Family identity

A response to an article in our November edition.

It was with great interest that I read Professor Antonia Bifulco’s sensitive article on family identity and emotional geography (November 2018), as there are parallels between her family story and my own. Of course, exploring family history can be fascinating and lead one into a new and enriched awareness of oneself, as the author describes. She is probably luckier than many others to have had so much excellent surviving material at her disposal.

However, this is not the case for most people, who have huge gaps in their family history, and this is where problems often start. When a family is troubled, and seems unable to escape their pain, they may well be carrying within them a past they no longer know of, or which was too painful to remember, and which – unknowingly – haunts them still. Many of those whose families lost numerous members in both the world wars are still affected by this past suffering. Holocaust survivors’ families, in particular, are well aware of such dynamics.

Systemic or family constellation work uncovers such legacies, entanglements and other traumata, often exhibited by destructive and seemingly inexplicable patterns of behaviour. Revealing these can have a transforming effect on those involved, bringing peace to a previously dysfunctional and dystopic family system.

There is a growing body of literature in this field, well worth the attention of those dealing with individuals and families struggling to cope emotionally.

Edward Zawidowski MA (Oxon), BSc, MBPsS
Heitersheim, Germany

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