This is the draft of a blog that I wrote while studying for my undergrad in psychology. Thought I would share these thoughts... Families... they can be complicated. They can bring us up to a good place, give us confidence, make us feel happy, needed, and included. Or, they can do just the opposite. The impact on a "black sheep" can be huge. It can be life changing. It can be almost fatal. All mammals run in herds. Packs. It is an evolutionary form of protection and survival that has been around well, ever since there were mammals. Even the dinosaurs practiced this. As with our animal brothers, humans practice this too. Except, instead of herds, ours are called families. They are no less important, even in our modern society, for protection and survival. All packs, herds, families... have a hierarchy. There are those who are the leaders, and those who are the followers, just the members of the pack. Us humans, we call a person who is not like other members of our family for whatever reason, or who has done something that the rest of the family highly disapproves of the "black sheep". What happens to the black sheep ultimately depends on the rest of the family. But, there is an exception. Being the black sheep doesn't necessarily mean that anyone has to do anything bad. Or, the person could have done something a long time ago that the rest of the family in their high and mightiness doesn't see fit to show mercy and forgiveness or... just as in the animal kingdom, the death of parents or a spouse may cause the person to be the black sheep. Just as in the animal kingdom, having parents or a strong spouse connected to the family also ensures our connection. When that person is gone, our place within the family unit can become questionable. Confusing? Yes, it is. So let's use an example for this. A young woman, let's call her Amber. Amber is the daughter of the oldest of six children. Her father had two brothers and two sisters. As in many of today's families, the sisters are the leaders of the pack. The ones who put together all gatherings and make most all of the social rules. Amber was a wild teen and young adult and with problems with drugs and a thieving ex-spouse, well she did bring shame upon the family. But, that was long ago. And much more recently, children of some of the sisters have done some of the same things. Yet, it is Amber's transgressions which are remembered. She is the daughter of a son of the family and that, puts her on the outs immediately somewhat as since the sisters of the family are all very close, it is them and their children who see each other socially on a constant basis. Yet, because Amber's father is living and is included in the big family gatherings, Amber's place is secured. Then... Amber's father passes away. Now, she is a singleton in the family. A loose end out there. So what do her aunts do? Instead of ensuring that they and their children continue to include Amber, they start to pull away. They simply start to forget about her. Now, Amber is still out there and much of her identity was wrapped up in her father and his family since that is who she was around the most growing up. She knows she is left out. It hurts her. It makes her furious. It makes her a little crazy. But, she deals with it. Until, one day she signs onto a social media account and sees all sorts of wonderful family photos posted from a cousin's child's birthday party. She frantically goes to her invite section trying to find the invite she has missed but its not there. Amber is hurt. She is hurt badly. It was bad enough that they left her out, but now they are leaving out her young daughter as well. She looks at the pictures over and over of her cousin's children having a wonderful time together, and then she looks at her young daughter playing all alone and her heart just breaks. She deletes her cousin and aunt from her social media. Yet, she keeps thinking about it. She hates being left out- hates being ignored. So, she goes and pops an extra pain pill from her prescription and opens a bottle of wine. Amber sits in pain on the couch trying to numb herself. She hurts so deeply that she can't even cry. Meanwhile, her young daughter plays all alone for the rest of the night. Amber is a good mother, and she has good intentions. But, we all know that a mother has to be healthy herself before she can be any good to her child. And a cycle begins. A vicious cycle of being excluded and being alone. What did the aunts and cousins do here in this American family? They made one of their own an outcast- a victim. They took away her protection and her confidence, and made her young daughter a victim while they were at it. Why did they do this? Simple. They all believed this is the thing to do because one didn't want to cross the other. After all, why would they want to give up their safe place within the family unit? They don't. While they each may certainly have some pangs of guilt or compassion toward Amber and her young daughter, each is afraid to cross the others. Sad. Super sad. Yet, this is a real example. This is the true example of Amber, who is a real person. So is her young daughter. What is the best course for Amber? Unfortunately, it is to simply walk away and try to rebuild a solid life for her daughter. Begging and pleading with the group will only reinforce their beliefs that she is unworthy of them as that will be perceived as a weakness. Just as in the wild, any sign of physical or emotional pain by an animal is perceived as a weakness, so it is with our human brothers and sisters. Amber's best option is to meet many people and make friends. This will help her to rebuild her confidence and self-esteem and maybe with lots of prayer, one day, her family unit will let her back in. That is what we pray happens to Amber. However, many times, people like Amber plunge into a desperate despair. It is then that issues such as drugs and depression that ranks on the level of mental illness take over. Making sure to practice inclusion is so important in a family. Even at small events such as a birthday party, double-check that list to make sure everyone is invited. Exclusion can cause a lifetime of pain and victimization. Just simply becoming a little angry at a relative or having a small argument is no reason to start the practice of exclusion, black-sheeping, or scapegoating within your family. It is a recipe for disaster, failure, and quite possibly a future of broken down generations.