Is your family “open” or “closed” handed?

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Clenched or open?

Openhanded Families are close and healthy. People feel free, unique and have a sense of community. There is enduring approval. Disapproval’s short-lived. The love does not feel overwhelming. Love is not a trap, trade, or deal. Pressures from outside the family, the opinions of others, societal trends do not significantly modify the family’s direction. The family is internally driven. Relationships are self-sustaining. Each person, to differing degrees, dependent upon level of maturity, understands that every person in the family desires, at one and the same time, both community (togetherness, intimacy), and separateness (autonomy, independence).

It is within the movement, wrestling, imbalance, and the struggle that emerges from healthy families, that each person is empowered to be a unique person.

The freedom enjoyed by healthy people, embraces the family member who, for whatever reason, chooses to be less involved with the family.

Ironically, such families can appear to be less healthy or unhealthy because they diversity is welcomed and individuals can be “all over the map.”

In an openhanded family a person can look, believe, feel, and speak very differently than everyone else in the family without having to face negative consequences.

(Interested persons are encouraged to read the work of Virginia Satir).

Closedhanded Families are “close” in a different way. They believe and need uniformity and control to keep people together. Togetherness is all-important. There is often disapproval between members of the family, often discernible when someone in the family will not “stay in line,” live in the family “box” or enjoy the closeness. In such families, people are “overly” close. “Closeness” (uniformity, togetherness) is insisted upon, even demanded. People feel cornered through an intricate play of rejection, judgment, and “love.”

Here, rather than relationships being self-sustaining, they are held together by musts and shoulds and hidden rules arising from an obscure idea of what constitutes a relationship and a family. In such families there are frequent tensions often from an unidentifiable source. A person can easily get the feeling that he or she is walking a tight rope of being “in” or “out.”

These families are reactive or legalistic and bonds are not chosen and togetherness is covertly coerced or overtly forced. In these families, fusion is mistaken for love and expressing the natural and God-given desire for autonomy is regarded as betrayal.

Ironically, these families can appear healthy to outsiders because of the appearance of togetherness, while some of the people within the family might be “dying” from the pressure to conform.

In a Closed-handed family a person can only look, feel, believe and speak differently than everyone else in the family according to the guidelines. Anything else might result in overt expulsion, a subtle shunning, or covert distancing.

3 Comments to “Is your family “open” or “closed” handed?”

  1. Oh yes.! So so true.
    Rod, please test this: I’m observing some closedhanded Christian families who have ‘covenants’ to be family-centred, where their traditions are non-negotiable – like every Sunday, come what may, we must have lunch together – with no freedom for individuals to decide to do something different. All in the name of family-commitment. There’s such a strong sense of obligation amongst family members (and in-laws), all coming from different motivations like duty, guilt, ‘love’, pity, responsibility, drivenness, idealism, and more. Usually there’s a powerful or manipulative patriarchal or matriarchal figure instigating it. The power-person makes him/herself indispensible, all-wise, selfrighteous, and to be emulated.

    Quite frankly it’s scary and looks sick to me.

    Is this observation valid? (I want to learn here)

  2. Another great post. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoy reading your blog very much. Spending time with my family and doing fun activities is something that truly makes me happy.

    Check out these Family Activities

  3. It is tough being the spouse of a child in a closed family, it is always join “US” for this, or you choose not to join “US”. Also everything is planned in the closed family and if you do not become submissive you get blamed for not following the plans and putting the spanner in the works.

    This puts a lot of pressure on the child’s marriage.

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