“All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection” ~ Alice Miller
We all grow up with laws and we learn what the laws of the land are and we learn to abide by the law or face certain consequences. We are taught that if we speed, we will get a speeding ticket which includes a fine. We learn that killing another person is wrong and it will land you to prison. We learn that stealing is also an offence punishable by the law. We are taught that punching someone in the face is assault and that threatening another person with any kind of harm is illegal. We learn these laws and are taught to abide by them from various sources such as our families, media, books, news and school. Laws of the land are for our own good. They are meant to protect us and to sustain an at least somewhat civilized society. The law of the land is set in place to give each human being equal rights as a human being.
But some of the things we learn are NOT for our own good. Sometimes we learn to live by a dysfunctional law. Sometimes we learn that we don’t have a right to what IS best for us, but that others have rights to use us and own us and do what they wish as though we don’t have any rights. To these children, it is somehow communicated that for some reason they do not have equal rights as a human being and that they do not deserve protection.
I am talking about “the family law”. “Family laws” are the laws and rules that we learn to live by in our own homes in childhood. The family “law” might not abide by the state or provincial laws, but we are children; we only know what we are taught and what is modeled for us by the caregivers and adults around us.
Sometimes we are taught rules and ways of living in a dysfunctional family system that are not good for us. Sometimes we are taught to accept ways of living that are even illegal but we accept these dysfunctional teachings as truth. If our parents communicated that they have a “right” to abuse us, then we accept that as their right. Some parents assault their children. Some parents sexually violate their children. Some parents neglect their children. (ALL of which is illegal) Some parents verbally destroy the self esteem of their children. It is really hard to come to terms with the fact that these family laws are dysfunctional and that these family belief systems are not actually healthy when we have lived with them since birth. We learn to incorporate these mixed messages and we have come to accept that the law of the land is different than the law of the family.
Family loyalty is also part of the family law. Family loyalty is the notion that I must stay loyal to the family “or else.” There were rules within the family system and I learned by verbal and non verbal communication that it was dangerous to go against them. I didn’t know as a child that it was a dysfunctional system or that the law of the land still applied within the family system. I learned that there were different rules for different situations. If someone assaulted me outside the home it was assault. If it was inside the home it was their right. I was an innocent little sponge absorbing the rules the way they were communicated to me. I didn’t think about it at all. I just accepted it. It was the family law.
We are not born knowing right from wrong; we are taught right from wrong. If we are taught by our mentors, caregivers and teachers, that something wrong is actually right, then we believe it is right. It matters not if this dysfunction is communicated innocently or not. It makes no difference if our parents “meant” to transfer their own dysfunctional family upbringing on to us, OR if they knew they were doing something wrong. When I actually found the answers to my dilemma, understanding my parents and their past lives did not contribute to my emotional healing. The damage has been done regardless of if they “meant” to do it or not. My freedom and recovery has its foundation in understanding that damage and in realizing that I had been raised with some funky ideas about life and how it works.
My value was defined by these dysfunctional family laws in a false way so much so that I didn’t know I had value. The way that love is taught and expressed in a dysfunctional home, is the wrong definition of love. Love does not cause harm and distress in children. Love doesn’t damage people emotionally. Love does not OWN someone as a possession. It was when I sorted that stuff out that I was able to embrace the real truth about what was right and wrong and when it came to my value and what I believed about myself, I had a lot of misunderstanding about the truth.
Many of us as adults know that we had (or still have) manipulative and controlling parents but because of this “family law, we don’t consider standing up to it. We learned loyalty very young. We learned consequences very young. For a very long time I couldn’t get past the “don’t blame” issue in order to see the truth. I was still afraid I was taught to be as a child (false definition of respect) to actually stand up to the dysfunctional family system and take my life back simply because the “family law” and fear of the consequences of going against it were still in place.
The law of the land is right and I agree that it is wrong to break those laws.
But the family law that I lived under was wrong.
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