Guest blog by Pip Bray.
It occurred to me as I was watching my neighbour, who is a farmer, training his 6 month old Border Collie with a flock of hugely tolerant sheep, that The Festive Season doesn’t just shine a light on the farmyard of family dynamics, it kicks the barn door down and sends all the animals rampaging wildly about the place. Chickens fleeing to the top of the trees, cows making off for the fresh pasture and young Border Collies leaping about on the back of the stunned yearling lambs.There is no other time of year quite like it for repeating the experiment of mixing up the chickens and the goats or the cows and the pigs in one pen and seeing what happens this time around. Sometimes, of course, it results in magnificent moments of joy as the animals look to be in sweet harmony; a hen snuggled in amongst the piglets. Sometimes it results in absolute chaos with buckets toppling, feathers flying as boundaries are passionately upheld with pride or resentfully relinquished with shame. Then sometimes, a special year brings in a wolf in sheep’s clothing and carnage ensues leaving confusion and devastation in its wake.
I am wondering what kind of festive break you and your family have just had ..?
I would say if my family are like the farmyard sheep, my husband’s family are like the goats. We all rub along pretty well and rarely does anyone do or not do, say or not say anything challenging or disruptive. Of course, sometimes the goats will decide to eat something remarkable like wood, bricks or even plastic and leave us sheep slightly aghast (like serving mushy peas with christmas dinner for example!) but we all get over it pretty quickly.You see me and my husband were born and grew up just 5 miles apart from each other, with similar levels of affluence, similar morals, hobbies, challenges and almost identical family codes, beliefs, traditions, ways. For some that would sound like a terrible bore but it keeps things calm at Christmas! Now imagine (and I am sure many of you don’t need to imagine) more exotic unions. Maybe a chicken and a horse decide to spend the rest of their lives together, finding beauty and wonder in each other’s differences and similarities. Little chicken decides to move into the horse’s stable and they have a lovely time. The farmyard remains in balance and everyone finds it quite a delight. Then the festive season arrives and blows all the doors down and suddenly all the chickens and all the horses end up in one tiny stable and chaos ensues. We have the chickens doing chicken things the chicken way; pecking, clucking, perching, nesting. We have the horses doing horse things the horse way; whinnying, bucking, rolling, scratching, kicking. Chickens fearful of heavy hooves and whipping tails. Horses fearful of fitful flapping and pointy beaks. And then, in the middle of all this, we have the little chicken and horse partnership with their own, new, harmonious way of living that no one even notices. Maybe this farmyard analogy helps keep things light and maybe it helps illuminate the difference between the family groups you find yourself part of at this time of year but I know the reality can be tough and tiring for a lot of people too. This is why the post festive period is one of the most popular times of year for people to decide to seek support in dealing with the upset they have experienced during time with their families. It is the time of year when the mirror is held up with unavoidable clarity to the challenges we manage to stash away for the rest of the year. These challenges come in so many shapes and sizes and yet they almost always come down to a disruption in the loyalty you have for your family of origin. Decisions like … To get a real or a fake tree To open presents on 24th Dec, 25th Dec or even 6th Jan
To go to church or notTo have chocolate for breakfast To have a drink at 10am To take an afternoon nap To stay for an hour, a day or a week … …are nowhere near as malign as they first appear. These decisions demonstrate what it means to be a fully fledged member of our family of origin and we will protect against anything or anyone that tests that loyalty. Going back to the farmyard, if you are born a chicken you learn to be a great chicken so that you are protected by the chickens around you. If you are born amongst chickens but grow up to be a pheasant, when you leave the farmyard to follow your loyalty to the wild part of you, there is a feeling of that being bad and also good. If you are born a chicken and choose to live with a horse you make sacrifices that may always feel tough and also amazing. You will always, in your heart, feel true to your chicken family of origin no matter how many new loyalties you create along the way. In Family Constellations we refer how things are done in your family, as the rules of belonging to your family of origin and for obvious reasons (namely the innate drive to survive from your arrival as a vulnerable baby through to adulthood) they are something we naturally find ourselves hugely loyal to – whether we like it or not and whether act consciously or not. Through constellations work we can illuminate and honour these loyalties and thus bring them back down to the right size so that they feel like a blessing rather than a blocker.
Don’t stash the stress.
Discomfort is not like a fine wine, it does not get better with age. It festers in your mind and body taking up precious energy that when returned to you can boost your capacity, creativity, motivation, passion and joy. So, whilst those points of tension, anger, frustration, sadness, vulnerability, resentment, confusion, annoyance are still lingering come why not sign up to the next Family Constellation Session and give it a go?
If not this one, you can join online every month at here or face to face throughout the year at The Land.