Sunday, February 7, 2021

FAMILY COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, Is it a product of technology?

 




Family, Can't Live with them, Can't live Without them  

  

 We are Good People 


First,  my family is normal and probably no more dysfunctional than the average family.  But it is extremely large and spread over much of Canada, Hawaii, and Australia.  That said, many members of the family can be triggered quickly. And I know it is unfair that I set them up occasionally with a provocative comment or text. Most of the family uses Facebook to keep in touch. Technology is not a good substitute for face-to-face  conversation. 

I don't understand why we behave as we sometimes do that causes emotional upset.   Most  of the time we can laugh and enjoy being together.  However,lately, largely due to the global pandemic, in person contact is rare and that is just part of the problem.  more and more we have become reliant on keeping in touch electronically.     We have photos and memories.    I enjoy posting photos of family get-togethers, it brings back fond memories.   And this is how this particular upset started.   


I have a picture with the nephew we are both smiling. He has blocked and removed me on Facebook.  Occasionally I will take out the photo and look at his  smiling face arms around me.  I vividly remember the moment the photo was taken.  And  it makes me smile knowing we were once close.   I don't cringe when I see photos of him.    I know he  gossips about me to family members and I don't care.  I don't know if he wants to erased me from his life,  and his past. These are his issues to work out on his own. 

In this blog I have intentionally posted pictures of good times.  I want to create lasting memories of the closeness we feel as family the ease we weave in and out of our relationship, regardless of time and distance.  At the same time, some members of the family will not like some photos I post.  It is important to remember that all they are is a facsimile of a person or event.  And they hold no power other than what you give them.  More importantly, not seeing any photos of you with the person you now want to distance from does not erase the history you had with that person.  It does not mean you never had happiness around that person it does not undo the relationship, or tie with that person. 
 

Context


Most Of the family know I manage the private family group page on Facebook.  This morning as I was posting and updating the family page something occurred to make me reconsider why I maintain that page.  By and large I am cognizant of our differences and make every attempt not to create waves and upset contrary to what I said earlier.  When it comes to family I don't go out of my way to upset them.  Today, I made a choice to include some family photos, not the one  I was asked to remove from Facebook. 


When I updated the family group page with the photo of a father, his wife, and adult son.  The parents are estranged.  No sooner had photograph been posted I received a message asking that it be removed, no explanation just "please remove."    I was shocked to be asked that.  The request didn't come from any of the people in the picture.  I responded why? "Because neither of them associate with him" this meant that the wife and son do not associate with the estranged husband/ father or want to be associated with him." It's a very personal family matter".      I removed the photograph. 

Honestly all I was aware of his they were separated and as in most separations there are accusations.  I don't know the details.  Was it so horrific that they now want to erase any evidence that they knew each other or are family?  I removed the photograph from the group as requested, and it is not posted here.   
However doing so made me angry because I started to wonder when did we become so intolerant that a single photo can creates conflict.  And then I thought of other family members who are estranged and then questioned whether I shouldn't be posting pictures of them either.  Where will it end?  

My first instinct was to remove the entire Facebook group and close it down.  But on further consideration I decided to leave it and let the members to decide if it should be removed.  Another option is that I leave the group and allow someone else to manage it.  As I thought about the relationship among the members it occurred to me that many have distanced himself themselves from, each other going as far as removing and blocking each other in social media, essentially ghosting each other I don't want to  be put into a position of having to consider each photo I post and whether or not it will create conflict and upset, particularly if I don't know the whole story of every relationship in the family. 

Why I Created A Family Page


The question I asked myself today is why I created the family page in the first instance? It was with good intentions because at the time, a few years ago I was creating a database of our family tree after my Mom was admitted to long-term care upon breaking her hip.  She was then 87 years old.  I kept it going after raising the question of whether it should stay or if I should remove it after Mom passed at age 96.  Many family members expressly wanted it to stay.  It seemed a safe place for family to catch up on family news. I rotate the pictures of family in the group occasionally.  It was a way of helping a diverse family stay in touch throughout the years and to remember past times when we were all closer.

Early Years



My parents,  uncles and aunts

  
Growing up as the youngest girl with 10 brothers and five sisters what I valued most in my family is our humour and that no one took themselves seriously.  It is this seamless relationship between all of us that I miss. If we don't see each other for months we can pick up where we left off easily as though it  happened just days earlier without any awkwardness.   For the most part, we are accepting of each other and willing to help where possible. 

As I got older our relationships became more complicated.  divisions occurred for political reasons. instead of talking it through I was ostracized.  I was raised with the expectation that we respect our elders. I never witnessed any of us younger ones challenging or being disrespectful to an elder of the family or in the community.  Moreover we would not ever resort to swearing or calling names to our parents or anyone else for that matter.   I know my aunts and uncles were not saints.  No one is above making mistakes.  including and especially me. 

Furthermore, I don't recall anyone being so angry as to not speak with another member in the household, certainly not ghosting anyone.  Granted it wouldn't have happened then because you would see each other every day and be forced to work things out.  It is hard to ignore someone when you are a large family in a small house!

The behaviours we are now witnessing were adopted many years later when we all took to social media such as Facebook.   The nature of social media makes it easier not to work out disagreements face-to-face.  If you don't see each other face-to-face you don't have to take responsibility for freezing them out  and it is easier to remove and block. I know, I have been tempted myself sometimes but I nearly always resisted the urge to remove and block family. 

