Have you ever felt “beside yourself”?
Sort of in two places at once? Maybe shocked or surprised or even beside yourself with joy?
The Australian cartoonist and philosopher Michael Leunig, puts the experience this way:
“Come sit down beside me I said to myself,
And although it doesn’t makes sense,
I held my own hand
As a small sign of trust
And together I sat on the fence.”
So is there a way of inviting this “beside yourself” kind of experience?Intentionally invoking it? Where you deliberately sort of take a seat and then sit with yourself in consultation. Or maybe sit and wait for other parts of you to come along and ask them for their input?
Do you have a black sheep in your family? Someone who’s considered the odd one out or a bit weird or not quite living up to the family ideal somehow. A misfit. An outsider. Maybe a ‘failure’.
Maybe you’re it…
Black sheep seem a fairly common phenomenon. Many families have one. Someone who the others might fret about or devote a lot of energy discussing when they’re not in earshot. Someone they’re generally worried about or furious with. Someone the family is united in their difference from.
And maybe that sense of unity is key.
For at the risk of getting too many farm animals involved here, scapegoating the black sheep can be a uniting force in families. It’s a pastime that brings everyone else closer together. Something that swings attention away from other, potentially deeper, tensions in the family and builds allegiances instead. And it’s also thought to be a great soother of anxiety in groups.
So the black sheep can actually perform a very important role in families. It’s just a shame that it usually doesn’t feel that way…
So what can you do if you’ve ended up filling this spot in your family?
The ‘father’ of family systems theory had some ideas…
In this post we’ll look at some of the background to how he saw families working (or not working so well…), and in Part 2, we’ll explore some potential solutions to this black sheep effect.