Reflections on Buffy Episode s05e06 “Family”


I wrote this post at the same time as “Et tu Tara?!“, but I went on a long tangent; I decided to separate the topics. This is the product…

I mean, every parent threatens to beat their kids in anger. My parents spanked me as a kid, but that is not the same as abuse (hitting or beating). I’ve been hit before, but a couple of mistakes does not equal a pattern of abuse. Monsters are evil. Therefore, in essence, my dad called me evil. Blah, I make them sound awful! They aren’t bad people! They love me a lot! I love them! We get along well. People get angry, especially when they have stupid kids like young me, and say things they don’t mean. Too bad kids are impressionable and if they hear something enough, sometimes they start to believe the words. It wasn’t like they were mean to me; I just did stupid things a lot.

My brother doesn’t thinks “blood kin” are important. He thinks the emotional bonds you have with people, regardless of blood, is what makes family. I’m not sure why. In Tara’s case, when family completely rejects you, finding your own “family” makes sense. Sometimes it hurts my feelings that he doesn’t view us as important. Well, he views us as important but not necessarily important. In other words, our place in his life is replaceable. I think except in cases of out right rejection, abuse, or other extenuating circumstances, blood family always has a place in your life. Sometimes family is unhealthy to be around. For example, I know a woman recovering from her eating disorder who refuses to see her family because they trigger her so much with incessant body shaming of others, etc. That to is a different case. In my opinion, barring unhealthiness/abuse/rejection, just because you don’t care for or dislike certain members does not mean the family ceases to hold value in your life. Fyi, I like everyone in my family! I think my brother hold himself at a distance because he is afraid of true open communication and he learned as a child that voicing his needs and emotions was not okay. To be fair, non-violent communication rarely occurs in my family.

I’m not sure where he learned that. I learned it to, but differently. I attributed my interaction style to teachings that nice people go along with what others want, good people don’t make a fuss, etc. Taken to the extreme, you get children who don’t know how to express emotions because you punish them for it.

I never saw it with him. I thought it was directed at me because I was overly emotional or bad. However, it is possible that by the time I was old enough to understand these messages, it was already ingrained in him. Therefore, the stoicism I took as inner strength, which I lacked, was really a learned behavior.

Furthermore, I’m a submissive masochist, but he is a Dominant sadist! So, it would not follow that our upbringing influenced my submissive side, unless there really was a difference in their attitude towards us because I was overly emotional, bad, or female. My parents made adhere to some gender roles (nothing inherently wrong with that!) and they do treat us differently in some ways. For example, my mom told me she would disown me if I lived with someone before marriage…while my brother was living with my future sister-in-law. She explicitly said as a female, it would be worse for me to live with a man, than my brother living with his girlfriend. However, my parents never said or implied women were less than men or incapable of anything, just different. In fact, since I can remember, I’ve been told I can do anything I want in life and it is important to be able to take care of myself. Haha, I guess that means I can’t be a painter!

The problem with this theory is that we were never punished for minimal expressions of emotion. So, I’m not sure where we got the idea. I know my dad’s family does not express emotions or needs because my aunt is overbearing, temperamental, and abusive when angry. (Yes, that is right, I said abusive. I can recognize abuse even in my family. My nuclear family is not abusive though.) Therefore, the other kids learned to never express their desires for fear of setting her off. This interaction style persisted in adulthood. My mother on the other hand, has no problem expressing her desires. In fact, I’m envious of her ability to sway people’s decisions with reasoned arguments. So, maybe our dad was an example of non-adaptive communication, but our mom was not. In that case, why didn’t we learn from her? She certainly did her best to course-correct us both prior to middle school.

Maybe I am over thinking things. Maybe my emotional issues are only mine. That is perhaps no matter how I was parented, I would turn out the same way. I’m jealous of my brother. He grew up in the same home and came from the same gene pool, yet he has no diagnosable mental illness. Why am I so weak? Why could he adapt, while I could not?

Dean--WTF photo dean-annoyed.gif

I wonder how my brother views our childhoods. Does he see any maladaptive interactions? If so, what? Did they affect him? Is that why he never calls/ returns calls? Or is there another reason? Does he think we were treated differently? Regardless of our upbringing did he notice different attitudes toward gender? Did Mom or Dad ever hit him (spanking doesn’t count) or was that just me? Did they ever threaten to hurt him? Did they ever call him names?

Most of the hitting and name calling occurred after he left for college. He left for college when I was 13. I don’t remember any hitting or name calling before age 11. So, he was not around for most of it. Mostly, he stayed in his room. So, he wouldn’t be present anyway. Also, this wasn’t frequent by any measure! The hitting and name calling I speak of are isolated incidents, arising from specific behaviors on my part. In fact, the only reason I remember each time so clearly is because it was rare!

