Family Karma

It’s the time of year for family reunions and gatherings and despite fervent inner promises do you find yourself incapable of not biting the bait? The “bait” represents the oh-so-familiar roles and responses that we were sure we’d left behind. We know someone who noted that every time she went home for a visit, the framed photographs of herself and her siblings would be in a different order on the mantel, depending on their current status in the family pecking order.

Here are some inevitable roles that we are cast into within the family dynamic:

1. The Golden Child: the one who can do no wrong. Think Brad Pitt in the Legends of the Fall. In adulthood, this person either overachieves to meet expectations or dramatically underachieves, because they feel they’ve been granted a golden ticket in life.

2. The Hero/Matyr: This is the one who bears burdens, serves as the mediator, and makes sacrifices for the sake of the family. This type is often vastly under-appreciated and are often taken for granted. .

3. The Mascot: This is the one who diffuses situations by making everyone laugh but consequently is never quite taken seriously and who is never quite seen as a grownup.

4. The Oversensitive, Wounded One: This is the person who is always reeling from one untenable situation to another, who may be misunderstood artist, and /or who may have a substance abuse problem. In a dysfunctional dynamic, this behavior is secretly gratifying to the parents because it provides them with someone to take care of.

5. The Scapegoat/Black Sheep: This is the person who is the outlier—the iconoclast. They are the opposite of the hero and are often marginalized or criticized for not getting with the program. Their life choices are often unconventional and their declaration of self-autonomy is looked upon as a form of betrayal to the family. The “Black Sheep,” is often the most honest of the family members—the one who “broke away.” But being the honest one does not always come with perks. The rest of the family is often uncomfortable honesty and will try to distance themselves from them.

6. The Lost Child: This is the one whose strategy for survival in the family dynamic is to fly under the radar. In adulthood, this person maintains that feeling of being lost and unseen. They often have low self-esteem. They will struggle to make decisions and constantly have feelings of invisibility or not being seen or heard.

7. The Infantilized Child: This is the one who is given tacit permission to not have to grow up. They often manifest conditions that cause them to have to live at home far into adulthood.

8. The Parentilized Child: This is the one who has to step in because either one or both parents are absent, ailing, or dysfunctional. They take care of the other siblings and the parents. They have to grow up before their time and are very often overachievers because they go into adulthood as adults.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Family is everything.” What does that actually mean? It’s been the rationale for vendettas, skewed live choices, and much heartache and recrimination.

So what is the yogic take on all of this? Yoga states that dysfunctional family dynamics often persist over lifetimes. Our great lesson is to learn to be neutral (compassionate is part of that constellation), forgiving, and true to ourselves. Being true to ourselves does not stem from a place of selfishness. Karmically speaking, we do have an obligation to our family, but not at the expense of our own dharma, which is the path we were born to walk.

You may have found that with regard to your family dynamic there’s no way to “win.” You’re always going to be seen a certain way which is invariably at odds with the true you. If the situation we find ourselves in is truly toxic or unhealthy, we have every right to walk away or to create a respectful distance. We know someone who, upon graduating college moved to Australia so as to be able to be their own person.

Many find that even when they distance themselves from their family, they keep falling into the same dysfunctional dynamics in their extended relationships. It’s important to be honest with ourselves about what our patterns are and anticipate them before we find ourselves embroiled in them yet again.

Kundalini Yoga and meditation practices will give us the power to flower, and also an exalted overview to remind us that our identity is not based on our wounding or the love we never received but on the uniqueness of our gifts and the beauty of our soul.

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