One of the most difficult things is to find definitions about family, that's not unusual.
However, every time someone asks us, at the beginning of an informal conversation, "how's the family?", it seems obvious that both people, the one who asked and the one who'll answer, know the exact meaning of the term because the answer to that question is always: "Doing well, thank you!"
We know, internally, what a family is because we belong to one.
I could not, then, stop asking myself that same question. I'll give my answer right here. The true answer, not the formal "doing well, thank you" one, would be:
- I don't know! - that's the real answer!
I'm answering this because I don't know, exactly, how are my sisters and what are their real necessities: I don't know how their health is going and I also don't know the fears and anxieties of my mother, my aunt, and my uncle. I have no idea if my cousins are happy, if they live a real or an appearances marriage, I don't even know their conflicts or the complexities of each one of them. I don't know. It's that simple. I don't know, but I know that everyone, absolutely everyone, has a lot of problems, emotional pains, anxieties, and life is like that. It's ok to be like that.
And why I don't know?
Because our family is very disconnected, and you'll understand why very soon.
That's why my answer should be: I DON'T KNOW!
Imagine someone asking me that and answer like this:
— And your family, Sayonara, how are they?
— I don't know!
I believe it'd be a tremendous shock, which is almost normal, because being realistic and honest always causes surprise, but it also doesn't mean that I'll answer like this whenever someone asks me that, because it'd be very uncomfortable for the person who, in fact, doesn't really have much interest in knowing how my family is doing either.
Most of the time it's only out of curiosity and keeping the news "up to date", it might even be a matter of being polite, which leads me to the fact that I wouldn't even be prepared to explain everything to everyone that asks me this question.
Etymologically, the word "family" derives from the Latin word famulus, with the original meaning of "an assistant or servant, of a master or sir, who lives under the same roof.”
Pay attention to what is included in this, with the historical Greco-Roman definition of a family: wife, children, free servants and slaves, all dependent on a patriarch.
It's in this place that the story and journey of each person originate, in the private space that the most important experiences of each individual begin.
Do you think that ceasing to belong to a family will end our inner bond?
According to all the studies, it won't. Ruptures of family ties between family members won't erase memories and experiences, which can, later, be accessed through triggering mechanisms, conscious or not.
Therefore, it is clear to science that family is a system that will never cease to be a part of our life.
These memories — whether they are conscious or not — will make a lot of sense in our lives, even if the ties were "broken" externally since they'll never be broken in our minds, and that could bring a lot of consequences to our emotional lives, which will affect our current relationships or, on the other hand, will assist us in different ways if the memories are extremely positive and important in our development.
It is believed that the family is the true functional unit that accompanies the existence of each person, from the beginning to the end of their life. Each unit accompanies and not only mirrors society, but also shapes it. Everything that changes in the external
context — social relationships, politics, and culture — affects the family and collaborates so that we can understand it at every moment in the history of civilizations.
I'm sure you've had the experience of having someone around you that was not too happy to belong to a particular family. Who knows, maybe that someone is you, maybe you've asked yourself:
"was I really born into this family?"
The question is so complicated that, although many people say and claim that family is something sacred, the truth is: it's also where most of our serious problems occur; it's where people are born and grow up; it's where children are abused and emotionally destroyed, and they will only understand that later in life. Or never.
It is from belonging to a family that our interpersonal ties are built and broken, either by the death of a loved one, abandonment, mistreatment, and for a number of other reasons that, sooner or later, will appear and create a bunch of consequences.
Where, if not in a family, children can learn to trust their caregivers and have
painful experiences of physical and emotional abuse?
However, it's also were most of our best and warmest memories happen!
The caring grandmother who made that muffin you loved; the grandfather who played with you on a Sunday when you went to visit him and who let you ride on his back to make you feel very important!
It was from your family that you learned to have dignity and to honour your promises; to absorb values like being an honest person and not lie; to share with your brother, or friend, that great toy or snack; to return that pencil you brought home and realized it wasn't yours.
What you have learned were values and, even more... roles!
There are a lot of cases where children assume roles that were not theirs, like taking care of their siblings when they still needed care, or of the provider, bringing money back home because their father died or their mother could not provide enough.
Both examples mentioned above are quite common and, sometimes, narrated in a
very painful way by clients under observation.
It's also very common to see women not wanting to become mothers because they already were caregivers responsible for their brothers. There's also the case of children who, even in their youth, already feel like parents of their own parents, because even though they were never adequately cared for by their caregivers, they feel the responsibility of caring for them, since it has always been like that.
This behaviour causes a lot of mental confusion and emotional discomfort that could create problems in interpersonal relationships.
Truth is: all things, positive or negative, can give meaning to your life, however, something made sense for you, even if you didn't give it that much importance, and that'll mark your trajectory in life. Regardless of whether you allow it or not, our brain works autonomously, and we have almost no control over it.
In some family counselling’s, it is common to hear a sibling report something of extreme importance to them and the other sibling look at them with an air of surprise, because they do not remember that fact — or
wasn't affected the same way by it. Which explains, in a way, the development of a sibling being completely different of the other.
It's also very common for the husband to have a completely opposite view from his wife and vice versa. Both fail to sharpen this view due to the different stories that each of them have in their mental record, which includes their bringing up, faith (religion), schooling, origin, social class, the way they received affection, their relationship with their parents, what kind of communication existed in each family, among many other differences that led to the internalization of the emotional view.
We all come from a family that left memories and marks of their ancestors, consciously or not, and, in a way, those stories are elements of our lives until today, however, this effect that we'll later call spiral, is too unconscious in order to access it so easily.