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  • Family Estrangement

  • Laurie Santos

    23 June 2020 at 09:58
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    At our core, we humans are tribal and long for connection. Simultaneously, we yearn for complete independence, freedom, and to know ourselves solely as ourselves without the influence and enmeshment of others, even our family members.

    How do we solve this dilemma of desiring to individuate yet still want to be part of the tribe?

    For as long as I can remember, I wanted to move out of my family’s home, live far away, explore and taste all life had to offer, yet still somehow be connected to them.

    I remember when I was five years old, I was playing alone outside in the front yard when my mother came out to let me know I had 5 minutes left to play because it would be getting dark soon. Looking up for a brief moment from my little project I had been deeply engaged in, I told her 5 minutes would not be enough and that I needed more time. Quickly she retorted, “That’s the way it is. 5 minutes, that’s it.”

    Of course being 5 years old, I responded, “I want to move out!”

    My mother replied, “You can do whatever you want when you turn 18. You can move out then.”

    At 18, I moved out. I lived 8 hours by car from our family home.

    My father had driven in front of me to take me to my dorm room. While enthusiastic over this newfound freedom, it was quite shocking and alarming that the moment my father set off to leave from my university campus, suddenly, I felt lonely, in a state of despair, confused and so I begged him not to leave. Funny how that was since I had wanted to move out starting age age 5!

    Life carries on and we even find new communities to fill the void of individuating but often we walk away from these communities, too.

    Will there always be this tug-of-war of bond-disconnect-bond-disconnect?

    Is it a mandatory part of the process? Is it a process all humans go through or, is it something only black sheep experience?

    In 2018, after years of living abroad, I ultimately chose to be 100% estranged from my family. The lack of complete transparency finally became too much for me. Years of intense learning abroad brought me to so many deep truths that I just could no longer maintain a relationship based on false image, guilting, and avoidance.

    While I knew deep in my core that this decision was compelling and felt morally right for me, unexpected incidents of “hard truths” plagued me daily as I released the familial bond from my system. Tragic memories I had suppressed and long forgotten bombarded me daily when I chose the tough decision of estrangement. It was literally like a rebirth—a challenging labor of sorts with built-in nightmares, terror, and what felt like insanity.

    Two years after choosing estrangement, I’m not sure I’m closer to knowing the answer of how we solve the dilemma of desiring to be completely free to know our truth and understand our soul yet still desiring to be part of a tribe.

    I think what I want is both: to be completely free and to be completely me while being seen and accepted by the tribe.

    Perhaps this is the new question:

    How can we encourage all tribe members to accept the individuality of the tribe while still maintaining the love and support of the tribe?

    • This discussion was modified 10 months, 1 week ago by  Rosa Calandra.
  • Daniëla Postma

    25 June 2020 at 22:44
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    It’s a challenging question, Laurie. Can we?

    I think it consequently starts with this question, over and over again: “Can I myself really accept the other as being different, before I demand of the other to accept me the way I am?”

    I discovered I can’t. Sometimes I’m quite good at it and sometimes I suck. My marriage (which I see as a very tiny tribe itself, because of all the other persons that come along with that love of your life, even when you never have children of your own) has shown me that: not who I’d like to be, but who I am. I’m not so perfect after all. I want to be free myself to be who I am, yet I find it sometimes hard to give the same freedom to others.

    And this is therefor a tribe to me now: like I am. Not so perfect after all. At least not everyday. More like the sea with its tides: sometimes exciting, sometimes actually a bit boring, most of the time (when surrounded by the right people) enough love to deal with all that – deep inside – I’d sometimes still liked to be otherwise.

    The right tribes – and I hope this Black Sheep Community will be one of those – will be good enough. Just like I accepted myself to be. Not perfect, but surely good and good enough.

    • Laurie Santos

      26 June 2020 at 10:19
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      I love your first sentence, “it’s challenging, can we?”

      I suppose, I personally don’t know the answer to that.

      I know I’ve had a bit the opposite experience you described here—it feels fun to me that you and I have had different experiences on the same topic!

