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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Acknowledging the Fears: Political Divisions in Families

b2ap3_thumbnail_Family-separation.jpgIn the national news headlines of America these past weeks, our country has been overrun with images of migrant families torn apart. We have heard the heartbreaking cries of children and the pleas of parents who long to be reunited with their precious kids. But what about American parents who are sending their teen and adult children away deliberately, consciously, without looking back? What about the families who are attacking their grown-up children in person, in social media, and demanding the entire family ostracize them because of their political beliefs? These are not parents who are pleading or weeping for their daughters or sons to return to them, but parents who are saying "I disown you!" because they disagree with them.

Today, we are witnessing so many instances of the crumbling of the pretext of Unconditional Love in our families and realizing that parental and family love comes with very clear conditions: Agree With Us or You're Out! For many daughters, sons, and genderqueer people, what was once minor political disagreements (or at least you could live with those differences by avoiding discussing them) has become grounds for utter cut-off and outright attack. John Erickson writes about his experience in a 2016 blog post called "A Letter To Those I've Lost" that you can read here: https://feminismandreligion.com/2016/12/22/a-letter-to-those-ive-lost/

In families where diversity on any opinion, belief, or position is not allowed because they (unconsciously) believe that strict uniformity of opinion is the gel that is holding everyone together, the political dramas of the past few years are pushing out shadowy material. This shadowy material held in the collective identity of a family can rear-up like an angry dragon when someone in the family does not submit to the family script and then scorches the dissenter. This can happen among people of any race, class, educational level, religion, or geographic location: there are no families who are immune to this behavior if they are functioning from the following distorted beliefs:

"Members of real families have the same values and beliefs."

"Happiness & Safety mean sameness."

"Difference of any kind is a threat to our family."

"If we don't think the same, someone is wrong and must be punished."

"If you change your role in the family script, I will not know who I am or who our family is."

These underground beliefs are very powerful, and, of course, none of us know we have them without doing some inner interrogations. In our harried, modern American lives, not many people have time or energy for "inner interrogations", especially the working poor. Also, western culture does not encourage or teach practices of "inner interrogation" or knowing one's self deeply. Our primary concern is in the making and keeping of money and social status, unfortunately, and this really hinders families from doing the deep inner reflection that could keep more of them together.

Sameness in families can feel like a cushion that softens the blows of an already-fraught world that can alleviate anxiety and shield family members from feelings of isolation and inadequacy, but this is a false security. Believing in sameness tells families who they are in relation to the world that they may need to clearly define themselves either as separate from or strongly belonging to something larger that gives them a sense of worth, value, and "rightness", i.e., like a religion, a political group, or an ideology. When a family member has a strongly different political belief from the family, this can shake the family down to their unconscious core, deeply  threatening the foundation of the family that is supposed to be a shield and solid identity in this difficult culture.

In addition to the need for sameness to create identity and foster belonging in a family,

the belief that conflict is unnatural and a sign that a person is unloved

plays a significant role in why families shun politically dissenting daughters and sons.

Conflict is painful, but families in most cultures see it as intolerable, disrespectful to elders in the family, and a sign that someone "does not belong". In many families, differentiation is not allowed! When we understand a person as "not belonging," the next step would be to ostracize them, to cut-off all contact with them. For the rejected, this traumatic and shocking experience relays to them that familial love was never unconditional, but was founded on their submission to the family identity and unspoken rules. This is a devastating moment!

For the family that rejects a dissenting member, they may feel that they never knew who that person was, that they failed to bring them "into the fold" by convincing them that the family's beliefs are the ONLY and CORRECT beliefs that people in that family have, if they are loyal and love one another. Unfortunately, many families that reject their teen and adult children do not simply cut-off these people, but then they must vehemently vilify them in order to justify the cut-off. The families attack, often viciously. They slander their daughter or son to anyone who will listen. They increase their political rhetoric to fever-pitched volumes and rail on the rightness of their position. The chasm between the ostracized family member and the family itself grows like a toxic wound, making future possibilities for forgiveness, reunion, and healing nearly impossible.

The current political climate has pushed into the light the dark, intolerant beliefs in many American families and the pain for everyone involved is excruciating.  Replacing the dysfunctional, unhealthy beliefs in families with the following ones, may be helpful:

"Our ability to love one another through disagreement shows the strength of our family."

"Families that disagree together stay together."

"My love for you could never be defined by your politics."

"We will always function from and treat you from what we love best about you."

"Our joy in who you are as a person could never be eclipsed by your politics."

My personal belief is that if families would truly place love before their political opinions, returning to that joyous place of divinity within their own hearts and acting from it, a world full of misogyny, racism, and xenophobia would dissolve. When we live from that place of love, hating is simply impossible!

Until next time, if you have been rejected by your family because of your politics, I urge you to take solace in knowing that you have maintained your integrity of belief and reach out to others who can love and console you. Be gentle with yourself. Even without your family's love, you are still loved. You ARE love. No one can take that from you...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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