Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Black Sheep No More!

Are You Tired of being the Black Sheep of the Family? 

by Kyra Mesich, PsyD
The highly sensitive person often winds up being the scapegoat or black sheep of their family. This can range from feeling like you don’t fit in (problem child/teen, chronic illnesses, being picked on, etc) all the way to being severely abused in the most dysfunctional family systems. As a matter of fact, it’s likely that you’ve become your family’s Identified Patient.
The Identified Patient? What’s That?
It’s a classic term from family therapy, used when a family comes in with all fingers pointing at one member in particular who “has problems.” That one family member is the Identified Patient, and is typically the sensitive, empathic child/teen.
A dysfunctional family uses the Identified Patient, or IP, as a distraction at best, scapegoat at worst, to maintain the false belief that the family system is healthy and that the IP is the one who is troubled and needs to change.
Even if your family growing up wasn’t “dysfunctional,” you may have taken on an IP family role in response to a messy divorce, unresolved anger, or the like.
The IP is the one member of the family who shines a light on the parents’ family secrets, inner conflicts, and deeply held pain (often multi-generational patterns which have been passed down the family line). You may not have consciously intended to expose these dysfunctional patterns, but you did so by: 
Refusing to keep quiet about abuse and actually desire to heal, rather than cover it up. 
Or expressing the family pain through behavior such as substance abuse, chronic physical illness, rebellion, or depression/anxiety.
You Are a Mirror
As the sensitive, empathic child/teen in the family, your actions or symptoms were a mirror, reflecting destructive, unbalanced behavior (be it narcissism, sexual abuse, secret family shame, alcoholism, seething anger toward one another, etc) for all to see. 
Unfortunately, when you carry this mirror, others in the family seize the opportunity to interpret the reflection not as themselves, but as you being the source of the problem. It’s you holding the mirror, right? Remember, from their point of view needing to maintain the status quo, the IP is the one who is troubled and needs to change, not the family.
That’s how you, as the sensitive family member, became identified as an unstable screw-up at best, or at worst as the cause of all the family’s difficulties, the scapegoat.
It’s Time to Release the Role of the IP
As long as you are willing to carry that mirror and contain the family’s issues, your family will happily allow you to stay in the IP role…for your entire lifetime. Did you read that loud and clear? 
A family system with unresolved pain will work to keep the status quo at all costs. As long as you are the IP, no one else has to admit to any wrongdoing, no one else has to honestly confront deeply seated pain, no one else has to remember painful memories of the ways the dysfunction began with grandparents and great-grandparents, no one else in the family has to honestly, openly communicate with one another…ever.
The shame, guilt and low self-worth that you carry as the IP is not yours, as much as it is your parents’, elders’ and their parents’ before them. Like everyone else on this planet, you were born or adopted into a family which is downstream in a flowing river of ancestry.
As a sensitive, empathic child you noticed any dysfunctional, uncomfortable energy from your parents and the generations before. No matter what the adults tried to hide, you felt the truth, which may have been an empathic feeling of sadness, anger, or chaos. It made no sense to you as a child, but on some level, you couldn’t help but be aware of your loved ones’ pain, and couldn’t ignore it. You wanted to bring balance and harmony to your family system.
As a child/teen, the only way you knew of to try to relieve that discomfort was to absorb the family pain. Maybe you took on the role of the IP in order to carry the pain for your parents so they wouldn’t be as burdened, or in a hopeful effort that if you absorbed the pain, family members would no longer need to hurt you or each other. And long into adulthood, you are likely still holding that mirror and empathically carrying that pain.
Put Down the Mirror
It does not help anyone else to carry their wounds for them, and you cannot prevent multi-generational family dysfunction from being passed down to your own children until you put down the mirror and step away from the role of the IP. Don’t worry, it’s never too late. Even if your children are already adults, you will make a big difference by letting go of your responsibility to hold the family mirror. It’s time for you to embrace a new identity.
I suggest finding a private, quiet place to repeatedly say these kinds of statements out loud to yourself. Choose your favorites that really speak to you:
“I take on a new identity. I am no longer the black sheep. I am the wolf (or insert your favorite animal here) who lives by my own rules”
“I am free to step out of the family river. I observe without being knee-deep in it”
“I release the family emotions I took on as an empathic kid”
“I return my family’s freedom to make their own choices about their issues. I no longer carry it for them.”
“I respect myself for attempting to bring balance to my family’s situation, but from now on I only concern myself with my own wellbeing in my own life”
“I was never the cause of my family’s issues. I only brought light to what was already there.”
“I return my family’s emotional energy to them so they may learn what they need to learn from this life.”
(These statements work no matter whether key family members are living or deceased. You can still release the energy)
Meditation of the week from Dr Kyra - No Longer the Black Sheep!
Release what you never thought you could and define yourself in liberating new ways this meditation! 13 minutes. Listen and follow along with the Youtube link above. Soundcloud version at drkyra.com/meditation-mp3s (scroll down the page) 
Envisioning You Standing in the Strength of Your Sensitivity, 
~ Dr Kyra, www.drkyra.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thrive this Winter: 6 Step Anti-SAD Action Plan

Holy moly winter arrived early and intensely this year here in MN!  I’ve heard similar reports from my friends and family around the ...