All Families Are Psychotic

12 07 2010

One of the really interesting parts of making the announcement that we are moving overseas has been the reaction of our families. Of course, our immediate family members have had opinions and feelings both good and bad, just as we have had in making the decision to move to New Zealand, but we have families in many parts of our lives that have reacted, and those reactions have been healing, instructive, and encouraging. We have church family, immediate family, work family, and community family that have all had questions, reactions, and thoughts about our move.

The biggest thing I think I have noticed is how the move has been the catalyst for conversation that should have happened for some time now. I have seen (at least in this experience) that issues that have been underlying in areas of our lives have risen to the surface, with the move taking the brunt of the blame for the issue itself. While I disagree that the decision to move has caused any issue, I am happy for the fact that it has created space for conversation, understanding, and healing in some relationships. I hope what I have learned from this is that I don’t need to wait for a catalyst to force conversation, but that as I seek to understand, I will be understood. And even if I’m not, I will know that I tried as best I can.

Another thought that has been floating around is indeed how each of these families is psychotic in some way. In his book Jpod, Douglas Coupland uses the main character to talk about the idea that all of us, individually, are autistic in some way. Just as Rain Man found Laurel and Hardy, Kmart, and structured TV watching comforting, we all have our own subtler, more hidden ways of settling and comforting ourselves. In the same way, entire families do this as well, and these psychoses (small though they may be) have been upset by our announcement and play themselves out based on the family coping mechanism. ¬†We’ve experienced the silent treatment, anger, attempted ¬†martyrdom, excitement, disappointment, understanding, vicarious living, and encouragement as we have shared our news. It’s been a learning experience to see these expressions of emotion and sometimes, discover for the first time the underlying psychosis of a family or community and finally understand its expectations.

Finally, the experience of interacting with all of these families has allowed us to understand a bit more about ourselves and where we are coming from. When we have experienced conflict, it hasn’t been so much that fact that we are leaving the USA, but the underlying meaning given to our leaving that has been the problem. As different families create different cultures around themselves, they also create meaning and expectation along with that culture, and those cultural norms betray the values and emotional drivers of that family. From our point of view as Christ-followers using Christ as our emotional driver, we’ve seen conflict from different places, all betraying a different emotional driver. For instance, a person whose motivational driver is family is going to hate our idea and feel betrayed; a person whose motivational driver is patriotism may feel let down that we are giving up on the USA; a person whose motivational driver is their personal journey may applaud our move, but they appreciate for different reasons than we do. You get the idea.

For all of our psychotic families out there, to those that understand and those that don’t, there’s not a short, good way to describe why we are doing what we are doing. It certainly isn’t because we disregard friends or family as important. And though we have economical and political concerns, they don’t fully explain it either. There is a strong sense of adventure that this fulfills, especially for me, and Shannon is fully on board (if she had serious misgivings and was adamant against going, I would not–could not–force her). There is part of us interested in living life intentionally in another place so that others see our faith and attracted to Christ because of it. All in all, given all the factors of who we are, what we want to do, and the situations given to us, we are doing “what seems right to us” just as the apostles of the early church did in their decision-making.