoken rules in your family?