Michael is the host of Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Tale Weaver. Michael says:
This week I am asking you to explore the concept of estrangement. It happens to so many of us.We may be estranged from family, from children, from friends and the reasons can be obvious and they can be mysterious and frustrating.
From the dictionary:
late 15th century: from Old French estranger,
from Latin extraneare ‘treat as a stranger’,
from extraneus ‘not belonging to the family’,
The dictionary says that the word comes from the late 15th century, from two roots that mean to treat as a stranger or someone not belonging to the family. This tells me that the condition of estrangement has been around a long time and that there is a division that is made between when one is estranged from relatives vs. non-relatives.
Looking through the many entries under definitions, every single one of them regards estrangement as a verb, an intentional action that drives someone away from another, whether that other is at odds with the “driver” or if the driver gets in between two others resulting in the falling out between the two others.
One of the most painful estrangements I ever had was when my older son abruptly moved out of the house when he turned 18. I had yelled at him when I came home about something that was up on the computer screen (back then the whole household shared the communal desktop computer and nobody had cell phones.) He never said a word, but he packed up his stuff and went to his dad’s house. He never came back! He also did not speak to me for a good year.
What made this estrangement particularly painful is that my younger son had left for college just a few months before then. This meant it was an instant empty nest. I had no pets at that time. It didn’t take me long to start searching for my dog, Chauncey. My younger son was on break from college as we went to look at a few places for puppies.
Chauncey helped fill a gap in my empty nest, but he was no substitute for the presence of my two sons. After awhile my son spoke to me again and my other son came back from college.
Applying the definition to the estrangement between my older son and I, did either of us commit actions that led to it? You might say what he left on the computer screen was an action that did. You might say that my yelling was an action that did. But were these actions intentional in trying to drive the other person away? They did effectively act in that capacity, but where was the intentionality?
I am estranged from three of my six siblings and also from my mother. Believe me when I say that I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on it. What I see as the main issues between us that keep us apart are: 1) our egos; 2) the extremely complex interconnections with each other in the family structure in relation to our mother; 3) a genuine disinterest or lack of connection with one or more of them; and 4) historical events that will remain malignant cancers upon the connections as they will never be excised due to one or more parties refusing to process them.
Could a family therapist or a trained mediator help us work through the issues? Probably. Will it ever happen? Unlikely. Do these estrangements cause toxic feelings? Hell yes. Avoidance is a coping mechanism that has served me and my family members for a long time. When one is young and needs avoidance for survival it’s necessary. As one grows, it is so important to develop healthier replacements. With my family and I, alcohol and other addictions interrupted the development of healthier replacements. I feel our family system is stuck in the avoidant stone age.
I don’t consider myself and my sons as part of that configuration. We have a foundation of love and trust with each other that I never had with my family. I’m not saying it is easy to bring up issues or areas of conflict, but all 3 of us are brave enough to do so, knowing that the relationship will survive afterwards.
OK, that’s enough spilling of guts for one post.