Family dynamics on screen: Succession
Updated: Jun 17
I had a light-hearted chat with Metro about the serious and sensitive topic of family dynamics.
We looked at different characters from the hit TV show Succession. With each character, the challenge was clear. How can we pause and notice how we respond to the actions and behaviour of those around us. And what does that tell us about ourselves, and the role that we play with our family and friends?
The Roy family might feel like a collection of extreme stereotypes. But I bet we can all identify with some of these characters, and how they make us feel. In counselling we look at our own identity, and challenge the idea that other people have the people to ‘make us feel’ a certain way. So let’s look at the Roy family, and think about how you could manage your responses to these types of people.
A cold parent (based on the character of Logan Roy).
We’re hard-wired to seek out affection from our primary caregivers. So how can we cope when this isn’t offered to us? It starts by noticing how you behave around them. Do you find yourself desperately trying to please them, even though you know deep down that they’re unlikely to show affection? Or do you go the other way – acting cold and distant yourself so that you can protect yourself from the rejection that you anticipate.
Be realistic – if we expect other people to change then we may end up feeling disappointed.
Acknowledge that people show affection in different ways. Look for more subtle cues that indicate how they feel about you.
Be curious and compassionate towards them. If someone comes across as ‘cold’ it’s likely that they don’t have the tools to show or share their emotions.
A family member you can't trust (based on the character Kendell Roy) Betrayal and suspicion are at the heart of many of storylines in Succession. We might hope that we can trust our family members, this isn’t always the case. And it has an impact in our wider relationships. If someone in our immediate family breaks our trust, this can make us feel wary of trusting others.
Notice how you’re feeling, you might be experience hurt or sadness around this lack of trust. There are often deeper feelings present too, feeling ashamed that a close relative breaks our trust.
Consider what boundaries you need to put in place. Now that you’ve recognised that someone isn’t trustworthy, how do you want to respond next time?
Manage your boundaries. When they are tested, how can you feel strong enough to say ‘no’ to a family member. Are there particular issues that might trigger you or make you feel guilty for not trusting them?
A family member whose ambition comes first (based on the character Siobhan)
Ambition can be a powerful driver for success, but it’s tough when you feel like someone would tread on your toes to get where they want to be.
Notice whether their ambition has an impact on how you see yourself. Are you comparing your life choices to theirs? Remind yourself that success means different things for different people.
Be curious about whether their ambition and achievements are making them happy. Sometimes when we see people who are ambitious to the detriment of everything else in their lives, it’s worth wondering what they might be trying to prove, and whether they will ever feel satisfied.
A family member who might be described as a "hot mess" (based on Roman's character) How do you respond to a family member who is a ‘hot mess’? We don’t all react in the same way. For some of us, it triggers an instinct to ‘rescue’ someone. For others, it simply makes us want to avoid them.
If you feel yourself wanting to ‘rescue’ them, ask yourself some key questions. What is it that I’m trying to achieve? Am I just rushing in to fix everything for them? It might be more helpful to step back and offer them support to find their own solutions.
If their behaviour is pushing you away, notice why you are feeling uncomfortable. Maybe you’re frustrated, angry, or perhaps embarrassed. See if you can look at them from a compassionate angle, it sounds like they need support.
Help them to seek support if they need it – but encourage them to take the first steps if they can.
Keen to explore more? In counselling you have the opportunity to explore your own family dynamics, and the different roles and relationship patterns. Click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.
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