Psychology And The Shadow Side Of Families

Pluto dark backgroundSpeaking of families where one or more members are invisible, projected upon, or forced to carry the shadow for the group, I am trying to improve my level of understanding and acceptance of this. Because as common as this is, to me it’s a foreign culture.

My family is overt. Everyone knows who everyone is because  we all have a strong Moon Jupiter signature. W’ll tell you who we are!

If you misunderstand us, we’ll tell you again with our voice raised. We’ll be loud at first and then louder.  If continue to misunderstand us, we will probably pick up a brick and hit you with it.

Considering this, there is not a lot of confusion in my family so what happens to someone like me when I go into a family where there’s nothing but confusion?  My instinct is to confront.

“Whaaat? That person is not the cause of your ills! Are you out of your mind? Where did you come up with some jacked up story like that?!?”

That’s what I want to say. You can imagine the scene. You have this family all assembled with their family story and what? Some loud Italian is going to go in and set them straight? ::shakes head:: That can’t be right.

This causes an enormous disconnect for me because I don’t know where the line is. For example, if I am eating dinner with a bunch of Japanese, I would try to keep my voice down and do like the natives. Understanding this, does it follow if I am eating dinner with the deluded, I should pretend to be deluded myself? Or pretend they are not deluded? I’m thinking this is the case.

I have more than one friend who carries the shadow for their family. They are somewhat comfortable being treated this way, probably because they’re conditioned to it.  It would not be good for me to go into another person’s family and start banging pots and pans, wrecking the place. I’m sure it would do more harm than good.

I am trying to figure out how I may contort myself so a scenario like this is tolerable. The family dynamic is hard-wired and it seems I need accept this, the way I do the climate or other things I cannot control. But on the other hand the analogy that occurs to me is that of the SS beating down the Jew. And I am being asked to witness but not intervene?  It’s painful.

Observations anyone?

25 thoughts on “Psychology And The Shadow Side Of Families”

  1. I totally relate to the strong kid in my dysfunctional family, for “speaking up” and telling it like it is, I was labeled The Official Black Sheep. When in fact they were the toxic black sheep emotionally vomiting all over everyone. Projection indeed and not a pretty view. Mix in a religious upbringing, force fed church against your will 6 days a week, warned that you were going to burn in hell, and if you rebelled you were labeled a Sinner, and then ignored like you didnt exist. Any shred of normal tlc, even medical care..were denied. What a toxic stew..these people were so unhappy they made a lifetime out of making others miserable and thought they had the right to do so. I packed my bags at 19 and left, never looking back.

    A childhood exposed to this crap made me painfully aware, took 3 years of therapy to get the negative programming out of my head. I thank the stars for my Sun-Mars strength. Sadly, I’m seeing this scenario played out with a dear friend …his ex’s family thinks the reason they are having marital problems is because he doesnt attend church. They refuse to admit their less than lovely daughter was the source of the drugs/fights/pre-divorce.

  2. I think it’s harder to know what to do when confronted with a situation foreign to your experience. I always try to take the middle way – I cannot control others, but neither do I want others/situations to control me or stifle my truth. I can’t see it as black or white….it’s all grey. There are times to respect the ambiance or consciousness level of the situation, and there are times when the truth of your being may plant the seeds for change…if done in a nurturing, gentle and neutral manner, if that makes sense.

  3. In general, I would say let people fight their own battles. Counsel and console the person who is being picked on, by all means, but I don’t think much will come from confronting the family.

    As bad as it is, this might be an experience that person needs to have – to learn to fight for themselves, or have boundaries or whatever.

    I also wouldn’t discount setting an example, that is often more effective than words in some situations, especially with deluded people.

  4. Sadly, some people prefer to wallow in the dark their whole lives, as opposed to pushing forward to get out of their black holes towards the light of the Moon. Astrologically, are those with Moon-Pluto signatures doomed to delusion? Thats where free will comes into play, they can choose or not choose to be that way, and we can also choose or not choose how to deal with the deluded.

    As they say….the truth will set you free.

  5. “Are those with Moon-Pluto signatures doomed to delusion?”

    Nope. I have Moon square Pluto, and I am not delusional, I swear! *laughs*

    Elsa, I have been wondering of this too as of late as a friend’s mother is close to becoming homeless due to the nature of her addictions. The ‘kids’ are now in their 40s and do not want to step in, because they have been called upon to do so their ENTIRE lives and their emotions are depleted.

