How does a family change deeply ingrained systemic problems? One step at a time, but this one is a doozy and is nicely expressed in the sixth step of the 12 steps of AA, “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
One issue that the family I mentioned yesterday ( and other families, organizations and even churches) have is a failure to recognize the problem at hand. The second issue is building skill sets that have gone undeveloped as a result of not addressing issue one for a long time.
It is most helpful if everyone in the family is willing to take stock and make changes. On first glance, it looks like the youngest brother with his addiction and the dad with his patriarchal ways are the biggest problems. But like any good six step promises, there is always room for the “we” to step up and name their respective issues.
Take for example the oldest favored son. Since baby brother was such a “screw up” in the father’s eyes, this oldest often received the concentrated reflected glory that only a family hero receives. By comparison he really was the golden boy; he got the ‘best’ of dad; why would he rock the boat? Or mom. Quiet and submissive by all outward appearances, most saw her as the unfortunate victim of a bad marriage. But let’s not forget – she got payoffs from this marriage to a financially successful man, and she made her own protection a priority as opposed to looking after the best interests of her children.
As this family began attending Al-Anon and other groups, going to therapy, and getting educated about addiction, eventually a lot of these power differentials and problems were revealed. To their credit, each family member EVENTUALLY became willing to get honest about their part in the dysfunctional family system.
Do you think your family has some issues that you’ve been ignoring?
Good news. But more work was necessary. Stay tuned.