Now that we know that every member of the family belongs to the family and the system, it’s time to move to the second law of family systems.
This law is about order within the family.
This means that every family member has a firm position within the family.
There’s the father position and the mother position. (And it’s flexible enough to make two moms or two dads possible.) These positions are bestowed upon becoming parents. If there are no kids, the positions are just “lover positions”, basically, because there is nobody to parent.
Children’s positions are determined by order of birth, very simply.
Except it’s not that simple. Stillborn babies count, as do aborted babies. They have a position in the family, and – as mentioned last week – they definitely are family members.
And if the parents of this family had children before founding this family, those kids also count. See where it can get tricky?
And see where it might be difficult to give everyone the right position?
Each member has their position.
And you need to know that the firstborn and the second child cannot simply trade positions. That’s the law of order. If you grew up in a family with more than one child, you’re probably already aware of the difference of these positions. The last born is often treated quite differently from the firstborn. And responsibilities feel different in each position.
Maybe the eldest is expected to be more responsible than the rest. Maybe she’s expected to inherit the business… all these ideas go beyond the law of order, but they illustrate that the position within the family is important.
And in a very simple example, you can look at how a family sits at the table. That seating order reveals a lot about how the positions are valued in that particular family.
Filling empty positions
If a position within a family is not acknowledged or filled, things can get messy and unpleasant.
And yes, that happens when a parent disappears, leaving an incomplete family behind. It also happens when a stillborn baby isn’t acknowledged or a child given away without being recognized as member and in their position.
The family system doesn’t tolerate a vacuum.
So if a parent disappears, very often a child tries to fill the vacant parent position.
The son becomes “the Man of the Family” if a father is absent. And is hopelessly overwhelmed with that position and the responsibility that comes with it.
A daughter might jump in and try to raise her siblings. She might take responsibility for their homework, or may cook meals. And it’ll feel good, because it’s better than having that vacuum in the system. But it also prevents her from being the child that she essentially is, and it messes up the order of the family.
I’m not judging families where this happens. Life can be cruel and everyone does what they must.
But it worth being aware of what happens.
The little “Man of the Family” needs space to be a kid. He needs to know he’s not expected to replace the father, and that this is not his job. And his mother needs to be aware of this tendency to jump in as “father”, and restore the order. In this case, she’s the only one who can protect the father position.
The same goes for the daughter raising her siblings. She’s doing what needs to be done. But she also needs to know that she’s not the mother. Her place is firstborn, and that’s where she is at home in the system.
Filling in at a wrong position causes a lot of stress. It causes a lot of overwhelm, and it often prevents healthy relationships with that person’s own partner.
Imagine someone working hard to replace their own father, being spouse to their mother, and having a relationship with their own spouse at the same time It’s messy, to say the least. And don’t even try to imagine the mother’s reaction to her son’s partner…
What should happen with an empty position?
The family needs to acknowledge that the position is empty. That there is a “hole” in the family. And the person who used to fill that hole needs to be remembered and acknowledged, even if they walked out on the family.
The father remains the father, even if he is absent. The mother remains the mother, even if she is no longer there.
It is very tempting to vilify a father who left and betrayed his family. It’s very tempting to ignore a stillborn baby and try to forget that pain. But these actions cause a position to become empty.
As long as there is someone seen and remembered in the position, it’s not empty.
Basically, you need to know that everyone in a family has a natural position – and that deviating from that position will cause problems.
And you can start by affirming your position – and see how that feels.
Even though I never thought about my position in my family, I’m totally okay the way I am, and I now affirm that I’m [enter your family position] in my family.
Even though my family wasn’t complete and I may have jumped into someone else’s position, I’m totally okay the way I am, and I now choose to reaffirm that I am the [family position], and no more and no less.
Even though I never knew this, and it explains so much, and now I feel terrible, I’m still okay the way I am, and I now give myself permission to take my position as [family position], and no more and no less.
What is your position?
How did it feel to name your position?
What happened while you were tapping?
And finally – what are you creating right now?
Please share in a comment.
Image Source: F. Moebius
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