Unveiling Family Cut Offs: Navigating Change and Control, Part (1)
Which Article is Right for You?
Two Types of Cut Offs: When you need to cut a person off & when you have been unfairly cut off
The topic of family cut offs is layered with many scenarios. On one hand there are “cut offs” where going “no contact” is warranted due to a variety of abuses that are chronic and that the only way to live freely and keep your sanity is to remove the unhealthy person from your midst. Another type of cut off is when someone cuts you out of their life due to their own unhealthy conflict style causing you great pain and anguish. Within these two different facets of family cuts offs there exists a vast array of further dynamics that need to be explored. Due to the complexity within family dynamic cut offs this series will be divided into four parts. Part 1 and Part 2 cover when you have been unfairly cut out of a family member (or members) life and Part 3 and Part 4 will cover the complexities for when it is necessary to cut an unhealthy person from your life.
Feel free to begin reading in Part 1 if you are experiencing an unfair cut off or conversely start reading at Part 3 if you are grappling with cutting someone from your life. Please note that because this series is extremely complex these articles will be continually updated and edited towards a comprehensive book on the subject. So if you do see some fragmented sentences etc just wait a moment as I am working on the articles and an update is coming within minutes. In the meantime I hope this information supports you on your journey towards living a life free to run your race with grace, dignity, compassion and respect for yourself and others.
When Family Dynamics Shift: When You’ve Been Cut Off – The Power Play of “Cut Offs”
Within the intricate tapestry of family dynamics, there exists a concept that casts a long shadow – “cut offs.” This phenomenon, often shrouded in pain and confusion, can have a profound impact on those who find themselves on the receiving end. In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel the enigma of experiencing a family cut off and the deep scars they leave on the person who has been cut off.
So you have been cut off. You are searching for answers. Confusion, pain and deep emotional suffering are now part of your story. This current suffering may bring back memories of past traumatic events that you thought were long healed. You feel that this trauma is compounding with the past making the load difficult to bear. On the other hand maybe this current trauma of being cut off does not put you in touch with past traumas. Maybe you’ve never experienced trauma at all and these emotions, fears and experiences are all new and extremely difficult to navigate. I’m here to let you know that what you are experiencing is a traumatic event and that whether or not you have experienced trauma in your past this event carries the weight of significant trauma in the present. Don’t let anyone or yourself convince you that your response to this trauma is due to your past, your perception or that you deserved it. This trauma is complex (as it will be ongoing for some time). In this article I will be writing about dynamics of being cut off due to the unhealthy coping and conflict style of the person who has cut you off. This might be hard for you to believe right now as you may be blaming yourself. So throughout this article I will provide the proverbial litmus test, the reality check with questions you can ask yourself about what role or responsibility you own, if at all, in this painful scenario.
The first piece discussed in this scenario notes the being cut off for doing something healthy in your life, for example leaving a toxic relationship, losing weight, getting that dream job, or just making positive change for yourself in some capacity. Further along I will address more specifically, being cut off from someone you love due to the smear campaign of a narcissistic person who has infiltrated your loved one’s head space. The narcissist can be anyone, but often when it comes to being cut off from your children the perpetrator is the ex partner. Regardless of the person who has aided in your being cut out we are going to back up and look at this from a bird’s eye view.
The Family System: A Delicate Balance
Each family has its way of doing things. Think of a family system like a large mobile, like the kind we used to hang over our baby’s crib. Each piece of the mobile hung still when it wasn’t touched, but once touched it would flip around until it settled in to stillness once again.
Within any family system each member holds a specific place and weight. When everyone stays in their place, the mobile remains stable. Predictability and comfort come from this stability, as it helps family members understand what’s expected of them. Everyone knows their role, and this brings a sense of order and security.
This return to stability is true even when there are significant dysfunctional aspects to the mobile. For example, if one of the parent’s is an alcoholic the mobile will flit and flutter about during any unsettling event and then eventually calm down and return to it’s “normal” once the alcoholic’s rage (storm) has passed. Everyone settles back into their place. Even though a negative aspect of the mobile may cause disruption it will eventually settle back down to stillness. This causes a sort of predictability. People desire a certain level of predictability in knowing the mobile will settle eventually.
On the other hand healthier families have a mobile as well, and the same as any family when something happens to one or more of the members the mobile does become disrupted. The mobile does eventually settle as well. The difference between the unhealthy family mobile and the healthier family mobile is that the healthier family mobile does not take as long to settle and is not disrupted as often. It is the repeated unpredictability of when the mobile will become unsettled, and how often the unsettling occurs is what creates uncertainty and unremitting stress. Uncertainty + Unremitting stress + Anxiety. The overall point here is that all families have a mobile and what all family members desire within the system (whether good or not so good) is that eventually the mobile will settle.
The Challenge of Change
It appears problems do arise when change enters the equation. Change disrupts the mobile, shaking its stability, and for some family members, this can be nothing short of a crisis. Various changes can impact the family dynamic, including divorce, remarriage, the arrival of stepchildren, the birth of new babies, death, chronic illness, relocation, disability, mental health issues, financial crises, and external factors, as well as, such things as Covid-19 restrictions. As mentioned above not only do negative changes create distress within family systems, but positive changes may stir up turmoil as well.
