The first we inherit, the second we create.
The first is where we get wounded, the second where we go to heal.
Sorry. I don’t mean to sound cynical.
But do my job for any length of time and you can’t avoid concluding that, while healthy families exist, they are rare.
Healthy families are those able to meet their members’ needs for attention, acceptance, approval and affection.
Healthy families understand and practice empathy, respect, loyalty, goodwill, trust.
And healthy families make room for everyone. No one gets abused, ignored or sacrificed. No one gets lost.
As I said, such families exist. But for too many reasons to list here, they are outnumbered by the other kind.
And when the first family is inadequate, the second becomes essential.
Some people, wounded in the first family, give up on people. They decide relationship is dangerous, something that hurts or disappoints you, not a place to get your needs met. So they retreat into anger, isolation, intellect, work, materialism or substance abuse. Some try to make do with a hobby, a tv or a cat.
Others keep returning to their dysfunctional first family, hoping against hope that someday, somehow, this dry well will produce water.
The luckier ones realize they need a second family.
They may start with a tentative connection to a therapist, sponsor or recovery buddy. Scary stuff, at first. But as they collect good experiences, their sense of safety and ability to trust grows. Their new family may expand to include friends or classmates, coworkers or colleagues, members of a self-help or a therapy group. Eventually it may include their own partner, inlaws, and/or their own children.
That’s what happened to me.
It’s why, when I published my book, I included this on the Acknowledgements page:
This is no exaggeration.
So yes, first families are unavoidable, often disappointing, even destructive.
And yes, the wounds they inflict can last a lifetime.
But no, they do not constitute our destiny.
Second families are our second chance.