My brother is here visiting. He’s a great guy and we get along very well. In honor of his visit, I had a family dinner party and invited our mother, my two children and their five sons so my brother could spend some time with them. It was a fun evening.
Coincidentally, I’m taking a class that requires us to look at ourselves with regards to personality types. We’re studying the Meyers-Briggs personality test as well as the Enneagram. Like Astrology, these two theories claim that people conform to a limited number of “types” with regards to our preferences and our propensities.
I don’t dispute this. In fact, for as long as I’ve been teaching fiction writing, I have discussed with my students the importance of differentiating characters from ourselves and from each other. Knowing these personality pattern types gives writers an invaluable tool.
But what of families? Are they, as I have postulated in the past, divinely assembled? We can hide from pretty much everybody we dislike in the world, but we are forced to interact with those in our families. Is this by design? Is there really one of every kind in every family: the enabler, the peacekeeper, the compulsive, the martyr, the perfectionist and others?
Apparently. Especially when you add in-laws and the extended family. Our families, then, seem to be fertile ground for learning patience and humility, the difference between charity and enabling, and myriad other things that left to our own devices, we would probably never learn out in the real world. I shun disagreeable people in the world, but I interact with them in my family. Don’t we all? And in that interaction, always rife with conflict or potential conflict, I learn about myself.
Families are important for many reasons, not the least of which is that, by communing with my family members, I learn who I am.