The Weather Outside Is Frightful for Dysfunctional Families

The holidays are upon us .Although joyful for most- they herald a miserable month for dysfunctional families. Any ritual gathering punches these clans in the gut
If you’re in a dysfunctional family or suspect you might be – cheer yourself up by watching other people’s pain. Go to the movies .

Literature, stage and film get their lifeblood and scripts from the dysfunctional families. One insane crisis after another keeps us reading, watching and musing, “ my families a mess but look at this one .” Holiday films with sinister sides can be number one on your December netflicks list.


A Christmas Carol

If you must attend a Hanukah or Christmas event this month and dread the drama – the sibling snipes, drunken digs, mom theatrics and ultimately ruined meal- feast on films.
Forbes best Christmas movie this year  is 1970’s  A Christmas Carol.   I personally  like the version   starring George C. Scott. Scrooge,  and all of the other characters are terrific including  David Bowie- the blue haired ghost of Christmas past.

Dickens classic is the best tale of the chains that will clank through all generations without forgiveness.

The Christmas Carol has old Scrooge, parsimonious and downright mean, sleeping in his gloomy bedchamber. He has spent the day browbeating his employee Bob Cratchit, complaining that he will have to pay him for the holiday, ignoring the penurious plight of Bob’s family and little son, poor crippled Tiny Tim.
In the middle of the night the cellar door creaks, an ominous bell starts to toll, and the ghost of his old counting house partner, Marley, lurks into his crypt-like bedchamber.

Marley, clanking his loud chains made of cash boxes, ledgers and very bad deeds, drags toward Scrooge, now awakened and terrified. Warning Scrooge about the consequences of his miserable behavior, rattling the padlocks and metal chains that bind him, Marley says he has been lugging these painful shackles since he died, wandering the earth as punishment for his ungenerous life.

He says he has come to save old Scrooge from that same fate. Scrooge will be in those irons in his next life if he doesn’t give up the past and live a more humane life in the present, and see his way to changing his foul behavior and learning to live a kinder much more openhanded life in the here and now.
Scrooge is made to look back at what started this life of anger and penury. He travels to his childhood with the ghost of Christmas past to see the once sweet little Scrooge who had a nasty father who left the child alone at Christmas in his dilapidated boarding school, reading by a flickering fire.

We forward through the three ghost stories to a kind of Dickensian life review, where Scrooge can see that there was also good in his life in old Fezziwig and Scrooge’s sister Fan. His life did have joy, but poor Scrooge kept retreating to his gloomy self, the lonely, neglected child who inhabited Victorian England’s broken-down boarding school system.

Scrooge has an epiphany. He calls all three ghosts—the past, present, and future—together and finds redemption. He discovers, as his nephew Fred says, a holiday season that wants to be a “forgiving, charitable time.”
The next morning he throws opens the window of his bleak London brownstone and yells for all to hear. He has transitioned into the here and now, lets the past go, and sees a happier family future. He rushes out to buy that mammoth turkey for the Cratchit family, and has a great holiday dinner with his nephew’s family.

Take that story as a warning tale. Family members , especially sibings ,  who pass on their anger, hurt, resentment, and scars to the next generation are dooming those family members, like poor old Scrooge, to a future in Marley’s chains. Forgiving your midlife siblings can release you from being bound by childhood neglect, or cruel behavior, that gets passed on from one generation to the next.


About momlovesyoubest

Cathy Cress holds an MSW in Aging from U.C. Berkeley. Her new book Mom Loves You Best, Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships , New Horizon Press, was published October 2010. Cress’s book , Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, Jones and Bartlett, is the bible of geriatric care management and is out out in a third edition in February 2011 .Her book Care Managers, Working With the Aging Family, Jones and Bartlett,2008 is one of the few major books on the aging family. Ms. Cress is the founder of GCM Consult ,working with small and national who want to add or launch GCM businesses. She is on the faculty at the University of Florida in their on line master’s in geriatric care management -GCM . She has taught geriatric care management at San Francisco State University , UC Berkeley and teaches at Cabrillo College and San Mateo College. She was founder and director of Cresscare, a GCM business, for 25 years.
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