    I have been asked to help (as an information gatherer for the ‘kids’). I fantasize about telling the mother to go fuck herself as she has inflicted infinite amounts of pain upon her children and they want to be free of it.
    I would never do that though. I don’t get involved in other people’s families. There is a lot going on there, pyschically, karmically, historically.

  6. Elsa I think you’re being called upon to witness but you can emit knowledge to these people in a variety of ways. But it seems it would require learning this family’s language or teaching them yours…

  7. Unfortunately my middle brother is in the same position. My whole family is against him, they just project all their issues on him, verbaly abuse him all the time and he is a shadow of a man, caught in this circle where he is now so beat, so full of self-hate that he is emotionaly dependent on them.He tried Scientology to try and become mentaly/emotionaly stonger but it was a quick fix and he went back to the old ways. I spoke to my psychologist about this since I wanted to help him, but he siad that until he asks for help himself, until he admits to himself that things arent working and he should get outside help, than no one can help him. If therapy was pushed on him, it would have failed. So in the end , one should be there for that person, give comfort without judgemenent and wait for the moment to be asked for advice on the matter. Also when the family is toxic, it is usualy the healthiest person that is the only one exhibiting depresion or an emotional breakdown. It hapens as a means for the psyche to let the person know that that enviroment is toxic and that he should get away. I hope this helps.

  8. People see what they’re ready to see and hear what they’re ready to hear. You can try to confront them, but it never works. I guess that if someone’s willing to be led, you can kind of leave them a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow, but they’ve got to be ready to take the journey.

  9. Elena,
    Yes, I have noticed that the one having the nervous breakdown is often the strongest, and finally has been pushed to the point of exhaustion! I witnessed 4 friends have complete breakdowns in the last few months. Half of my friends are on antidepressants now. I dont know if that is or is not the answer, but seems to be the medical communities answer.

    As a person dealing with so many friends having breakdowns lately, the best thing I know to do is to just sit quietly and listen and respond with Love.

  10. My advice is always not to interfere. Families are complicated, and their patterns are set up the way they are for a reason – usually so hard wired that they are both resistant to change and in some ways maintained by every member of the family system.

    As a friend you can comfort and reassure and offer an alternative view of reality to the person who is being picked on, but going in there with guns blazing will not only do jack shit to change stuff it will likely backfire.

    I say this as a family therapist who has learned not to side with the victim (because in doing that, we often lost the whole family and the victim didn’t end up helped in any way at all). So while shouting and confronting may feel good it won’t actually do any good at all, but may instead do great harm.

  11. “Are those with Moon-Pluto signatures doomed to delusion?”

    I can’t say, since I have a Moon-Pluto signature, lol!

    But I will say that, once you see some of the ways in which you are deluded, then you start to realize that *everyone* is deluded in one way or another. Of course, some people’s delusions hurt people more than others… but in general, everyone is walking around with a bubble over their heads and everyone thinks their bubble is “reality,” when in fact it is only one of many bubbles (even talking about this is a bubble, I suppose). Delusion can be dysfunctional, but at base, our concept of “self” depends on delusion, so what are you gonna do?

    I think the trick is to realize everyone’s in a bubble and not take your opinions and views too seriously, because after all, everyone thinks their views are “right,” or at least “reality.”

  12. From observation, I’ve noticed some families are like being in the circus.

    There is a cute little dog, the one handpicked to jump thru the hoops. Oh this little dog (sometimes the runt of the litter) is young, naive, trainable, and eager to jump thru hoops to get to that little snack reward at the end. Over time, this little dog does it over and over automatically without thinking. The trainer then raises the hoops a little higher, making the dog work harder. The little dog gets frustrated yet is still obsessed with getting that little satisfaction of a snack, at the other end. Because in daily life, there are no special snacks. Only when he jumps thru the hoops.

    One day the dog gets old, tired, may refuse to play the jumping game and even starts snapping and biting others (who have nothing to do with the situation) out of frustration. The dog is suddenly not so cute, is ignored as damaged goods as if its all his fault. Said dog may be replaced with a younger similar unsuspecting dog or naive puppy and the cycle of puppetry behaviour for one fleeting gobble of comfort continues.

    How many of us, at some point in our lives, were that little dog?

  13. Here, here, marswoman. (I hope I spelled “here,here” right. It should mean “yes, me too.”
    But I did it by myself no one made me or promised me any snacks. My brothers were horrible in school, so I thought that if I’m an A student, I’ll get more affection. not so. They were so used to me being a miss goody-two-shoes that I wasn’t even noticed and all the attention went into ‘fixing’ my brothers.
    Now everything I do is ‘pre-cheked’ by me to see if I’m doing it for me or to get someone else’s attention.

