My name is Kerry, and I am currently working privately as a clinical hypnotherapist focusing on a method called RTT. In addition, I work part-time as a therapy assistant on the Adult Eating Disorders Ward. During my time as a clinical hypnotherapist and a therapy assistant, I am reflecting on if the whole family was involved in the “affected patients” recovery, and the system as a whole was investigated in a collaborative way, would the recovery of the “affected patient” be smoother and beneficial for the whole family as well? It goes without saying that knowing a family’s genogram is essential for an efficient therapy for its members as their issues may be interconnected. Moreover, I am also aware of my own family issues, an ability to solve them on the examples of others, and how a family systemic approach could have possibly assisted to create more harmony. The purpose of my work is to evaluate how a person may be affected by inner mechanisms of his family through the example of the Madrigal family and find connections with my personal situation. Thus, I would like to reflect on whether Mirabel is used as a scapegoat within her family drawing the focus away from its systemic maladaptive mechanisms and generational trauma.
Disfunction in a Family Life Cycle
In general, maladaptive mechanisms are characterized by person’s inability to adapt to new circumstances. In the majority of cases, they are caused by unexpected and predominantly traumatic life events and may affect not only a person’s life but the members of his family as well through the absence of essential stages of a family life cycle (Pietrangelo, 2020). The Madrigal family from Disney animation film Encanto is a family the members of which have unique magical “gifts” given by a candle that attained special qualities after the death of Pedro, the family’s patriarch, who sacrificed himself to save his wife, Alma, and three children (Encanto, 2021). This traumatic event may be regarded as a stage that changed the traditional family life circle and led to negative consequences in the future.
When Alma met Pedro, she had completely other expectations concerning her future life. The couple got married and had three children, Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno, however, her happiness disappeared when she lost Pedro who tried to save his family and neighbors from marauders. In turn, the candle created a safe and secure place and Casa Madrigal, a house for Alma and children. On the one hand, Alma was forced to adapt to new realities for her children. On the other hand, she has perceived this traumatic event and subsequent salvation in a particular way that affected the whole family in the future.
Abuela Alma became the matriarch of the Madrigal family – she does not have a special gift but she guides her relatives and cares about the family’s prosperity. At the same time, she firmly believes that magical talents are given to the Madrigal family to help people serving for the well-being of its community. She does not want to admit that she destroys magic by her beliefs and does not want to adapt to new perspectives. That is why Abuela blames others for seeming misfortunes of the family, including Bruno who saw the future she does not want to accept, and Mirabel who was not only left without a gift but appeared in Bruno’s prophecy connected with the destruction of magic.
Impact of Maladaptive Mechanisms on Family Members
In the same way, Abuela ignores the needs of other family members – they are bounded by their duty in front of society and commitment to other people’s demands, however, their personal wishes are hidden. Julieta, Mirabel’s mother, is only giving, her sister Pepa should control her emotions all the time to provide sunny weather, and Bruno is excluded from the family as people did not like his prophecies even if he did not control them. Felix and Augustin were accepted into the family after marrying Abuela’s daughters and they are fully involved in all activities of the family having no right to express their opinions. Camilo, Pepa’s son, constantly tries to make jokes, however, he hides stress in this way. Dolores is forced to forget about marriage with Mariano whom he loves as Abuela decides that he should marry Isabella for the family’s prosperity and future generations. In turn, Isabella does not want to marry Mariano – she wants to explore her magic potential instead of pretending to be perfect in her grandmother’s view. Finally, Luisa whose strength is the most desirable talent for people feels weak inside and wishes to have a rest and inner harmony and peace.
Mirabel may be regarded as a person who is impacted by the family’s systemic maladaptive mechanisms on the basis of generational trauma more than other relatives. First of all, the fact that she does not have a gift puts pressure on her despite the girl’s optimism and sincere love to her family. In addition, the majority of her relatives and community members emphasizes this difference even if Mirabel tends to think that even without magic, she is special too. Meanwhile, she is frequently treated as a scapegoat especially after Abuela and others discovered Bruno’s prophecy even if its meaning is unclear. Nevertheless, the destruction of the house was directly connected with Mirabel as a source of misfortunes. In 1993, Mason wrote: “…as humans we all, at times, seek a sense of certainty and that some degree of certainty can help us move forward in our lives. However, he also suggests that sometimes this can lead to paralysis and lack of creativity” (Department for Education, no date, p. 5). Alma wants to live in a safe certainty on the basis of her own beliefs concerning the purpose of magic given to her family. Thus, when her maladaptive behaviour starts to cause issues, she refuses to believe that their reason is in her. Instead, she blames Mirabel, although it is Abuela who forgot that her family was gifted for the happiness of its members first of all.
The same patterns could be observed in my own family as well. I had highly tense relationships with my ex-husband – there were no collaboration and understanding between us. Being officially a family, we were not together on the emotional basis. And it was a genuine reason of our anger and aggression that we put on our daughter, Amber. I remember one episode – when she was 3 or 4 years old, she was sitting in the corner playing with toys and my ex-husband blamed a child – and it was not Amber that was the issue. As a result, my daughter had emotional outbursts when she was with us feeling tension and unreasonable sense of guilt. In turn, I was emotionally exhausted to realise the problem and solve it – thus, all things went in circle. At the same time, according to classical principles of the attachment theory, Amber was attached to her father’s parents as she lived with them receiving whatever she wanted whenever she wanted (Cherry, 2019). However, in the present day, I believe that the most important thing that she received was a sense of comfort and love. She did not receive it from us, her parents, as we were occupied with problems in our relationships. I wonder if we had experienced systemic family therapy for a period of time, we, as a family, could have created a stronger family base so that she had a more secure attachment to all of us and her behaviour would have become more balanced.
In this case, I would recommend systemic family therapy for the Madrigal family as well with the practices of different communication styles, joining, sculpting, and tracking. A reason for it is the dysfunction that may be seen in a fact that the majority of family members are unhappy with their lives due to the pressure within the family for them to meet certain objectives for the family’s sake. In family therapy setting, it is highly essential to feel free to express feelings and emotions which, for instance, in the case of Pepa, should not be banned due to their naturalness. In addition, it is important to explain patients that they should praise their identities, express themselves in a way they want, like Isabella, or respect their wishes and desires, like Luisa. Finally, Alma should be explained that her desire to control everything on the basis of personal beliefs concerning what is right and what is wrong may lead to the destruction of other people’s personalities. She should understand that people are not bad when they do not meet her expectation, for example, like Bruno. All in all, the Madrigal family should learn to listen to each other and respect each other’s desires and borders. They may spend more time together connected with a similar cultural background. In this case, with all family’s support, Mirabel and other members will experience the positive outcomes of family therapy.
Cherry, K. (2019) What is attachment theory? Web.
Department for Education (no date) PSDP – Resources and tools: safe uncertainty. Web.
Encanto (2021) Directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard [Film]. Burbank, Calif.: Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Pietrangelo, A. (2020) Identifying and treating maladaptive behavior. Web.