Family Fiction Can Teach Us A lot
I’m a huge fan of novels. Mostly I enjoy literary fiction and mysteries. Family dramas, in particular, are engaging because they’re generally so psychological: why characters act in certain ways, the loving and hateful dynamics common to us all, how childhood shapes without our realizing it, what gets passed on from parents consciously and unconsciously. Well written novels act as mirrors for us all, normalizing what we feel, as well as helping us see aspects of ourselves we’ve been fighting not to see.
Celeste Ng, the author of Everything I Never Told You (and Little Fires Everywhere) is interviewed at the end of her book and has some profound comments on families that are as true as anything I’ve read written by psychotherapists. I want to share some of her remarks with you so that you can reflect on them in terms of your own life.
On sibling relationships. “You have the same parents and grow up alongside each other, yet more often than not, siblings are incredibly different from one another and have incredibly different experiences even with the same family. It gets even more complicated when one sibling is clearly the favorite in the family: the family constellation can get really skewed when one star shines much brighter than the rest.”
On parents. “Your relationship with your parents is maybe the most fundamental and the most powerful, even more than friendship or romantic love: it’s the first relationship you ever have, and it’s probably the greatest single influence in your outlook and the kind of person you become. Most of us spend our lives either trying to live up to our parents’ ideals or actively rebelling against them.”
On being different. “More insidious than those moments of outright hostility, though, and maybe more powerful, are the constant low-level reminders that you’re different. Many of us feel different in some way, but it’s really jarring when one of your differences is obvious at a glance—other people can tell you’re different just by looking at you…Even when you feel like you belong, other people’s reactions—even stares and offhand remarks—can make you feel that you don’t, startlingly often.” (One difference for many of you may have been growing up at a higher weight than your peers of siblings or simply being larger or shaped differently than them, generating the weight stigma you may have suffered and feel excessively today.)
I know that many dysregulated eaters turn to self-help books in order to help them cope and change. I just want to put in a plug for well-written fiction which also may help explain us and others to ourselves and provide avenues for transformation.