      I really love the uniqueness of others and I love to study and understand their individuality and personality. Take for example my sister. She and I are estranged for about 5 years now but even to this day, I think often of how I love her wit, humor, sass, and how she views the world. She really looks at the world from a completely different lens than I do and I LOVE that! I would never want her to change that, actually.

      From my side, I feel I learn and grow from others viewpoints—I find often I am grateful they’re not like me because I feel if they were, they wouldn’t teach me anything.

      I guess my experience has been that while I feel I do my best to lend others the freedom to show up as they are, it hasn’t felt reciprocated. This the part I’m trying to understand.

      I’ve learned I needed to break free from my roots, explore other lands, and keep coming home to me. There’s been “temporary tribes” I’ve been part of and maybe that’s what’s important to explore: Tribes actually don’t have to permanent…?

      • Daniëla Postma

        27 June 2020 at 12:45
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        Hai Laurie,

        In friendships I prefer people to be different. And then you and I are far from opposites.

        But in marriage, family and other tribes I can find it a real challenge. And it’s got nothing to do with judging. At least: not always.Upside Down In fact: sometimes I would for example very much like to be as patient as my husband can be. But the time he needs to have before making up his mind – and can decide what to do, or not… Or perhaps and maybe now, but might it not be better to… As said, I’m just not that patient, and to me in these situations paying respect to who he is, challenges me to act and react different than I’d do normally. And also: not make my behavior the norm for ‘right’ and ‘good’ (and so: better than his), because for me it feels more natural.

        And in ‘tribes’… I’m a member of the same church since we moved to Zeist, 20 years ago. Because of the very nice people I still am part of it. And even an active member. But all the rules we have to keep as a church (because we’re part of a national church as well)… it’s really not my cup of tea. I don’t get it – why? – and I also don’t get it others do.

        I do believe in God as a source of unconditional love, always supporting me to be the best and most authentic version of myself, but apart from that I have not the slightest clue Who (or What) He/She/It is. And I like to get inspired by as many different vues as possible, especially when this means a lot for the people I care about. So I studied New Age, when it was hot, and boeddhism and a Course in Miracles, and the conversations with God that Neale Donald Walsh had, and chakra’s, and I celebrated a coven with a Wicca-friend of mine. And so on.

        Church for me has become one of the best ways to really practice actively to respect others to be different, and to put love into actions (by helping and listening when needed) and also to feel accepted as I am (when having the courage to talk about what I need). But easy, being part of a tribe for such a long time? No, not for me. Valuable? Oh, yes, much more than I could ever have imagined.

  • Daniëla Postma

    26 June 2020 at 09:19
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    Do you think, Laurie, there could be limits to one’s freedom just to protect and enable a tribe to function properly? Or does such already damage the individuality of its members too much?

    • Laurie Santos

      26 June 2020 at 10:23
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      I do feel there’s limits to our freedom as individuals when we’re trying to protect and enable the tribe. How about you?

      I also see freedom as a state of mind, though.

      Take that example of your marriage. There can be a freedom for you when you let go of the need or desire (or whatever you prefer to call it) to wish your partner did things differently or didn’t get annoyed by certain things, for example. That’s not enabling your small tribe, that’s more about being detached from the outcome and operating from acceptance.

      My husband I are also only two in the house. We have no children. Sometimes I just watch him to try to understand how he thinks, where he’s coming from, and how he might perceive experiences from his “world” and perspective. I know when I’m truly in that state-of-mind, I feel free because I’m not trying to control the outcome.

      Are you familiar with “The Work” by Byron Katie?

  • Daniëla Postma

    27 June 2020 at 13:00
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    Hi Laurie, yes, it helped me to get ‘untraumatised’ to start asking these questions to myself. With PTSS I had some difficulties trusting people again and these questions made me aware of the gap between what I felt (acute danger) and the reality (most people don’t bite😉). So I could train myself to observe a situation for what it really was – and then find better ways to cope with the emotions no longer taking control and influencing my behavior.

    And nowadays it’s almost a second nature to see how many times an unpleasant feeling tells a lot about me (mostly being a bit too tired to look objectively) and hardly anything about a situation or person. That does bring a ‘freedom of mind’.

    And you? As I assume it’s done something good in your life too…

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