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Role in Your Family
Now focus in on your place in the family picture. Each family member
tends to play a distinctive role, contributing to the continuation of either helpful
or harmful family patterns. Through the technique of clustering in this exercise,
you'll be exploring what your role was in the family you grew up with.
1) Put the words MY ROLE in a circle in the center of a blank page.
2) Then allow yourself to start making associations to your place or role
in your family-whatever words or phrases pop into your mind. For example, "the
rebel" might be your first thought. Write your word on the page with a circle
around it and a line connecting it back to the words MY ROLE.
3) The new
word or phrase may trigger a string of other words. From "the rebel,"
you might generate "troublemaker at school," "always angry,"
and "long-haired defiance."
4) When one string is complete,
begin another train of thought branching out from the nucleus phrase.
Keep clustering until you feel a shift in your attention, as if you've emptied
out your thoughts for now.
1) Look over your
clustered associations. One may stir a number of feelings or memories, a clue
that you may have
more to discover and express in this area.
which portion of the cluster affects you most strongly, and use that part
as a departure point to write what Gabriele Rico calls a "word sketch,"
a short passage that expands on the associations triggered for you.
central portion of a clustering done by Diane, an editorial assistant in
her late twenties, is included here. Notice, in Diane's word sketch, how she started
with the association "can't breathe" and then brought in some of the
other items from the cluster.
"I felt squished in my role,
as if I couldn't take a breath without considering how it would affect the others.
In the middle with everyone-keeping people happy-but what would make ME happy?
I just wanted to be alone, to think things out on my own. But then I feel guilty.
I must get out of this trap."
In speaking about her word
sketch, Diane added, "I wrote about what I experienced in the past, but I
can tell that I'm still trying to please others. That's why I wrote the last sentence:
I'm still in a pattern that feels like a trap."
reflection, Diane wrote how her pattern of being in the middle played itself
out differently with her parents and an influential uncle. She mediated her parents'
fights and placated her rich uncle when he was offended by her father. Reflecting
on the present-"still in a pattern that feels like a trap"-Diane noticed
how patterns persist through the years. She is more motivated now to get out of
that trap, because putting memories and feelings into words focuses and intensifies
one's need for change.
After completing your own cluster and
writing a word sketch, you will have a series of snapshots that connect the roles
you played in your family to the variety of roles that you play in relationships
today. Seeing these connections more clearly will help you assess whether and
how to change your current patterns.
- Foster, Carolyn, The Family Patterns
Workbook, Putnum Publishing Group: New York, 1993.
Reflection Exercise #9
The preceding section contained information
about the discovery of family roles. Write three case study examples regarding
how you might use the content of this section in your practice.
What will be the result after your client completes his or her own
cluster and writing a word sketch? To select and enter your answer go to .