Ever notice that when you go back home for a visit you fall into old patterns?  Seen your sweetheart become a teenager again as soon as they hit the door to their parent’s place?  The longer we live our own lives, healing dysfunctional patterns and creating balance and wholeness the more jarring it is to come back into contact with the old patterns.  It can also be very confusing because old systems disrupt new ones and old habits come out of hiding and crop up just when we think we’re “over it.”

So here’s some things to help bring some clarity to family situations.  From Co-Dependency and Family Rules by Robert Subby and John Friel:

“Co-dependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving, which is kept in place by a set of rules within the family system.  These rules make healthy growth and change very difficult.”

The rules described by Subby and Friel are:

1. It’s not okay to talk about problems.
2. Feelings should not be expressed openly.
3. Communication is best if indirect, with one person acting as messenger between two others (triangulation).
4. Be strong, good, right, perfect. Make us proud.
5. Don’t be selfish.
6. Do as I say, not as I do.
7. It is not okay to play or be playful.
8. Don’t rock the boat.

With our need to fit in socially and our deep conflict over bucking our family way of doing it can be horrifically difficult to even think about doing things differently let alone actually doing something in the moment like speaking out.  But just as sunlight is cleansing and healing, so it the truth and so is your voice.  You don’t have to be a crusader taking on an invasion, you can be like Gandhi and perform acts of civil disobedience.  Refuse to carry messages between parties, let your feelings show when you have them, refuse to be silenced, ask questions when the person saying to do something isn’t doing it themselves – just for clarification of course.

Any of these things is a radical act of freedom for yourself, but for others in the family who have yet to find their voice and that’s something to be thankful for.