How do you get your family's blessing when you're going against the norm?
A similarity across Latino nationalities is the importance of respecting elders and their hierarchical standing in the family. One of the responsibilities of the “highest ranked” is to give the bendición. This blessing can be about travel, a meal, an exam, or a football game. A bendición brings about safety in knowing our family cares. However, there might be a time when you go against the hierarchical norm. What happens when you feel unsafe in your own family?
Our family is a system of independent individuals acting together to create cohesiveness. We adapt to our roles and create homeostasis. It is based on functioning in the same, familiar roles and brings about a form of stability and predictability. As noted by Carlfred B. Broderick, “all systems [function] to resist change and maintain ongoing equilibrium.”
We expect that cousin Ralph laughs with his constant supply of jokes, Evan is quiet and will work at his dad’s law firm, and Melissa is expected to have babies as a newlywed. The problem arises when Ralph is quiet and introspective, when Melissa and her husband move for her job promotion, and Evan quits law school to be a web designer. The new behaviors themselves are not necessarily wrong, but seem wrong for those people because it goes against the expected roles. Equilibrium is broken and unconsciously, others want to change the behavior and return to the familiar. Ralph is asked to smile and tell a joke, Melissa “fails” as a wife by taking a job over a baby, and Evan lets his father down.
Inevitably, the dreaded words are spoken, “You’re being selfish.” Selfish behavior can be defined as action that is at the expense of another and we make an amend when that is true. However, when we listen to our individual values and aspirations, we are really taking care of the Self. By being true to our innate desires, we are fulfilled and thus, more available to care for others.
Questions to consider when contemplating a decision that is against the “norm” include:
- Will my actions cause pain or discomfort?
- Will it be temporary? How will my family benefit in the long-term by this change?
- How will I tell my family that I am making a change and it might be uncomfortable?
- What will the new version of homeostasis and our new role be?
In thinking about these questions, you can find clarity in your desires and communicate them. You will validate confusion and you can still take care of yourself. Then, when you get the bendición, you will know everyone is successful together.