  14. Among my siblings, I would say that we are straight forward. We don’t know how to lie. I was trying to figure out why my parents made one of my brothers the scrapegoat of the family.

    Anyhow, I was reading an astrology book about family and family karma. It said something about secrets in my family, secret children, so forth and so on. I immediately rejected it. Since then so many secrets have come out about earlier generations. My methodist hellfire great grandmother had to go to another state to give birth to my grandmother, because she was unwed at the time. My greatgrandfather was eventually pressured to marry her.
    My grandmother was pregnant when she married my grandfather. The child died. My father and siblings did not know about this child until recently.
    Then last year, my dad told me that he had two illegitimate children very close to the ages of my youngest brothers.

    I was nearly 50 before I found out the shadow side of the family. I wouldn’t assume that there is no shadows.

  15. I just smile and play along. It’s not my personal growth work it’s theirs. All of them knows what’s going on whether they admit it or not.

  16. “Understanding this, does it follow if I am eating dinner with the deluded, I should pretend to be deluded myself? Or pretend they are not deluded? I’m thinking this is the case…”

    You do not need to pretend you are deluded, you need to leave them to THEIR delusion & sit on the outside… if you want a peaceful existance.
    If you act, you’ll create divisions & people will start to take sides… I can’t see a way to “win” in these situations. Of course, I may be wrong!

  17. No, I don’t think you are being asked to witness and not intervene. I think your observations within the dynamic can be key in helping them find a resolution..but, you have to speak their language. In your Japanese example, you couldn’t go all Italian on them. You would have to bear in mind the overall culture and the type of communication within the family to be effective.

  18. In my experience, trying to expose the bear standing in the middle of the room never works.

    I am the honest one. Why live in denial? Why not expose the troublemakers so that the rest of the family can get along happily? My Aries Sun is hidden-conjunct Mercury Jupiter Pisces. Find the problem – expose it – fix it so it goes away and everyone can relax! Talk about it! Everyone will be happier for it, right?


    I have noticed there are always members of the younger generations who are only too happy to keep the dysfunctional dynamic of the older generations alive and well.

    In my own family, and the families of the exes, they all want to live their delusions. The mothers did not want to hear their son was an alcoholic, or a pathological liar and abusive. I told them right to their “faces” over the phone. I was the troublemaker and the bitch.

    In my own family, after my grandmother died, I removed myself from the whole lot of them. After my aunt lied about me several times on vacation, she would approach my mother (her sister) about making amends with me, but only if I wouldn’t talk about what went on during vacation!

    I’m hoping to get remarried and move the hell away from my mother and stepfather, because they have their own bullshit going on that I’m tired of dealing with. They know what the problems are, but refuse to fix them because they are so stubborn, everyone should act how THEY want them to act.

    I separated myself for my own peace of mind because if I did not get away, I felt I would have a nervous breakdown. I also was determined to break the chain for my own children’s sake.

    If this were me, I’d probably keep my mouth shut unless asked for my opinion. I warn people to never ask me what I think unless they are prepared to hear me say exactly what I think.

    If someone is being picked on wrongfully, I would definitely have to open my mouth and stick up for that person in front of the family – chips fall where they may. I have this thing about being the only one to speak up about an injustice when everyone else is standing around silent.

    I pissed off my Art Production teacher that way and the bitch gave me a C when I deserved an A, just because I stuck up for another boy in the class. Long story.

  19. Help your client identify the light in the shadow and transform the wound into the gift is “the” Work With the Shadow rule, whether it applies to carrying the shadow of a family or the shadow material in the individual chart.

    Now, to apply my own medicine, since I SO am the shadow of my family! (12th house sun & saturn).

    And don’t yell at the shadow, whatever you do! It’s like those crazy people in movies who are walking in a dark place and they yell out, “Who’s there?” And so the killer knows where THEY are, but they have no idea where the killer is. So you get very quiet, and then you find out what is ‘stalking’ you, and you talk to it, and ask what it is there to teach, give, and what it — your shadow — knows that you don’t want to know, but will be happier and wiser if you find the courage to.

  20. I have struggled to understand this “black sheep” issue for years.

    First I was ostracized for being fat ugly & rebellious & then I married rich,got lucky with jobs & became responsible, looking after all the older members of the family alone….think things changed…NO!!!

