Written by Stephanie Orphanacos

I was thinking of my family the other day. Not of my husband and my children but my family of origin. As the oldest of four girls, there were a fair amount of expectations placed upon me by my parents. ‘Stephanie, your father and I are going out this evening. You will be in charge of your sisters. Make sure the youngest has a bath and that Chris (the PITA) gets to bed on time.’ These and other directions were handed out on a daily basis. My sisters also, were given directions. ‘Be good for your older sister. It is your responsibility to finish your homework.’….

It was only much later in life that I developed the languaging to understand what my parents were doing. They were introducing us to social structures and in this case to something called a social contract. Aristotle spoke of social contracts 400 years before Christ was born. This Greek Philosopher believed that social contracts were an essential part of an organized and moral society. Only by living a moral and ethical life could we achieve happiness and live our best life.

Much like a government, a family runs smoothly when there are structures that promote an understanding of roles and responsibilities. In a government/family there are also systems that expect accountability and punishment if a citizen makes up their own rules or breaks one that is established.

This system is not always best displayed by our governing officials as news of nepotism, backroom deals and failures of accountability are spread across our news channels. Yet, this analogy to family still holds true. As a family, parents tend to promote dysfunction when one child is favoured over others, or when a secret deal happens between siblings or when accountability is not enforced in the same fashion for all.

Our families are really little microcosms of our greater society. What works for one child/community may not work for the next. Rules/legislation may be appreciated by some but seen to be prejudicial by others. They are perceived as favouring the eldest/the richest or perhaps the youngest/the poorest and the middle children/classes get lost in this tug of war

Parents have no specialized training. It is a learn-as-you-go job. Mistakes are made! Some familial relationships grow in a healthy, caring fashion. While others fail miserably. In a family, the fallout from these relational issues, often with our siblings, follow us for a lifetime. How can we fix this? Is it fixable?

The short answer is that anything can be fixed, particularly if the two parties want to do things differently. Unfortunately, what often happens in families is that our positions have become rigid and solidified. Have you ever noticed when your are seated across the table from your grown siblings at Thanksgiving dinner, that the conversation somehow seems to revert to the same one you had when you were fifteen?

There are a number of reasons for this. But to keep it simple, there are only a few relationships we have that go back to the time of our childhood. These kinds of early developmental experiences have great power. There are memory linkages that occur in the deepest parts of our brain. As such, they are often the most difficult links to reach and reframe, particularly from a purely rational place.

My best recommendation; if you are hoping to change an old familial relationship, if this is really important to you, go and see a mediator or a Counsellor. They may give you just enough of a buffer to help you both from falling back on habits and behaviours that are long practised between you both. With that element out of the way, real mature conversation can happen and change and enlightenment for each of you can occur. In short, your social contracts can be renegotiated and given a much needed upgrade and to quote Aristotle you can achieve happiness.

Stephanie Orphanacos B.A., QMed
Part-time Professor, Family Counsellor and NLP Master Practitioner

Stephanie Orphanacos is a Family Counsellor and part-time Professor. She enjoys supporting her clients and her students as they wind their way through the system to access the supports and services they will need to achieve success for themselves or for their children. Stephanie brings her years of experience in multiple therapeutic modalities and her background in crisis management, mediation and program development to mentor her clients on how best to locate or develop the resources they require to realize their specific goals or objectives.

Stephanie Orphanacos contributes to the Wild About Wellness Community online where members passionate about holistic health and wellness come together to share information, educate and contribute for the purpose of learning and growing. You are invited to explore the site with a free 1-month membership. Get your 1-month free membership HERE.