Consider a family dealing with addiction. The addict often becomes the focal point of blame, shame, and outrage. However, when the addict seeks help and begins to make significant changes, the family system experiences disruption. Other family members may inadvertently sabotage the recovery when the chaotic atmosphere they’ve grown accustomed to starts to fade and new unfamiliar dynamics emerge. Dysfunctional families may prefer predictability even if it means maintaining a state of ongoing chaos.
Cut Offs: The Quest for Control
How does this connect to family members cutting off a loved one from their life? In the case of someone cutting you out of their life when you have made steps to take better care of yourself the uprising against this change is a member (s) attempt at “control” as they are feeling unsettled and out of control. Some people cut you off when you are doing good things for your life as they were in a somewhat comfortable position before you made this change. Prior to you changing they could predict how you might respond to their needs (which include financial, emotional, and physical etc.) When someone decides to cut you off in this scenario it is typically an attempt to gain control over the changing family dynamic. It might be in response to changes you’ve made in your life, that is, changes that have shifted the balance of the mobile. Maybe you’ve become healthier, stopped being a people-pleaser, or refused to conform to the image others have crafted for you. Perhaps you’ve ceased responding to manipulation through guilt or walked away from an unhealthy relationship that was slowly eroding your well-being.
Not all change is bad, but all change brings about, well, change. When you take steps to improve your life, it inevitably impacts those within your family system. Some family members may have preferred the predictable and self-sacrificing version of you. While there is a time for self-sacrifice, like when raising children, once they’ve grown, it is time to consider how you want to spend the remaining years of your life. Transformative change affect everyone in the family mobile, and while some may support you, not all will. So if you are making positive changes in your life try to have a heart to heart talk with those you love. Reassure them you are the same only better. Those who support you will remain, but rest assured there are many who may cut you out of their life.
True Love and Selfishness
True love supports, cares, and desires the best for you. It recognizes your individuality and the gifts you bring to the world. People who are not championing your wellness have serious issues of their own. What would make a person not support you in what is legitimately good for you?
In any “cut off” scenario there is a significant element of “unhealth” that is not being addressed. When someone cuts you out of their life due to your growth or positive change this is a red flag. When someone you love doesn’t exhibit the skill set to self reflect upon their own feelings or shortcomings they may turn the tables essentially pointing all of those uncomfortable feelings onto you. They do not know how to resolve difficult feelings and perceptions. Instead of talking to you about their fears they might withdraw. A sample of some difficult emotions that need to be processed are: jealousy, fear, uncertainty about their place in your life, fear of sharing your affections with someone else, anger because you’ve changed, and ultimately hostility as they prefer to blame you than resolve their own inner conflict. Not being emotionally mature or relationally vulnerable will sometimes make it easier for people to take the easy way out and that is to cut you out of their life. Many times people will blame first and never really own what they are running from internally, as they send you out the door. One devastated parent said to me, “They basically told me in not so many words, but to go ‘X*&^%’ myself.”
Have you ever asked a child a pointed question and they just froze? You knew they were afraid and you knew you had to settle them down so you could get to the bottom of what had happened. So you gently help them come to share what is bothering them. Eventually the child grows up and with practice they are able to process their feelings and relay their feelings in respectful ways to others all the while not creating a breech in the relationship.
On the other hand, loved ones who kick you out of their life for no good reason are similar to the example of the frozen child. It is though they are stuck and frozen, as they do not possess many options in their tool kit to solve their problem(s). They don’t know what else to do with all of their confusing feelings so they kick you out of their life. Had they had the capacity to reflect upon their own feelings, perceptions and ultimately were able to express those thoughts and feelings to you in a respectful way, there is a high likelihood you both could have resolved this long ago. Cutting you off is a cop out. They are afraid to look at themselves. Unfortunately they become increasingly stagnated in their ability to problem solve within relationships as they tend to use “cut offs” to solve most relational problems throughout their life. This is typically a pattern with some people, and is extremely concerning, that is, using “cut offs” to solve their problems as this strategy doesn’t solve their problems at all.
So where do people learn to “cut off” as a means to solve problems. Typically they learn it from other family members and influences. It is by our own family members that we learn how to resolve conflict and interact socially in the world. If you have been cut off unfairly and with such callousness you just have to ask yourself is this a pattern in the family? What people do not transform they transmit to the next generation. That is why self reflection is an important part of personal growth and development.
In conclusion, family cut offs when you are changing for the better are often an attempt to regain control over a changing family dynamic. They can be triggered by personal growth and self-improvement in a specific family member, which, although positive for one individual can disrupt the equilibrium of the entire family system. It is essential to remember that your journey towards a better life is valid and love ought to support your pursuit of wellness. The best course of action for you is to stay the course. You matter, you deserve healthy love and devotion. It hurts to be cut away from a person whom you love.
Knowing why you’ve been cut off is only one aspect to this series. Later in this series I will discuss what you can do to mitigate the damage to your heart and soul. In essence you will learn how you can recover your life from this tragedy. Life won’t be what you once had dreamed of so the future will look different. You have the opportunity to engage in a new redirected dream around the bend. Stay tuned for the heading, “My New Dream” in this series.
In the next article, “Reclaiming Family Bonds: Overcoming Narcissistic Smear Campaigns and Family Cut-Offs Part 2” I will discuss those who have been cut off from a family member or members due to a narcissist manipulating those you love.
Certainly there are many dynamics at play when being cut off from a family member or your family in general. Reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get you on the road to your own recovery and healing. The pain of a family cut off is real and it is deep. The grief is profound, but you can heal. Reach out to find a way forward.
Until next time,