In many families where ongoing conflict persists, a heightened tolerance for emotional pain ensues. Denial, rather than resolution become the goal. Repression, shame, and blame then become the tools that are used to perpetuate the need to deny what exists. Overtime all the members of the family unknowingly assume different roles in an attempt to mask the pain or secret. Unknowingly, each family member — through the role that they are given or assume – absorbs the unresolved pain, conflict or secret. Denial then acts as a buffer that keeps the family system intact.
Denial perpetuates the drama that contains the conflict. Each member within the family system unconsciously denies their authentic self to avoid conflict. Maintaining the role becomes more important than becoming a separate and autonomous individual. The role becomes the person’s identity and drama becomes the vehicle to feel alive. For many years, I stayed in my role as a scapegoat because I believed that I was responsible for people, places, and things. By focusing on the drama, my ability to individuate atrophied. My time and energy were devoted to managing the conflict.
Rather than focusing on solutions, I was duped into believing that the drama would somehow save me. It was only after I experienced an emotional bottom that I became willing to look for solutions. Through this process, I came to understand that the role I had been living did not represent God’s will for me.The answers to my questions came from my willingness to be honest — with myself. Through my recovery process, I discovered why I felt comfortable in the role that I sought to justify on a daily basis. Over time, I was able to identify behaviors that shackled me to that role. With my awareness, I was able to:
Stop saying, “I am sorry” for everything under the sun. With my change of behavior, I slowly was able to make the decision to allow people the freedom to take responsibility for their own restlessness and discontent. I also decided to give people the dignity to be responsible for how they chose to react to things that were out of my control. In the process, I found myself breaking free from the yoke that once controlled my world. In the process, I discovered that I no longer needed to identify myself with the role that I unknowingly sought to identify with for many years.
In the process, I discovered that I could break free from the denial system that sought to keep me in a role — in a family system role – in an attempt to contain unresolved conflict and pain.
In the process, I discovered that by changing my behavior, I was able to break free from the drama and family system role. I discovered that I could stop acting out the role and subsequent drama in each of my relationships – beyond the nuclear family. I discovered that by breaking free from the role, the drama and my denial, I was able to start living life on life’s terms. I discovered that by breaking free from the role, the drama and my denial, I was able to start trusting the process, a loving God and myself. I discovered that by breaking free from the role, the drama and my denial, I found hope.
In the event that I find myself slipping back into the role, drama or denial, I now realize that I can make changes. In the event that I find myself buying back into the illusion that I can control the drama, I can choose to remember that I can get off of the merry-go-round called denial at any time. Through my awareness, I realize that I no longer have to fight the drama. Instead, I can step back from and detach myself from the drama. By detaching from the drama, I am able to use that energy – that I previously used to maintain the role, the drama and the denial system – to empower my gifts, talents and abilities…
in ways that work for me.
Note: For more information on Family System Roles, please read Virginia Satir’s book: Conjoint Family Therapy
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