Sedna’s Daughters: Healing from Family Estrangement

Families in patriarchal cultures often mete out similar types of domination and oppression on their daughters that women experience in the larger world. For many daughters (and sons/trans/genderqueer folks), this includes scapegoating and rejection. Sedna’s Daughters provides a safe space for discussion on earth-based, spiritual approaches to healing from the confusing experience of family estrangement and recognizes all people's inherent belonging to Mother Earth, the human family, and the cosmos.

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Cracking Group Identity, Family-Style

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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How could my family do this to me?

This is the question I hear over and over again from daughters around the world who have been shunned, cut-off or are estranged from their families. It is a compelling question that demands an answer. Though healing from traumatic wounding and destructive actions by those who are meant to be our primary source of succor, love, and refuge (i.e., our families) is healed and resolved in myriad ways beyond intellectual understanding, the questions of the mind must still be honored, addressed, and satisfied. We want, and deserve, to know why; we want some rational explanation; we crave a framework into which our questions can be posed and resolved because the magnitude of the wounding by our family is catastrophic, as it was meant and intended to be. When an earthquake razes a city, we know plates moved along fault lines deep under the earth. Though an explanation to why families target their daughters for aggression will never be that finite and direct, the reasons for the shunning can be satisfactorily imagined, in all their possibilities and components.

When looking at the research on Group Identity and Identity Fusion, the "whys?" and "how could they?" of Family Aggression are rational and logical when understood from a Group Dynamic perspective. Yep, why families shun daughters actually makes perfect, pathological sense, but the conversation can never stop there! We must always go the next step and ask "why are families aggressive and target one member for ousting?" The answer is that most human cultures are founded on domination and aggression, and those values influence, shape, and get expressed in families, though of course many families do not act out the worst beliefs of the cultures where they live. Those families have healthy group identities, can deal with conflict and difference directly, and most likely have a strong foundation of support built-in to their family system.

When human beings bond through a common identity or values, this Group Identity becomes its own entity to which individuals pay homage to various degrees, often to the point that their individual identity is utterly usurped. They ARE the group/family/organization, etc. They do not separate their individual thinking from the group thinking. Therefore, to betray the group--or in this case we are talking about families--would mean individuals would be annihilating a part of themselves, betraying something so essential that they cannot conceive of themselves without that Group Identity.

The social-psychological term "Group Think" can be especially played out very strongly in families that:

1. Have unresolved, intergenerational trauma and family secrets;

2. Suffer with addictions; and

3. Participate in strict religious denominations, among other possibilities.

Families that have endured generations of poverty, persecution because of religious beliefs or race, for example, are going to have higher levels of suffering and trauma that exasperates their need to forge an unbreakable bond or Group Identity that disallows any variance or difference. Everybody has to be totally in or they are totally out (shunned), in other words.

Families that are wounded themselves and do not address their internal suffering have to work very hard at keeping that truth psychologically pushed down, kept out of their consciousness, and denied. This highly-stressful state fosters an immature Group Identity that promotes people acting out their worst behaviors while trying to maintain that Identity. Maintaining the Group Identity is very important to these families and they police the boundaries of those identities vigilantly. Some families live in communities where other families and outside organizations also police those boundaries and enact various pressures on the family to conform to social rules, religious beliefs, and cultural values. In other words, if one family member does not comply with the rules, the whole family may be ostracized from the community. Hence the family can turn to very vicious behaviors toward a daughter (or son) who may jeopardize a family's conformity to the community.

An example of this would be a family throwing a teenaged daughter out of her home or not speaking to an adult daughter because she is pregnant and not married or lesbian or rejects the family's religion. The family may be very cruel to her, disown her, even threaten her life because that's what their community expects of them. Their love for their daughter does not supersede their loyalty to the Group Identity. This is how powerful, and tragic, Group Identity dynamics are.

Group Think requires complicit silence by all family members and full cooperation--or else. The deeper the family wounds, the greater the need to protect the Group Identity, the harder the backlash and aggression toward anyone who does not conform. Very few families are ever going to say, "Yea, we have a concrete-block wall of Group Identity around us to keep out the truth of our pain!" Indeed, few people realize their families' Group Think because the very nature of the family is to thwart and punish personal growth and insight into one's self. All goes along well with everyone conforming to the invisible rules until a daughter (or son) says:

"How long are we going to deny that grandpa was drunk and fell into the holiday table?"

"I don't want to go into the family business."

"I am divorcing my spouse."

"I'm a lesbian."

"Why does my sibling get resources and privileges that I do not?"

"Uncle Joe molested me."

"I'm sick of being the scapegoat/family slave/doormat in this family."

