Family Is Never As It Seems: Lessons from Downton Abbey


Family Is Never As It Seems: Lessons from Downton Abbey
If we could all believe Violet's observation, we'd be a lot less stressed and a lot happier

As a therapist, I hear a lot of clients describe their relationship and family struggles as "abnormal" or "shameful".  Whether it is 1920 in England or 2013 in the United States, there seems to be a tremendous tendency to assume that other families are perfect or, at least "normal" and that the every-day struggles faced in so many relationships are such a poor reflection on the family as a whole that they leave people feeling isolated or even defective.  A client once told me that when he overdosed as a teenager, his mother's first response was to be furious because she had a personal relationship with one of the nurses in the emergency room and she worried what others would think.  Another client opened up about the fact that she was abusing drugs, and her parents' first question was who in the neighborhood already knew about the problem.  They said they would only get her help with the condition that she promise to tell no one of her "transgressions."  I cannot count the number of clients I have worked with over the years who resort to psychiatric medication when it is absolutely necessary, and then proceed to torture themselves with worry that others will find out and see them as "crazy" or "weak". 

If only we could all give into Granny's insightful observation and realize that ALL families struggle behind the closed doors of their real lives.  Sometimes these struggles can seem extreme or dramatic, but what makes them far worse is subsequent worry that the very fact that a struggle exists is a shameful referendum on the family unit as a whole.  If we all worried a little bit more about how the people we love most are feeling, and a little bit less about the outside world is thinking, it would likely reduce a tremendous amount of anxiety and leave us all a lot happier.

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Elisabeth LaMotte


Social worker, psychotherapist, blogger and author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce"

Location: Washington, DC
Credentials: LICSW, MFT, MSW
Specialties: Communication Problems, Dating/Being Single Support, Divorce/Divorce Prevention
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