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Aug. 17th, 2014 | 09:18 am

A friend recently wrote something that referenced work with family constellations.

This brought to mind that I have turned my attention away from examination of family dynamics, perhaps because my family of origin feels permanently fractured following my mother's death (now going on almost 7 years ago).

Come to think of it, I was experiencing what seemed to me to be a flareup of depression yesterday, and it seemed to have been connected to the fact that I am preparing to go away on vacation today with my partner. Or perhaps that my mother's birthday is coming up on Monday. It now occurs to me that I was on vacation with my partner in 2007 when I received a call from my father, announcing that my mother had started falling in the house and had been admitted to the hospital. This appeared to be a sign of the seizures that often indicate active brain cancer.

But that's not what I was intending to write about here. The other thing I intended to say was that I had not been delving into family issues because I had worked on that in therapy and it had come to a point of diminishing returns. The reality, so it seems to me, is that if one person in a system is working on personal growth and the others within that system aren't, eventually the efforts won't seem worth it. If there is to be further personal growth, it will need to move away from emphasis on the interpersonal arena and move into things that the individual can truly do for him- or herself: spirituality, intellectual pursuits, artistic pursuits, professional contacts with the wider world. Perhaps the desire for more fulfilling interpersonal relationships within one's immediate social environment is related to a desire to try to perfect one's past before moving on with one's own life. Eventually, the only real choice left is to move on with one's own life, satisfied or not with the quality of relationships in one's immediate environment.

Nonetheless, my friend's comment about family constellations inspired me to dust off a book I have had on my shelf for several years about the astrology of family relationships. I don't "believe in" astrology, but I do find some of its symbolism useful from time to time in trying to reframe my experiences. On this occasion I happened to open up to a passage on Sun/Neptune issues. It so happens that I have Neptune conjunct the Sun in my natal chart. More research would be needed to see if this constitutes a family pattern, but nonetheless the coincidence with my natal chart struck me, so I read the passage. The theme of the passage was enmeshment. "[T]here is always a high feeling-tone, though this nuance is not always clearly expressive of specific emotions or needs, and thus creates an aura of insecurity and 'checking' on what someone might really want or what people are really meaning. Anyone with a sense of independent identity in this family is mysterious, difficult to grasp, perhaps even lost in the family system. As with Jupiter, there is a religious theme, but this is largely mystical, metaphysical or even scientific in orientation." As I read this, I was reminded of my mother's attitude of fear and suspicion regarding any independent feelings, interests, or actions that my brother or I might experience or express. This included things like, when I was a teenager, stealing my journal and reading it and then freaking out because I had been developing feelings for another teenage boy and had been finding references to similar situations in 20th-century French literature. I think that episode is a trauma from which I never fully recovered.

It seems to me that I have been particularly prone to mysterious attractions, or elevations of feeling-tone, at transitional points in my life. Sometimes this has also led to an increasing level of commitment to a spiritual path. "There are symptoms which are often received as negative, but in fact are part of a creative personality-type if well directed and channelled positively; these can be described as hysterical, psychic, visionary, empathic in nature, imaginative and singular." On the other hand, my spiritual commitments have often tended to encounter obstacles via complicated interpersonal relationships, and this has caused them to become bogged down, sometimes forcing a move toward greater autonomy. "For an individual in the Sun/Neptune family to come into a sense of separateness and Selfhood often requires a literal rebirth, cutting or severing from the family--re-enacting the cutting of the umbilical cord in a psychological and spiritual fashion. ... Because the feelings of lack of personal space in such a family are strong, it is essential for the individual to learn to erect appropriate and clear boundaries and self-definition in order to mature into adulthood." It occurred to me, in this connection, to rephrase the NAJ catchphrase, Invitation to Union, as Invitation to Enmeshment, or Invitation to Codependence. That would appear to characterize, in a nutshell, the kinds of dilemmas I'm describing here.

There are other themes along these lines that I may wish to explore further at another time, but for now I'll bring this to a close and start to get ready to go away for a few days.



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