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EHR 3: Genogram Your Family 



[pic] The Godfather. One of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time. It’s many things, but most of all, it’s a movie about family. That’s not to say it’s a family movie! It’s too violent to be a “family movie.” But it is about family dynamics in a violent, Italian, mafia family.

[pic] The patriarch of the family, Don (Vito) Corleone, is a powerful, violent man. He always says, “Never go against family.” He urges men around him to spend time with their families. And yet he has no problem destroying other people’s families!

[pic] The son, Michael Corleone, doesn’t want to be part of the mafia. He wants to distance himself from the family business. His father, Vito, also wants him to stay clear of the seedy underbelly of his mob family. Michael goes to college, he tries to stay out of the family business, tries to break free of family habits and behaviour. He tells his girlfriend that the violent business of running the mafia is his “family” but it is not him. But the movie is about how he is inexorably drawn back into the family. Not only that, but he becomes the head of the family!

Ultimately, Michael, the son, becomes just as violent as his father was. He even repeats his father’s quotation, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” He tells his older brother, whom he surpassed for leadership of the family, “Fredo. You're my older brother and I love you. But don't take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.” Leaving behind him a swath of blood and death, Michael Corleone becomes that which he most dreaded, he becomes his father!

[pic] Few of us here come from families as violent and bloodthirsty as the Corleone family. But all of us have family traits, family “commandments” that we learned growing up. Maybe it is something like, “Never go against family,” but without the violence in carrying out that commandment! Perhaps one of your family commandments was, “You don’t get mad.” That was one of my family’s growing up. It was not just expected- it was spoken out loud. Another family commandment might be, “We never talk about our feelings.” Another family trait, perhaps not a commandment, is “You can say whatever you want when you’re angry. When you’re angry it doesn’t count.” By contrast, other families live by the maxim, “Never say anything when you’re angry because you can’t take it back!” Imagine when people from the first family marry people from the second kind of family!

[pic] Most families have at least one family secret that everybody, tacitly or openly, works to protect and hide from the outside world. Maybe it’s mental illness, or substance abuse. Maybe it’s physical or sexual abuse. Maybe it’s financial trouble. Who knows?

Regardless of the details, I think most of us have certain aspects of our families that we don’t want to repeat. We are desperate “not to be like our parents!” And then, as we get older, we start to see that we are becoming just like our mom and dad! I remember in university that happened to me for the very first time. Growing up, if I was upset about something, I frequently heard it said, “Oh, he’s just tired.” While it may have been true in that moment that I may have been tired, it never actually addressed what I was upset about. My actual concern, hurt or objection was dismissed under the saying, “He’s just tired.” I hated it.

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