Most of the American population has now grown up with TV-sitcom families, and those families have distorted our sense of reality. We bought into the myth of the wacky, funny, always caring, and (eventually) always-there-for-you family. When our own family doesn’t measure up to the “Leave it to Beaver,” “Family Matters,” or “Home Improvement” episodes, we think it must be our fault.
True, there were a few mainstream shows in the past and more now on lesser channels that let the dysfunction out from behind the curtain. But those shows are still so rare they’re called out in contrast to what we have come to think of as representing good sitcom families.
I have one friend who, from the outside, looks like she has a family that’s pretty close to the sitcom norm. Truly, that’s great. They’re really nice people to spend time with. But that’s one friend out of many I can think of whose families range from kinda-near-to-the-ideal, all the way to how-did-my-friend-survive-these-people-and-get-to-adulthood?
Where does your family fall on the spectrum? And here’s why I bring it up: are they allies for your Hero’s Journey?
If you are lucky, some members or all of your family can be counted on to be allies for your journey. It’s pretty common, though, that family can be the more nefarious roles: guardians at the gate, one of your tests and trials, or even the big ordeal.
I’ve always been impressed by RuPaul’s comments to contestants on “Drag Race,” “We as gay people get to choose our family and the people we’re around.” I imagine he says that in response to contestants’ stories of being kicked out of the house for being gay when they were barely beyond children.
The thing is, I think we all get to choose who we consider family when we find allies and mentors to help us on our Journeys. No one completes a Hero’s Journey alone. Nobody makes it the end all by themselves. If you think you’re been on a Hero’s Journey and you can’t list your allies and mentors, then you’ve been doing something…. but it’s not a Hero’s Journey.
A beneficial New Year exercise is to list your allies and mentors, no matter how small their role on your Journey. How does your list look? Are there holes where you need help? This is the perfect time to get brave and get some help.