With my first quarter of grad school in the books I have some time to reflect how the last three months have changed me. My family origins class was all about analyzing my family and how it has operated in childhood and now. It was a difficult journey that involved periods of sadness, disappointment, discovery, and change.
In analyzing my parent’s childhood I realized that I could no longer blame them so readily for the harm they caused me. I had to process the trauma that was done to them and how it played a part in who they raised me to be. I saw the good intentions they had and how their limitations got in the way time and again.
I blamed my mother for so much. Now i’m finding myself empathetic toward the choices she had to make. Our childhood and family lives are messy. Family roles are thrust upon children and they have no choice in the matter. The rejected child comes to accept the role that they are given. Adults bring all of the baggage from their family of origins with them and do what they know to raise their children.
In family therapy, there are no good guys or bad guys. There is only the system that forms. There are family roles that are occupied, and we all play these roles because the system needs us to. In this spirit, I had to remove myself and observe this family of mine, sort of like a detective. I had to go through the painful process of categorizing each member.
I sat down for hours with my mother and siblings, asking them direct questions about their experience growing up. We had never had conversations like this before. The things I learned made my heart break. I asked the questions and I feared their answers. Yet, the answers came and I learned so much about this family of mine that I never knew.
I thought about my father, who died a few months ago. There is so much I wanted to ask him. So much I will never know. I was forced to fill in the blanks his death left me. To speculate about what happened to him. It didn’t feel right, but I did it anyways.
My mother told me so many stories of her childhood. She became more than just a mother. She was a daughter, sister, and friend. This all came alive as she spoke. I only knew her one way. My family became three dimensional, not only what I felt them to be.
This was one of the gifts and realizations of my first quarter of grad school.
I have become very proficient at analyzing all of my wife’s problems as well. Sometimes I can be quite irritating to be around, but it’s part of the deal. It’s like exercising a muscle. I have to analyze everyone to get better at it. I analyze family, friends, characters on television and books. Everyone is fair game.
With all of this heavy emotional work i’ve realized the importance of self-care. I won’t be able to do this work without wiring in things like meditation and fitness into my daily routine. Spending five minutes kidding around with my daughter can have such a healing effect.
I was inspired by the courage of my classmates, putting their raw emotions out there for all to see in our role plays. There is kinship in knowing their stories and the incredibly difficult circumstances that brought them to take this step into the counseling field. Therapists can be a weird and eccentric lot, but I respect the sacrifices being made and the processing that we are all doing now.
I am reminded of something I learned in my undergrad school. I can still write the fuck out of a paper. The sheer amount of technical writing involved was very intimidating, but I did it. I wrote two 12-page family analyses and two 8 page literature reviews in the space of three months. I asked for and received alot of support and help in the process, but I did it!
This first quarter was emotionally taxing on so many levels, but the mind is still focused and ready for the next series of challenges. There is an alive-ness that one feels in an educational setting. We are constantly taking chances, making mistakes, discovering, and rediscovering. It feels good to be a student again.