I think we were treated differently, but I think it was because he was the first child. Therefore, in general, they were tougher on him and more relaxed with me. If there were any negative messages, he heard them louder and more clearly. As a result, he should be worse off than I am, if our upbringing had anything to do with who I am. At the same time, since I was about 11, my parents said certain things about me, but only after I did inexplicable things. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

Meh, I’m over thinking things again. Every family has foibles. No person, and parents are people, is perfect. My family is no better or worse than any other non-abusive, healthy family. I take that back, my parents were fricking heroic when I was born early. Family is not to blame. No one is, this is just me.

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What to Do When Non-Violent Communication Doesn’t Work?


What do you do when non-violent communication does not work in your family?!Felicia Day_don't know how to respond to that

Before school started, Mom was already constantly asking me about work habits, etc. On one hand, considering last semester, she has valid concerns. On the other hand, her constant nagging is frustrating, unhelpful, and anxiety-provoking. I attempted to express myself using the DEAR MAN cognitive behavior therapy skill, which I learned in inpatient treatment because (as I’m realizing more and more!) my family fails at communication. It helped a tiny bit for the first day, but Friday and last night she was at it again, with renewed vigor. I appreciate her advice. Also, I realize she knows more than me. However, I resent her micro-management. It is one thing to suggest I start homework on Saturday morning instead of Sunday night. It is an entirely different thing to suggest that once and then continue suggesting and/or asking how much work I completed every few hours all night! I was mad, but I tried using skills. When you ask me the same question numerous times and make the same suggestions over and over, I feel annoyed, angry, and resentful. I need you to only make a suggestion once and let me decide whether or not to heed your advice and please ask about progress less often. Fine, I did not include the “please”, but that is the essence of my plea.

It didn’t work. She just got angrier and yelled at me, hitting the table hard enough to break some fragile glass ornaments left there from Christmas. Then I started crying, yelling, and cursing. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cursed at my parents. I feel like a teenager! On one hand, I am living under her roof rent-free. Plus, I admit the eating disorder stunted my emotional growth because once I started using eating disordered behaviors, I stopped learning to deal with emotions healthily. Therefore, although I’ve made tremendous progress over the years, I still view myself as a little behind my peers in emotional maturity. I’ve had more than one therapist tell me this and I know my parents agreed, but no one has said it for a few years. Perhaps I am on par with other early 20-somethings now.

On the other hand, I am 23! I am not a teenager! I am old enough and capable enough to make my own mistakes. Hell, I made a ton last semester, but I am aware of that! I know what I need to do differently and just because I did not study last night, does not mean I am not fixing my mistakes!

I feel suffocated. At the moment, when I see her my first thought is: Regina_don't talk to me

It wasn’t just last night. If it was just one night of needling, I wouldn’t be angry. Even so, I don’t know if I am right to be annoyed or not. Maybe this is that whole teenage-rebellion stage coming a few years late and I should simply listen to her…BUT I am not a teenager and I should be able to make my own choices. I know I owe a lot to her, I know my parents are extremely kind to pay for my first year of grad school and let me live at home without rent. Yet, their generosity doesn’t change the fact that I am an adult.

Ha, the problem is this post feels so whiney! It IS whiney and that is characteristic of a teenager. On the other hand, sometimes people have legitimate reasons to complain.

Last night moving out sounded nice. At this point, it is not worth the extra few thousand in student loans. Inevitably, I’ll have student loans, but I can avoid ~$12,000/year by living at home until the end of school.

I know I can’t give an objective view of all our interactions, the scope, or the frequency of the interactions, but based on what little albeit biased information you have, what should I do differently? Did I do something wrong in my initial attempt to use non-violent communication skills? How can I make things go more smoothly (I.e., no fighting, yelling, screaming, hitting of tables – or people)?

Her advice has merit. In fact, I know it is the best course of action. The way she tried to change my behavior is irritating. Should I do what she says, don’t procrastinate, just to avoid conflict?

I think I’m over-reacting. Then again, I wasn’t the first one to yell, cry, etc.!

Use Your Words


You know how you tell a 2 year old to “use your words” when they start a tantrum? Apparently, this lesson didn’t go much past age 2 in my family. The other night I had a random thought. BDSM involves lots of overt, clear verbal communication. In contrast, my family is the opposite. My mom wanted to spend time just as our nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister-in-law, and I) before they left town, but my uncle and grandparents wanted to spend part of their last day with them to. I tried and failed to encourage my mom to express her wants about spending some time as our nuclear family; I even pointed out she spent $100,000+ on hospitalizations to teach me to use my words to express emotions. She refused, saying it wasn’t important. This is a stretch, but maybe my brother and I’s mutual interest in BDSM is partially due to the clear verbal communication, since we grew up in a family that encouraged not expressing your wants, needs, or feelings. Obviously, a lot more would go into anyone’s predilections; it is just an interesting observation.