Synchronized Pathos by Susan Jackson

step 12 magazine synchronized pathos
The Third Reality

The third reality in the series of understanding the family scrimmage is Synchronized Pathos. Remember that pathos is emotional suffering. The addictive family experiences pathos together, an entity that is synchronized in its suffering. Unfortunately, the only real family togetherness is the synchronized pattern of the daily family scrimmage. The family scrimmage is toxic and painful. Eventually, the family becomes addicted to the intolerable emotional suffering they share together.

Synchronized Pathos is a result of participating in the daily family scrimmage over and over again, building a tolerance to the insanity of the experience. With each encounter the family engages in the rough and vigorous struggle. During the scrimmage, various emotional wounds are inflicted. Those wounds are usually untreated and remain open and raw, taken into the next family scrimmage.

The experience of synchronized pathos becomes so routine it feels normal to each family member. Understanding the phenomena of this reality can help explain some of the dynamics unique to the addictive family. An example of this would go something like this; Dad was angry, got drunk, Mom becomes sad, their child gets scared. However, the accurate explanation of the experience is; the presence of alcohol in the family. In that moment and moments leading up to the experience, Dad anticipated drinking and then gets drunk. Mom anticipated how sad she will be when her husband starts drinking, choosing alcohol over her and their child and the results that will transpire. It is not a sequence of events leading up to the drinking, rather the presence of alcohol and the knowledge of what will happen during and after the drinking. All of these experiences, are experienced at the same time, together, synchronized. The child in this example is probably worried, wondering which parent will need comforting and protecting after the drinking. The child is participating in the painful events, with his father and mother, each in their own painful experience suffering together. It is the ongoing emotional suffering, the daily preparation for the family scrimmage, and the always together “alone” pathos that consumes them.

The addictive family is loyal to the emotional suffering, enduring pathos on a daily basis, responding and interacting with each other like a well-choreographed dance. As the addiction progresses, the dreaded synchronized pathos increases in intensity. This is the reality of the family pathos; it is extremely painful, distressful and tormenting, and it is experienced by all members of the family together.

It is important to educate individuals and families about synchronized pathos. A clear understanding of the experience and how that reality has affected them can be very validating. The validation comes from the acknowledgment that the emotional suffering that the family has been experiencing is due to the drinking. Hopefully, when the family begins to understand this one reality and its powerful effects, they can begin to identify other behaviors they use to cope.

Synchronized Pathos is one of the many mysteries of the addictive family. Every family member is under the hypnotic influence of alcohol. This is also true of drugs or any addictive compulsive behaviors. As in any hypnotic trance the individual is unaware of the activity that surrounds them while being “under” the influence. It will take more than the snap of the fingers or strong suggestion to forget what has happened while under the spell of alcohol. It will require a daily effort to change old behaviors and acquire new skills of recovery to break the vile spell. Just as the family’s pathos is synchronized, the family’s recovery can be synchronized, the family’s ultimate goal. Gratefully, it can happen through Profound Coherence (the seventh reality), where everything is revealed and all the pieces fit together.

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