Controlling Families


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This is the family which is ruled by decree. It is the authoritarian, or the rigid, or the meddlesome family. The controlling family is one wherein any threat of deviation from the “way-it’s-supposed-to-be” is rapidly squashed. This is the family of “piano lessons, whatever,” of “you’ll do every vestige of your homework before you can talk to your friends,” of “don’t speak unless you are spoken to.” This is the family that is portrayed with clarity and passion in Dead Poet’s Society: the blindly ambitious father “knew” what was “best” for his son, imposed his paternal vision, never seeing his son’s true interests, resulting in catastrophic consequences for his son’s sense of worth and for his will to live. This is example of how the shame engendered by the parent’s domineering control can cause the child to believe he has no “self” worth preserving: as it becomes impossible to live according to his own desires, and as he cannot give his parent what he wants, he has no choice but to kill himself.

The controlling family carries deep shame. It’s “solution” is to make the exterior “perfect”, thus, hopefully obscuring and forgetting about the rot within. The parents in this family cannot tolerate any variation on their crystallized ideas and styles, hence they give little credence to the self-aware wishes of the individual to mobilize for self-fulfillment.

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