 The Cognitive Dissonance


What I am experiencing at the moment is noticing more and more nieces, nephews and cousins disrespecting aunts and uncles when individually they are good people and by and large they treat each other respectfully.  So why disrespect family? 

We are all learning during the pandemic there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when we are dealing with emotional matters.  It is too easy to block a person, or respond with a few keystrokes in a moment of anger. It is harder to back away from a nasty comment when it is in black and white and they don't have the ability to hug or share a meal together and talk things out. 

Outsider



I left the family early and made a life for myself in Edmonton, attending University there and then working for a federal Commission in Ottawa, I got married and stayed in Ottawa.  When I moved to Ottawa I thought it was going to be for two or three years.  I have now been in Ottawa for 28 years.  

I don't believe my childhood created any identifiable trauma within the family.  However, I admit those of us who attended Residential School have trauma and we carried that trauma when we got older and passed it on to our children.  That is referred to as intergenerational trauma. This is  photograph of the residential school and church where trauma began for some of my family.   Not posting the picture in this particular blog will not change what happened.  But it might help us face what happen and acknowledging what happened can give us strength and purpose.   It is a matter of perspective.  It is part of our collective past and can explain how we behave in our present.  

 

 
As I unpacked my family relationship, I begin to consider that I might indeed be an outsider now.  Because it is an explanation of the disrespect I felt.  It is easier to throw assaults on someone you considered outside your group, similar to the cliques in high school.  The popular kids would view other kids as not meeting their expectation to be allowed in their group. 

When you create division, it is easier to see the others as "them and us" where even the word "family" holds less power.  That said most of the family I feel respect and accept me.  But there are some who hold the view that I am judgmental, and that is okay.  

I can be open to the possibility that I may sometimes be judgmental, to be seen as  on a high horse, dispensing disapproval, even.  It is a possibility that some hold that truth.   The one distinction that sets me apart from most of the family is that I have never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. I never saw the sense of what people call "partying".  That doesn't mean I looked down on those who have problems with addiction, or that I didn't understand their struggle. I made other choices.  As a further unpacked my relationship with my family I considered that perhaps my online presence created some of the disconnect.  

My Online Presence


I believe that my online presence is authentic. I don't intentionally post a false betrayal of my life and I certainly don't post with the intention to brag about my life or make others feel as their lives are lacking.  I will not apologize for having made the right choices in my life and creating a life that is drama free.  I accentuate the positive aspects of my life.  I could post about my medical challenges.  I could bemoan the fact that I live in a remote place and I have not been able to drive a car for years after losing my license because of medical reasons and I now have to depend on others to take me to appointments.  But that is not why I blog  or why I post on social media.   In particular, blogging is how I process what happens in my life.  What I post on Facebook are memories and insights I enjoy sharing.  

Most of my online post are of the beautiful view of the Ottawa River from my living room.  It is something I value.  I hold nature and the environment in a high importance because of the beauty and happiness it brings me. I assure you it is not to brag but rather to share and hope that it brings you happiness as well.  It is a spectacular view and even more extraordinary in person seeing it with the naked eye.  I feel some members of the family may see that and perhaps think of me as one of the fortunate ones.  Indeed, I am extremely grateful in particular for the view I see every day and generally for my life which affords me a drama free existence.   I like that I am always looking at the positive aspects of my life. 

As a longtime meditator I know that I have created an inner awareness peace and discipline. I am able to reflect and respond and not overreact to perceived slights perhaps being aware and in control of my emotions might appear to be a threat and others may receive it as I feel superior to them. But I am confident in who I am, being raised in a large family I wound up being compassionate.  And it is just one of the many facets of who I choose to be.

Conclusion


I am absolutely a complex human being, as most of us are. I can be ironic and at the same time I am genuine and  authentic.  Earlier this week I decided to limit which family members I accept into my life, not because I'm better than anyone but just because I want to limit conflict. 

Family dynamics can be a minefield and we have to tread carefully if we don't want to be blown up. I'm extremely grateful for my upbringing coming from a large family and I have developed tools to navigate conflicts and they serve me well.  we are born into our family for the most part.  Remembering that we all  make mistakes will help us have more compassion and acceptance.  

My Perspective


As an avid reader, recently I have read a number of books written by Holocaust survivors and children of murdered Jewish families.   What struck me was their immense capacity to forgive the atrocities done to them.   It is mind-boggling because of the contrasts between that forgiveness and inflated petty accusations from family members.  

One of the first Holocaust related books I read is Man's Search For Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl, chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.  Another is The Gift by Edith Eger.  Both her parents were killed on the day they arrived at the concentration camp.  She  reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering to the benefit of others and in doing that she finds freedom.  What I got from these books is that bad things will happen, indeed horrific and terrible things will happen. It is how you react to the events that matters.  Your perspective that will save you.  What Frankl says is that no matter what happens to you, you always have a choice and the the ability to change your perspective, to give it meaning and purpose and use that to give you strength to endure.  After my medical crisis it was those words that helped me regain my strength.





My big sister, Mary and me when she visited a few years ago



Ottawa River with a portion cleared for skating  02/2021



The view from my window

 My late mom and my son, Andrew, her last grandchild. 



An older brother, Fred and older sister, Annie Mercredi 



My late uncle and aunt, a cousin,  Norma Jean,  and my nephew Dean



Me, my son, Mom, my daughter and granddaughter

 

Family group of the Males with Mom 



Family group at mom's 93rd Birthday Females 






 


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