The composition of a “family,” by reason of numerous societal changes in our mores and culture, has morphed into many distinct, but societally acceptable configurations. Nevertheless, the family remains recognized as the principal entity for the rearing and socialization of children. We have an observation to make however, with regard to certain dynamics of that entity; a fact which seems to tax credibility and defy any view of societal justice (since the family is universally considered a salutary institution) is its frequent causation of angst to the individual family member.
Leo Tolstoy, in his great novel, Anna Karenina, stated that all happy families are alike, while unhappy families are unhappy for their own individual reasons. The theme of this writing, relates exclusively to functional (successful) families and would exclude dysfunctional ones, whether due to parent and child conflict, serious sibling rivalry, domestic abuse, extramarital affairs, drugs and alcohol abuse and the like. We seek to call attention to a frequent phenomenon which, all too often, seems to emerge from the unavoidable organic nature of the functional family.
The family has often been referred to as the building block of societal civilization; but each block, unlike those of brick and cinder, is not uniformly composed and has its own independent chemistry. In all cases, however, families do factually appear to play an unwitting role in the causation of angst to their individual members. The originating source may be external or internal, as demonstrated below.
Often the qualities, good or bad, or the talents and abilities of individuals, are unfairly projected upon their offspring, creating advance expectations or unfounded predictions concerning the child. Thus, good business acumen, great mathematical or musical abilities, charitable inclinations, or in the negative category, inclination to do evil, miserliness, strict disciplinary tendencies, and many others, cause erroneous expectations, imposed by thoughtless and insensitive people, within and outside of the family; such unwanted and irrational expectations causing great stress or pressure unfairly to the child. The great English philosopher, John Locke, remarked that children are born with a “tabula rasa” or, clean slate.
Every family has its own distinct history; however, its history is not objectively and accurately recorded in some accessible and referable record. The communicated past of the family, to the extent known, is by necessity subject to oral history. The latter, by its nuanced nature, is vulnerable to inaccuracy, editing or amending, depending upon some approved collective memory and the subjective inclination of the reciter of the history. Often, family provenance is open much energetic dispute and productive of stress.
The emotional experience of being a family member of a specific family, conceivably suffering the stress imposed by projected groundless expectations, regarding aptitudes or character with its disputed history, does perform a service, nevertheless, which serves to distinguish the identity of the members of one family from others in society and facilitates the creation of identity. It is certainly fair to refer to the societal value of family and yet proclaim that it is an efficient producer of stress or, angst. Please consider the following example:
If I were to utter a faux- pas, or inadvertently, an insulting remark to a friend, I would have every reasonable expectation of forgiveness and a forgetting, following my sincere apology. By contrast, should such a mistake be made within the confines of the family, the wrong is never forgiven, and certainly not, forgotten; it festers and metastasizes as a permanent subject for treasured critical comment at each and every family gathering. People, who should love each other with the especial warmth of being intimately related as a family member, are potentially willing to villainize another.
Your guess is as good as ours.