62: Stories of Invisible Loyalties

“Preparation to go home for the holidays is about holding BOTH the possibility for new connections AND an abiding sense that your wellbeing doesn’t need to be knocked off course if the system is stuck in its ways.”

Dr. Alexandra Solomon, Invisible Loyalties

Invisible Loyalties

Reading Dr. Alexandra Solomon’s recent Instagram post about Invisible Loyalties and the upcoming holiday reminds me how often I have allowed invisible loyalties to interfere in my well-being. I have taken life-altering actions on more than one occasion because I allowed invisible loyalties to hijack my decision-making process.

On more than one occasion, a pattern resulted in me ignoring my intuition, common sense, and while married, my ex-wife, Beatrix’s advice. 

For example, I quit a great job at the university to help my “brother” and father’s business. Only after the fact did I discover there it wasn’t a business but rather a slush fund for my “brothers” lifestyle.

Twenty years later, I’m still financially repaying that investment to Beatrix.

Years later, I did it again and ignored Beatrix’s insight and my intuition.

In the process, I allowed my “brother” to join a profitable business my father and I owned. Despite knowing who my “brother” is, I relented. I ignored my intuition because Dad talked about how much he wanted to build something with his “sons.”

I even talked to my “brother” beforehand, and when I confronted him about his motivation and intentions, I let him lie to me and didn’t call it out. 

Six months later, the business was broke, and my “brother” moved on to his next act. Only years later did I discover the money my “brother” and father took from the business and spent at the casinos and expensive dinners instead of investing it back into the family. A collusive act they hid. 

The entitlement of FOMO drives my family of origin.

Nonetheless, giving my “brother” access to my wallet was a wrong decision, and I knew it when I acquiesced to my father’s ambition. In the process, I allowed my desire to be accepted, loved, and included as an equal in the family to hijack my thinking brain. I tried to “invest” in a family transaction, hoping to find acceptance. In my attempt to buy inclusion, I failed to invest in my well-being and the well-being of my marriage.

It has taken me nearly 50 years to accept the reality that my sense of loyalty to my family is one-sided. I have left every investment with my family, if not financially poorer, than emotionally poorer.

I won’t make that mistake again, at least not consciously.

Epilogue

We continue the chain of generations and, knowingly or not, willingly or unwillingly, we pay debts of the past: as long as we have not cleared the slate, an “invisible loyalty” impels us to repeat and repeat a moment of incredible joy or unbearable sorrow, an injustice or a tragic death. Or its echo.

Anne Ancelin Schutzenburger,

I want to embrace a couple of quick truths about invisible loyalty. 

First, my parents recently made a financial, physical, and emotional decision to lean on my “brother” for support instead of, in my opinion, taking responsibility and investing in their long-term well-being. They believe this is their best option at this stage in their life. Perhaps, things have changed, and my “brother” has decided to help my parents instead of taking from them.

Time will reveal the truth. It always does. In the meantime, I’ll be over here doing my thing and reorganizing and reevaluating my sense of loyalty.

Secondly, I wrote above that on more than one occasion, “I ignored my gut and my ex-wife, Beatrix’s advice.” Despite personal experience with my “brother” and my family, I did this.

I did this despite knowing that Beatrix has a talent for money and business. I made these decisions out of an invisible and misplaced sense of loyalty, not to the marriage but to the very individuals and institutions that I knew couldn’t be trusted.

In other words, I ignored the lessons of previous experiences and dismissed the data. I would guess Beatrix eventually went along in an attempt to support me out of invisible loyalty, and I betrayed her devotion to my invisible loyalties. Hurt people hurt people.

By choosing to ignore Beatrix’s advice (on more than one occasion, especially about my family), I added financial and emotional chaos to our marriage. In the process, I betrayed Beatrix in one more way. 

We were not unified because I was letting my invisible loyalties make decisions. These decisions undermined our ability to feel safe and secure while learning to be intimate and vulnerable in a new marriage. In pursuit of approval and acceptance from my family of origin, I placed my family of origin ahead of the well-being of my marriage. 

That won’t happen again.

Lastly, by ignoring my gut, I betrayed myself.

As I’ve learned over the years, there is more than one kind of infidelity. We all betray someone and something…often ourselves.

Post-Script

Invisible loyalties thrive as long as they remain unconscious, unquestioned and unchallenged.

Janine Joly-DeMars, MS, LCMFT, The Visible Consequences of Invisible Loyalties

I was reading a bit more on this topic, and I want to add something. It’s an observation, and I only have a few samples. However, it seems there is a correlation between the amount of dis-regulation in a family of origin and the pressure to honor invisible loyalties. Especially the dangerous loyalties that keep the curtains drawn around secrets of abuse, neglect, trauma, and violence.

I have an extended family member that has been physically assaulted repeatedly over decades by her mother. Assaults on her have been highly public and chaotic. Assaults that have required police intervention in the middle of the night and the middle of the day, in front of neighbors and other family members. Assaults that happened when she was young and assaults that have happened in her 30s.

She claims to hate her mother and knows the emotional and mental damage she carries and yet spends every holiday with her mother. She allows her mother to babysit her eight year old daughter.

I dated a girl in high school whose father abused, bullied, sexually, and physically assaulted her. Nearly four decades later, she is a hot mess of a train wreck. Two years ago, when her father died, she went to great lengths to talk about him as a hero in the community and doting father. 

The guy was a monster.

I have made excuse after excuse of my “brother” over the years. I have overlooked Painter’s entitlement and passive-aggressive smear campaigns. I have done this out of misplaced obligation.

I have ignored behavior from bosses, friends, and family because I put invisible loyalty ahead of my well-being. I have even betrayed others and myself as I attempt to honor misplaced, unconscious, and groomed loyalties invisibility grafted into me.

I never understood before. However, I do now.

I’m not sure when, but I will come back to this topic. Like idiot compassion, invisible loyalties repeatedly interfere in taking responsibility for my own life. Patterns that I have allowed others to manipulate frequently. Habits I have unconsciously embraced.


Works Cited

“Amazon.com: Invisible Loyalties: 9781138004429: Boszormenyi-Nagy, Ivan: Books.” Amazon.com, 2021, http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Loyalties-Ivan-Boszormenyi-Nagy/dp/1138004421. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

“Home – Dr. Alexandra Solomon.” Dr. Alexandra Solomon, 15 Oct. 2021, dralexandrasolomon.com/?fbclid=IwAR3cyXZe2ITCpPUiB9FO7id0TbIoEcgCY_Axdk8nep8Ik5DB_q1VRtr_Dhg. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

“Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, Couple & Family Therapy.” Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, 3 Aug. 2018, lindseyhoskins.com/the-visible-consequences-of-invisible-loyalties/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

Solomon, Alexandra. “Alexandra H Solomon, PhD on Instagram: ‘in the Field of Family Therapy, We Say, “the Whole Is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts.” Systems Are Powerful, Family Systems Even More….’” Instagram.com, 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/CXpAuS_v7RC/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

Strong, Rebecca, and Mayra Mendez. “Passive Aggression: Causes, Signs, Tips to Respond, Getting Support.” Insider, Insider, 14 Dec. 2021, http://www.insider.com/passive-aggressive. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

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