Blood is Thicker:
Marriage, Incest, Theft, Madness, and Other Family Affairs
Improper Relations. There is sort of joke in therapeutic circles. We say ‘Every family has a paedophile uncle.’ I suppose we could add, ‘And a crazy aunt.’ If you look carefully, and sometimes it’s just plain obvious, there are a lot of dodgy characters in the family circle. There is usually at least one alcoholic or addict (most of them prescribed by the ‘family doctor’); someone who has body dysmorphia, self-hurts, or who attempts – and occasionally succeeds – at suicide; a family member who always seems to be ill, or neurotic, and needs special attention; a sexual predator or philanderer (male or female); one who never has monies, or gets into financially suspicious deals. And the list goes on.
Perhaps our families are simply microcosms of society at large. The only real difference is that, within the larger family circle, these are people whom we know, who have sat with us at family weddings or stood nearby at funerals, and with whom we have frequent or occasional contact.
It makes a difference that we know these people. Or, we are ‘those people’. We might feel ambivalent about our odd relatives. We know them as complex individuals, who often have endearing qualities, in addition to that one defining characteristic that, when all is done, everyone else in the family knows about. Even if some families don’t talk about it.
In this PanTimes talk, we would like to focus on two interrelated aspects of ‘intimate relations’. We may get greater insight into why our psyche places us in ‘improper’ relationships, along with the conflicting emotions that arrive together with these connections. Specifically, the idea of marriage, that join families, creates family, and makes relations of people (usually) previously unrelated. And incestuous relationships, those taboos that arise within families. Particularly of interest, is the image of psychic incest between brothers and sisters, as this plays out in the eros of adult sexual relationships and marriage partners.
This PanTimes, we will explore some of the mythology and archetypes of psychic and erotic intimacies that occur within families, and see if we can refine our understanding of what is, or might not be, ‘proper’.