"I am pregnant and not married."

"I will marry whom I wish to marry."

When daughters speak truth to family dynamics, sometimes without even knowing they are doing it, Group Identity Rules can hit us like a truck. Suddenly the family that loved is the family that hates. Suddenly daughters realize that the price of being included in a family system is to lie about their identity, their feelings, their memories, their lives. Suddenly daughters realize the real shocker that, all along, they believed they were loved when what their family really loved about them was their ability to comply to the Family Rules. Our silence was loved. Our submission was loved. Our ability to deny was loved. Our maintaining our role in the family system was loved.

In addition to this, targeting daughters for rejection strengthens and deepens a broken families' sense of belonging to one another--it creates an internal enemy that promotes their allegiance to one another and justifies (in their minds) the shunning/ostracism. In families with deep, unresolved problems, this process is extremely important. Their broken selves desperately need to have a sense of belonging and the price they paid for that sense of belonging was targeting a daughter (or son) to scapegoat and reject. Yes, it is disturbingly sick, unconscious behavior that hurts everyone, especially young people in the family who are also victims of the Family Aggression. But conscious of the reasons or not, all families are responsible for their violent, shameful behavior.

Breaking from the family's Group Identity is what got us kicked out of the family;

or perhaps the family's abuse escalated to the point that we escaped to save own our lives.

After being shunned by our families, we learn the stunning truth that we had been expendable all along and just did not know it. This is an incredible lesson that creates a core wound from betraying primal trust--the type of trust all human beings have, or should have, as infants/children with our primary caregivers. Family Rejection breaks that primal trust and the ensuing trauma must be honored and healed. Yes, even that deep wounding can be healed--many daughters have already done so.

What an interesting place in the story of our lives

the experience of Family Aggression brings us!

Now what?

This thing has happened that there is no national dialogue about, no Oprah show, no Huffington-Post or NY Times-level conversation. According to national dialogues that do occur, violence against women is supposed to come from strangers, not our families. When family members abuse one another it is understood to occur in "sick families" by "sick individuals", not families who are reflections of "sick cultures"--that's too big, too deep, too overwhelming. We don't want to look at that. Families are microcosms of the cultures they inhabit. Choosing a daughter to scapegoat and blame all the family's problems on, and understanding girls and women to be the property of their families, play key functions in why families shun daughters. Remember, it was Eve who was blamed for the downfall of humanity and the story of Lilith, who came before Eve, that was slandered and taken out of circulation, the first daughter who is defamed unto today.

When cultures understand women as commodities and treat us as such,

our families will do the same.

Intellectual understanding of Family Violence Against Women must be addressed by not only the targets of family aggression for our individual healing, but by our global societies. Family aggression against daughters occurs today in nearly every culture on every continent in the world. Tragically, and a symptom of the problem, families think they have an individual-family problem. They do not see they are expressing the lowest form of their cultural conditioning from a global platform that subjugates women. The Sedna's Daughters community has been exploring the reasons for the ugly phenomenon of family aggression since 2015, studying the research on Group Identity issues, and, since then, a fascinating pattern of explanation has emerged.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The important question is, How will we daughters continue our own precious lives after devastating betrayal? We shall. We were targeted by our families for a reason: We are non-compliers with a voice. Why else would they bother to target us if we did not? If we submitted, we would not be understood as a  "problem". We speak and live our truth, our very lives breaking the Group Identity Rules.

For most daughters, much of our lives have been spent dodging, surviving, then healing the destruction of our family systems. When daughters can at long last use those very same inner strengths for our own happiness, it is joyful. Using the amazing resources, skills, and gumption we have had all along to make it this far to now fashion the life we have the right to live, and deserve to live, is amazing. That's what this blog is about: Daughters taking back our lives!

Until next time...

"The Sedna's Daughters community is holding you all in our hearts, while your hearts heal."

With Love, always, Sedna XO

 

 

 

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I have a Ph.D., am a victim's advocate, college-level educator, and was shunned by my maternal biological kin and their family friends over a decade ago. I have built an international community of daughters (and sons) committed to supporting one another and thriving despite the aggression of our relatives. “Sedna” is the EuroAmerican name of a revered Inuit Creatrix who was violently rejected by her parents and cast into the sea to die, but instead survived to create otters, seals, and whales.  Sedna is also the name of a star just appearing in the farthest reaches of our solar system and discovered by astronomers on November 14, 2003. Nick Anthony Fiorenza writes that "Sedna's message here is that humanity must recognize the truth about the suppression, persecution, abduction and exploitation of the feminine force in the world; and this mentality perpetuating such must be addressed and changed." Healing women is my life's work. See my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/SednasD/

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