Walking the line between supportive and overly involved in family drama can be tough.
Being part of a blended family can be challenging at times. The more people you add into any group, the more likely you are to have personality conflicts and disagreements. As a therapist and a middle child, I tend to be extra sensitive to tension in the relationships around me.
Sometimes, that extra empathy is great and allows me to be more perceptive and see the situation from all sides. Often I am the person that people seem to go to when they need to vent. I don't mind doing this most of the time. It allows the person to blow off some steam and hopefully helps aid in resolving the issue.
But most of the time, it's just me being in the middle. While I have learned to hold my tongue and be very selective when offering advice, this remains difficult. Even more difficult can be withdrawing from the drama that happens over and over inside my head. You know, the times when I wake up in the middle of the night and find myself right in the middle of a conversation that already happened (but, of course, saying something really stellar that instantly helps the situation).
Or when I find myself worrying about whether or not something I said might get misconstrued or misunderstood. Or when I am trying out new approaches in my head and running through imaginary conversations that probably will never happen because a) I have no real power in resolving other people's issues and 2) getting in the middle just puts me, well, in the middle.
Imagine two people trying to talk in a room and I keep standing in the middle. I'm blocking their view of themselves. I'm talking so that they cannot hear themselves speak. As well-meaning as I might be, it's simply not helpful.
So, these imaginary conversations will never come to pass (ie. waste of time). In the meantime, are causing me to lose sleep and add wrinkles. I'm at a place in my life where wrinkle-causes really need to be strictly reserved to smile lines. So, I have to get myself out of this thought loop and really let go of the drama inside and out. However, this is much easier said than done.
Here’s how things have been going in my head this morning:
Getting coffee, I try to practice mindfulness and really enjoy the aroma, taste and feel of my warm energy boost for the morning. Boy, do I love my coffee.
Re-runs, re-creations and projections of other people's dramas run through my head. "Stop!" I scream to myself internally.
Re-direct......the shower. Oh yeah. I really like showers. The warmth, the smell of the soaps and how the heat can begin to melt my tight muscles which I am noticing are bunched into knots.
Re-runs, re-creations, and projections of other people’s dramas run through my head. "Ugh! I’m doing it again! I have to let this go!"
Re-direct........looking out the window to the rainy, soggy morning and trying to think about how nice this little rain is for my vegetables in the garden.
Re-runs, re-creations, and projections of other people’s dramas run through my head. "Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush!"
Has this ever happened to you? Sometimes it's my own drama or fears, sometimes it's me worrying about a client and sometimes it's family drama. Whatever the source, it does nothing at all to resolve the conflict and feels a lot like swimming upstream in a fast current. My thoughts keep coming back to the source of the angst. It takes an extra ordinary amount of effort to let it go.
And yet, letting it go is what I need. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude in the midst of conflict, I find, is one of the greatest ways of gaining perspective and wisdom in a tumultuous situation. Letting go of my need to control other people extends to more than just resisting the urge to give unsolicited advice. It means actually letting it go, in my thoughts and in my body.
So, today, I will stay on the merry go round of ricocheting my thoughts away from the drama and re-focusing on the small things. I will take deep breaths and actively let go of the tension that creeps automatically into my body whenever the drama creeps back in.
Eventually, there will be longer stretches where I am not thinking about the drama. Eventually, I will no longer feel consumed. And maybe, at that point, I will be able to support more effectively. Until then, my efforts are a waste of effort in every way except in helping myself to find internal balance.
"Letting go doesn't mean that you don't care about someone anymore. It's just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself." ― Deborah Reber, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
If you need help in getting out of a similar thought loop and creating balance within yourself and your own blended family, contact Traci Pirri, MSW, LCSW.