Can Family Make You Crazy?

In mental health circles, using the word crazy is typically discouraged and frowned upon. A parent might say something like, “You are driving me crazy” to his or her child upon reaching hour six of an eight-hour road trip without giving it a second thought. While children are likely not literally driving the parent crazy, the child is probably exacerbating some kind of frustration or emotional shortcoming in the parent. It’s normal to get frustrated or upset or angry when people are being irritating, and one should never underestimate the ability of children to be irritating while on a road trip. Family time is important, and many families bond during a trip to an amusement park or over a fire while camping. But often enough, family can be the ones that exacerbate an already festering emotional or mental wound.

Even a leisurely reading of Genesis 27 – 29 can give the reader a glimpse Old Testament family life. Traded inheritances, stolen blessings, sacrifices, and betrayals might not have been commonplace, but they were certainly noteworthy. In Genesis chapter 27, Isaac becomes ill and appears to have diminishing sight and perhaps even some cognitive regression, so Jacob pretends to be Esau in order to get a blessing from him. Esau, the slightly older brother of Jacob, had a strong relationship with the father Isaac, while Jacob had a strong relationship with the mother, Rebekah. Perhaps Esau had some remorse about selling his birthright to Jacob for the price of a bowl of stew, and tricking your deathly ill father into giving you a blessing reserved for your brother is not the kind of stuff you would see on The Brady Bunch. Isaac and Rebekah apparently were not too fond of Esau’s wives either, which probably made for some interesting dinner conversation.

Jacob eventually flees to a town called Laban, after learning of Esau’s plot to kill him. Jacob learns of this plot from his mother Rebekah. It was probably similar to one of those, “Are you sitting down?” kind of conversations that are had over the telephone these days. Rebekah begrudgingly sends Jacob to live with her brother in a region inhabited by women of which she is also not fond.

When family is the source of our stress and sadness, it can be especially trying. The people that are supposed to build us up and support us can also be the ones that tear us down. Individual therapy, family therapy, and even a mental health diagnosis can be empowering. In certain circles, there is a stigma attached to these things reserved for crazy peoplebut despite the stigma, there can be tremendous growth and healing. Sibling rivalry be damned, Jacob and Esau could have gotten along a lot sooner.

The first week in October is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness sponsors many events throughout the month. If you or a loved one are experiencing any kind of emotional or mental struggles, there is no shame in sitting down to talk to a professional counselor about it. Brothers argue, but plots to steal blessings and kill your brother is something else altogether. If you value your faith, your family, your sanity, or just good conversation, then therapy might be right for you. Jacob and Esau sure could have used some, but it likely was probably not covered under their health plan.