At the first sign of disagreement, uncomfortable issues or emotions, does your family ‘shut down’? Shutting down is often done to protect the individuals and the family system and is often done because the members simply don’t have the skills to do anything else. To discuss uncomfortable things, we have to have a high tolerance for discomfort, which many people don’t have. Even if we can manage the discomfort, does the family have the communication skills necessary to have an effective discussion? Everyone in the family will have their own triggers. How these are managed by the individual and the family unit will also have an impact on how discussions evolve.
Another fear many individuals and families face when tackling uncomfortable issues is the fear that the discussion will escalate out of control and will create more distance than intimacy. They think that the whole family relationship is at risk, which might be a very real concern depending on their family history.
With all of these factors at play, it is not surprising that many families shut down around big issues. It often takes a cycle breaker in the family to initiate something new. Someone who can see what is going on, who can name it in a gentle and loving way and offer something different. The fear is usually that there will be more distance, which is certain when things are left unaddressed. When issues are addressed with openness, vulnerability and compassion, the potential is to cultivate more understanding and intimacy in the future.
What other things have you found prevent families discussing important issues? If you feel comfortable to share, I’d love to hear in the comments.
So much love on your healing journey,