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FAMILY MYTHS by Joyce Block


Living Our Roles, Betraying Ourselves

by Joyce Block

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-75909-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 An elaborate presentation of the idea that people can get locked into fictional roles by their families. According to family therapist Block (Psychology/Notre Dame; Motherhood as Metamorphosis, 1990), the needs of parents shape the roles they assign to their children--those of the ``Family Brain,'' the ``Comedian,'' the ``Dutiful Daughter,'' the ``Black Sheep,'' etc. Originating in early childhood, these images of who we are can powerfully influence adult life. For some people, family myths are so strong that the fictional image overwhelms the real self. Case histories of some of Block's patients-- disguised for reasons of privacy--provide examples. There's Julia, cast in the role of ``Beauty,'' or the ``Ministering Angel''; Laurel, who's ``Pandora,'' or the ``Troublemaker''; Diana, who holds herself as aloof as a ``Goddess''; Sherry, who keeps slipping from ``Snow Queen'' to repulsive ``Jellyfish''; Howard, the ``Problem Child'' who grows up as an ``Outsider''; Larry, the ``Mamma's Boy'' who becomes a helpless ``Sensitive Plant''; and Vincent the ``Simpleton.'' Their stories, extensively detailed, illustrate how fictional roles are reinforced as relationships with siblings both reflect and help shape the false images; and how individuals, trapped in assigned roles, play them out as adults in other relationships--including courtship and marriage--with unhappy, even disastrous, results. As a therapist, Block encourages her patients to take responsibility for recognizing their mythic identities and finding their true selves, but just how readers can do this isn't spelled out here: Rather than offer a quick fix, the author emphasizes the understanding of how family myths shape behavior. Clearly presented theory, amply illustrated with lengthy case histories.