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As we talk about making changes ...

Posted Nov 05 2008 12:14am

As we talk about making changes for the holidays, I'm reminded of how tempting it is to preserve the status quo, no matter how uncomfortable the status quo might be.

I was meeting with a family today. They have been working hard over the past few months to help their daughter move out of the house, something all involved want to see happen.

It's clear the daughter wants to find a place of her own to live, and that she's also frightened about whether she'll be able to live on her own without her parents' help. And while the parents want to help launch their child further into adulthood, they have their own worries about whether she's really ready to move away from home.

In addition, all three of them have spent many years living together in a tense and complex household. The daughter has learned to see herself as a mediator between the parents, and the parents have become dependent upon the presence of the daughter as a kind of "distraction" that allows them to avoid direct communication between the two of them. Everyone in the family loves each other very much, and each of them genuinely wants the best for everyone. But over the years they have developed certain dynamics that each unconsciously felt he/she needs. 

Simultaneously, the parents want to help their child move on with her life, and move forward with theirs, and they unconsciously feel threatened by the potential shift in relationships. The daughter is caught in the same kind of trap.

Because of the ambivalence of the family members, every time the daughter finds a possible apartment to rent, something happens and the deal falls through. And each time, this is a real disappointment to the family.

In therapy, they've wondered why they can't find a place for her to live. It seemed as if luck was simply against them, until they understood their conflicted feelings about the change in the family. They could then see it wasn't random that no living situation was materializing. Once they realized (made conscious) they felt threatened by the idea of the move, they could talk openly about how tempting it was to stay with the status quo. 

Each time we propose a change for ourselves, we need to think about what kind of resistance we may have to the change, and why. And we need to remind ourselves that even if we do have hesitation or anxiety about a change, it doesn't necessarily mean we don't want to make the change.

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