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Friday, April 26, 2013

"Unlocking Your Family Patterns"

TITLE: Unlocking Your Family Patterns: Finding Freedom From a Hurtful Past
AUTHOR: Dave Carder, Earl R. Henslin, John S. Townsend, and William Henry Cloud.
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013, (240 pages).

Is there a link between family patterns and our psychological profile? Most people will agree that there is. The main question is to what extent is that link. In a society that is increasingly fraught with hurt and pain, in particular with families, one can sometimes forget that our path to inner healing for ourselves and our families, lies in understanding our family histories, patterns, and uniqueness. Four friends, a pastor, and three clinical psychologists have come together to combine their knowledge, expertise, biblical insights, and experiences, to help us unlock and understand our own family patterns. Using modern science, ancient wisdom from the Bible, the four authors genuinely believes that healing is possible. All hurts must be given a chance to heal. The introduction of the book tells us upfront that all families are dysfunctional in some way. There is no perfect family. The way forward is not to presume our original selves are perfect, just like the early biblical characters are imperfect. The three things that the authors aim to do are:
  1. Discover the roots of dysfunctional/codependent behaviours and relationships;
  2. Examining family systems in the light of Scripture;
  3. Examining family systems in the light of modern research on family systems, recovery theory, and experience.

Essentially, there is no shame to admit one's family is imperfect, even dysfunctional. After all, the first step to a positive improvement in any family unit is to state reality as accurately and as appropriately as possible.

Part One of the book examines the biblical characters of David and his family tree, of how time does not necessarily heal the broken relationships in his family, especially after the adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. It looks at the life of Isaac and his family tree, of how Isaac is emotionally separated from his father Abraham, his emotional distance from Rebekah, and how it affects his subsequent relationships with his sons. One of the authors even takes a bold stand to say that even Jesus has family problems, though it can be interpreted in more than one way.

Part Two contains the bulk of the scientific paradigms complete with rich insights on family systems theory. It looks at how dysfunctions are passed down from generation to generation. It relooks at commonly missed ares of our past. It gives readers an added incentive to open up their family history books and to take a hard honest look at whether there is a visible link between who they are, and why they are hurting or feeling the way they feel. Readers are also cautioned about the dangers of misappropriating religious beliefs, especially when using them to inflict "religious shame that are not only unhelpful for any healing, it affects one's relationship with God.  There is a chapter to highlight the role the Church can play in the healing process.

Part Three is most prescriptive of the three. We will learn about family bonding through safety, modeling, emotional openness, as well as avoid things that devalue ourselves or our family links. This dual awareness aids in the healing process. At the same time, there is no such thing as a boundary-free bonding relationships. In fact, healthy boundaries are necessary to help individuals retain a good sense of who they are, without becoming dissolved into their own family structures. Healthy boundaries help family members to grow well and mature.

There are many good insights in this book that can persuade readers to look at healing from a family systems angle. Knowing that the biblical characters are not perfect in the first place, and how God's grace carries them through, is encouragement enough for us. There is hope for us as God still moves to this day. The authors have used their expertise well, with each of them harnessing their own unique perspectives and sharing them earnestly for the benefit of readers. I appreciate Earl Henslin's brave attempt to suggest Jesus' family challenges at that time. This may sound suspicious to readers at first, but when we see from the angle of Jesus being fully human, we will recognize that the relationship is multi-faceted. Even if Jesus is perfect, the family that he was born into is not perfect. I applaud Dave Carder's sensitive chapter on "facing life's unfair assignments" because it is such a common human experience to feel that life is not fair. John Townsend and Henry Cloud continue their famous works on boundaries, to remind us that setting boundaries is not only ok, it is deeply healing for all. Their contributions give readers some guide-rails on how to go about growing up well toward healthy adulthood. For me, the biggest reason to read this book is to be reminded it is ok to relook at our own family histories without feeling guilt. Healing begins with inner awareness of who we are and the family we come from.

Do not wait for a family problem before you start to read this book. Pick it up now and learn how to go about honestly learning more about our own selves. The path of learning is long but be encouraged. It is never too late to start learning now.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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