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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

When families get stuck

Why can perfectly normal, healthy adults be stuck in our own families?

Anyone who has ever gone home for Christmas or Thanksgiving only to feel like their family treats them like they were still a kid knows that families have strong dynamics that last long past the time the kids become adults.

Every family, every tribe or team or group has spoken and unspoken rules, standards, and expectations. The best version of this is called a family ego, and it helps us build our identity.

As you have probably already know, there is a downside, a dark side to unspoken rules and expectations. This dynamic is not a family ego.

We all grew up with a family swamp.

I know we like to think our family is doing fine. We don’t have problems and if we do, we can figure it out. But, all families have swamps. Even Jesus grew up in a family swamp. Family swamps are family systems, family lessons, family rules. It’s the way we live and act and react to all the other members of our families.

Not sure you agree that families have swamps? Take a look at the photo above.

The dog feels guilty and the one year old has already learned how to blame someone else! That’s a swamp in action. While family egos reinforce positive lessons, family swamps reinforce negative ones. We learn from this story of Jesus how to get unstuck from our family swamp.

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