My Family Tried Contacting Me

We only have time for a quick recap of the week. My dad called me to say happy birthday, but I declined. Then my little brother emailed me, but I deleted it before reading. Then my older brother sent me a letter, but I threw it in the trash before opening it. Then at my Bible study, we looked at the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers for selling him into slavery as a child. These events messed with my head. I have so many questions swirling, so let's try to make sense of the situation together.

Why did I reject my family of origin's attempts at contact? Initially, I had to stop talking to them because the thoughts and feelings that resulted were interfering with my counselling for childhood abuse. Ultimately, I don't want to have them in my life anymore. I feel like there can be no good from continued contact. I already forgave them, but the hard feelings I harbour stem from processing a backlog of hurt. That is, I'm regularly forgiving them on a daily basis. I acknowledged all the things they did to me and I let go of those things in order to move on with my life, but I'm doing a lot of hard work while they sit around, feeling sorry for themselves.

Some Christians like to make forgiveness very simplistic. Our current Bible study guide is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, which has been simply stunning and enlightening. The process of forgiveness is simple since there are only a few steps required, but often "forgiveness" can be another way of sweeping matters under the rug. Real forgiveness requires pain and suffering, and there needs to an acknowledgement of transgressions. Maybe that's what my family was trying to do (I'm not sure since I didn't read their messages), but I think the timing was ill-considered on their part.

They could have contacted me long ago, but they didn't. Turns out my defences weren't very good, and they still managed to mess with my head even though I built a Drumpf Wall. A truly resilient person would suffer through the attempts at contact, then build back up. Nobody can expect for the world to stop hurting them. A strong person focuses on rebuilding themselves from the disasters that hit. Bad things are always going to happen to you, and focusing too much on prevention can take away resources from healing. That being said, I will have to revisit my defences and reinforce them anyways.

Coincidentally, I went through an Emotional Intelligence training at work this week as well. I learned that sometimes my humour is a way of running from my problems, and I'm the funniest person you know. Emotionally intelligent people don't always wear their heart on their sleeve, and I feel like that's where I've been for the last little while. I can't seem to contain my emotions sometimes, which is further confirmation that I shouldn't be talking to my family of origin. I'm taking this week off from work so I can get things back in order.

Should I talk to them? Suppose they actually want to follow through with apologizing and being forgiven, but one reason I couldn't continue talking with them even before cutting them off was because of their inability to level with me on the facts of a conflict. They would gaslight me, disagree, get defensive, and lash out. I've already forgiven my family of origin, but suppose all they wanted was to be released from their guilt. Why didn't they reach out sooner? Do they actually want me back as a brother/son or do they just want to stop feeling bad? If they wanted to re-establish a relationship with me, why wait so long? They're being sappy and melodramatic about it being my birthday. Apparently, if they wanted to message me, they could have done so at any time over the last few months.

Why am I being so pissy about the timing? I'm not totally sure. It seems like they're interested in me, but it just feels like their guilt is driving them. I don't feel like they see me in this situation, even though it is my birthday. I think it's selfishly driven. I think it's just about them, their well-being, their feelings.

Again, I don't want to continue talking with them. Indeed, I stopped really sharing my life with them well before I cut off contact. They never really noticed, so whatever they might be hanging onto from the last few years, that wasn't even me. Truly, if they could ever see the real me, then we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le