Pink eyes

~~~pink eyesLast week I had three separate sessions with three members of the same extended family.  Two were cousins; the third was one cousin’s spouse.

Each session felt just like the other two.

I could barely get a word in edgewise in any of them. 

All three clients were anxious and talked fast, as if expecting to get cut off. 

All three had trouble focusing on questions — instead they pinballed from topic to topic to topic. 

And all three seemed determined to get me to see things as they see them, and annoyed when I did not.

All of which reminded me of pinkeye.

You know, conjunctivitis.  That eye disease you catch from towels.

I found myself thinking how — like pinkeye — habits and symptoms are contagious in families.  How hard it is not to end up thinking and feeling and reacting like each other.

Particularly where control is concerned.

Think about it.  Think how hard it is to not feel pulled into copying your family members when they

~ withhold or disguise what they’re feeling,

~ act out feelings instead of using words,

~ obsess or catastrophize about problems,

~ criticize or pass judgment,

~ blame others,

~ worry about how others see them or the family, or

~ focus on externals (people, places, things) instead of their own perceptions and prejudices.

All are controlling behaviors we can catch from each other.  As are symptoms like anxiety, depression, addiction, anger, impatience and abuse.

We’re mostly unconscious of this, though.  We tend to miss even obvious connections between our emotional habits and the family relationships that shaped us.

Because like conjunctivitis, family dynamics distort our vision.

It can be impossible to see clearly through pink eyes.


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