Whoever said the nuclear family is the building block of society was spot on. Strange but true that brothers and sisters can be very different personalities and the parents the wonderful union of opposites.
From seemingly egoless babies we grow into children teetering between soul remembrance and ego identity. By the time we are teenagers ego identity takes over because it’s the most conformist time of our life.
At this point the ego fulfils an important developmental role. It teaches us how to package our persona to others and to find and defend our own sense of self. We are also challenged by other egos like settling squabbles with family and mending differences between friends.
Ego makes its grandstand in the intimate and loving relationship which starts off with the ideal then gets tested when reality bites. So the man with the lovely manners to everyone turns out to be a tad dismissive of his family members when behind closed doors. Or the vivacious woman who is so considerate of others turns out to have a needy side when with family.
Ironically the family is the best place to lose all sense of your true soul identity because while in a family setting you are someone’s parent, daughter, nephew, grandchild. These labels come with a set of expectations, the strongest of which are projected on a family member by the matriarch or patriarch – depending on who is wearing the pants on the day.
As a role of father, mother, son or daughter – these tags come with one-size-fits-all qualities. Traditionally, the father is the main bread-winner, the mother the main nurturer. Notice these tie into the generic ego stereotypes of the male and female. Dad can be the larrikin or goose but mum is the sensible one, as an example.
Today we are more fluid in the role-plays in family between parents. Some households are a mix and others have the mother as main bread-winner and dad as nurturer for a time. Oddly enough, this has not been an escape from stereotyping but has invented new ones like the career mum and all the tags that go with it, and the sensitive new-age dad (being a flunky for the kids).
Another irony of the ego consciousness is that we tend to be shabbiest to those who are closest to us. Falling back on the promise of unconditional family love, we unconsciously take liberties by being most unfair or harshest with our family members. They can’t refuse to see us and walk away never to return – in theory at least. Family ties last whether the relationship is nurtured or not and so do their corresponding ego roles.
There are two negative relationship dynamics that occur in family when you boil it down, whether it’s between husband and wife, parent and child, or extended family member.
Intimidated by another in some way –
This is when ego boundaries are blurred and the person hasn’t communicated their needs in a consistent way. Or they got off on the wrong foot with the other. There is worry about being perceived wrongly and lots of second guessing. The partner with the stronger ego boundary will make things worse by doubting the weaker ego person. They may openly show their doubt by they way they talk to them, or, avoid them. The weaker boundary person will experience some ego boundary bleed as he tries to mimic the dominant person’s preferences in an attempt to gain their respect.
Disappointed in another in some way –
This is when one ego projects expectations onto another for an array of possible reasons. It could be unconscious or very conscious. Of course projected expectations rarely get fulfilled so the person who is doing the projecting reacts with disappointment when the other doesn’t pick up on the cues and lives up to expectation. Instead of reassessing the expectation, the projecting person will choose to find fault with the other. The weaker boundary person will experience a shrinking of their personal boundary space, trying to retreat from the critical eye of the other.
Five Ego Traits that Blur Ego Boundaries
These are five main things to watch for that blur ego boundaries in family. This means the dynamic in the relationship is having the effect of draining the energy from the other and/or bleeding into the personal mental space of the other:
Why are we dropped into the clutches of people with polar opposites in a relation to them that we can’t just walk away from them? eg. family. Well it’s an opportunity to level out the extremes or polarised aspects of our own personality – and what better way to do it than be around a person who rubs you the wrong way.
It means you have an intolerance, or the opposite of that, over-sensitivity to work upon if you can see the opportunity. Being aware of these threats to ego boundaries will take you out of the victim mentality and make you realise you are dealing with people who have something to learn from you as well. Look at it that way.