    Now they shun me for different reasons…for divorcing husband,being “miss goody 2 shoes” & “showing off” by dating a younger good looking athlete.

    They secretly admire your courage/ability to live your life on your own terms.

    After seeing a therapist, I learned to cope by telling my truth with understanding & no anger…….

    I have cut them off & now they are saying that I need “mental help” as I wrote a letter telling them to go to hell via the Church they attend each Sunday & instead try to live each day by the golden rule..”do as you would be done by”.

    I also told them I forgave their projections & bad mouthing as whoever is mad first always loses and that I still love them…. but from a distance.

    I told them their stupidity was haha funny & they needed to grow up & that pissed them off totally!!!

    I am still the Black sheep but i only spend time with people of like mind…lots of astrology fans…I am very happy.

  21. It depends what is meant by ‘intervention’. I was and still am – it has spread out from just my immediate family to wider family and even now to at least older friends of family (horrifically) the black sheep/scapegoat of my family and would LOVE to have had a champion to step in to show some support/voice some concern when I was younger at least. I was painfully aware of the twisted dynamics of it all but a quiet, shy, studious and ever-hopeful child, always trying to forgive and believe that love – either of ‘God’ or the goodness of others,including my family, and other adults or children that knew me, would win the day alone…that someone would see the various and multiple abuses, disrespects, demoslishings of self-esteem and confidence, that there would be someone that would ‘see’ and help. There never was. And even since gradually becoming aware of what I COULD do and how wrong it all was, I’ve still faced a huge amount of personal and professional ignorance and non-caring – and I would say even in these replies to your posting I find it sad with some of the comments from people who have not been in this invidious position themselves or are unable to empathise – even if maybe their profession (psychology) should prerequisite this – is very disillusioning and sobering. It takes a lot of sensitivity AND courage to ‘intervene’ in a situation in which you can help, in ANY way, a soul that you see being unfairly wounded, child or adult, particularly in a dysfunctional family but I can tell you, because of my unbelievable experiences, I would do all I can, whilst avoiding further damage to myself and the other, to help – and it isnt easy, because often this is done within that same family whose dysfunctional twists caused me to be the shadow-carrier – or as I have grown to feel (especially with Chiron conjunct my Aquarian sun (& loosely opposite Uranian Leo) tho I’m not sure how the Mars/Pluto thing works out in my chart – the Wounded Healer. But as they are largely the children in our family I feel I have a responsibility/duty to protect, as I so clearly wasn’t. By the way, I know my experiences are unbelievable to many, even the less devastating ones, because even now some people who would call themselves my friend, both old and young, do not believe me and think it is all made up or at least exaggerated! and ironically some of this may well be precisely because I HAVE conquered so much that would have sent others under, to drink/drugs or suicide, or worse, perpetuating the transference pattern, and can act – learnt to act to get by and fit in – and live in a way that appears and in many ways IS ‘normal’, even ‘getting on’ with my parents and brothers who are at the root of my own personal shadow-making. I can’t remember the exact words, but don’t judge another and definitely don’t think of them as non-self-actualising in their pain and brunt of family dysfunction, until you have walked a mile in their moccasins – and don’t turn a blind eye, or hand, either. If we do have other lifetimes, who knows where you might ‘land’ (or choose to land – though that still doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to help or have help if is unbearably hard) next time?!

  22. As a friend has told me many times–the black sheep of the family are the truth tellers of the family.

    For me, I chose to keep my mouth shut about my brother, and his manipulation, for many many years with my stepmom. I felt it wasn’t for me to burst her bubble, or even try to pull her onto my “side” with the problems I was having with him. I kept my head high, and allowed myself to miss out on things like Thanksgiving dinners, getting to know her generous mother, etc. Finally, after about 15 years of this, he played his hand, and she was able to see for herself, the narcissism and manipulation that I know to be my brother, no matter how wonderful the rest of the world thinks he is. All I know is that if I had told her at the time, then I would have been labeled the “bad” one.

  23. we have a family shadow, but, by golly, he earned it. (as he earned his jail time.)
    though he may have passed by now. he’s two generations ahead of me.

    otherwise, well, some of us are more repressed/projective than others. er, i’m thinking specifically of a recently acquired inlaw or two. which makes it easier to hold our own. we have a surprising (to the child i was, at least) convergence of values and just see certain types of character judgements as baseless. and we matter too much to each other to cut one of our own off.

    though there was a time i thought i was a black sheep, myself. turned out, more like, a temporary (seven year) amputation was needed to get a chance to crystallize my own sense of identity.

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