Recreating your family or you'll always be the youngest child
I was in therapy for nine years or so. At some point in the process I told my therapist I wanted to kill my parents. She smiled and said, "You'll just find new ones." That remarked stayed with me as I attempted to work with what I'd been given including those parents who were a seductive combination of utterly fabulous, utterly terrible. Eventually, love won. Although I can still leave their company after a week feeling stripped of my identity, confused about the past, crushed by the present, it's a temporary set back, not something that inspires behavior like drinking, marrying the wrong person or running away.
Recreating one's family dynamic happens constantly. At my last job my boss began to warn me that my accomplishments, publishing a novel, attending a national conference, winning awards could affect my peers negatively. She often announced events like the birth of babies or someone being asked to share a paper while not acknowledging my success. It was my job to be the good girl and help others feel better about themselves. This did not strike me as odd. She would take me aside and whisper how proud she was of me just as my mother used to so my sister didn't suffer. But what this did was separate us from one another while it kept my mother in the middle pulling the strings.
The only way to achieve authentic intimacy is to be aware of the complete person and love that person with all their flaws and assets. An accepted novel is shadowed by dozens of rejections, the conference supplied me with excellent resources I should have shared with my colleagues and the awards might have been celebrated with an open heart. Failure is a constant for those of us who take risks. I always want to represent the person who is willing to try for something and if it didn't happen be able to accept the rejection and try again. As a teacher this was the role I played in the classroom. A mentor who was in the process of setting meaningful goals. Why not bring that openness to the rest of life?
Each time I am in a group situation this recreation of family seems to play some sort of role. On this last day of a month long residency I am exhausted by a power struggle with a person I have so much in common with it's uncanny. Yet, we probably won't stay in touch. The childish sibling rivalry, the who does what best, the attempts to gain positive attention are so familiar I would find it surprising except I have seen this before. A good friend helped me negotiate classroom dynamics by suggesting recognizing archetypes, a warrior student can be given authority, a hero can be allowed to lead others towards understanding and so on. It's not surrender but a knowing negotiation, an awareness that you share the same dream.
I have been told on some occasions that I am intimidating because I do many things well or possibly because I'm too assertive or abrasive. But here's the thing, life terrifies me. I can't seem to get well paying work as a writer/teacher, I can't get thin, I can't stop watching stupid television, there are weird skin tags appearing uninvited on my 50+ body. What else? I'll never have a flat stomach, my books don't come fast enough, I have jealous, mean thoughts about more successful writers, I'll never have my own talk show, my sister doesn't love me or if she does she still chooses other people to be close to and when I'm afraid of my parents dying or when something bad happens I can't call her because she won't want to talk to me. And there's no one else to talk to so I pick up one of the cats and I explain how bad it feels to be me and that cat does nothing but purr and after a minute squirm out of my arms.