Why the Family Separation/Detention Issue Touches Us

Dr. John Townsend

July 6, 2018

The debate over immigration in the US is fierce and complex, and the issue of families being separated has taken the intensity to a new level. People are polarized on their views of this. No matter what you believe the solutions should be, you cannot help but feel deeply that this matters. Here are some thoughts about this, and what you can do to make sense of things.

We think in terms of family.  Our minds are designed so that we are a family-oriented species.  We started in a family, we grew up in a family, and most of us create our own families.  A family is where life starts and is developed. We hope to end our lives in the company of those family members we have loved for years. Even those of us who had struggling families still have a hope and a desire for a better and more loving family down the line.  We are even interested in others’ families, and how healthy they are. It’s just in our DNA. We can’t ignore the reality and importance of family.

Vulnerability requires priority.  The younger the child in a family, the more they must take a high priority in any decision.  Developmentally, younger children do not have the internal fortitude or skills to handle the stresses of life.  On a neurological level, their brains are unformed and vulnerable. That is why however this issue plays out, we must always put those who are less “able” at a high priority.  The imprinting of both healthy and harmful experiences will affect the entire lifetime of a young child, so we must have a focus on helping that go right.

We want to help, but don’t know how.  Millions of us read about and view the issue, and go away feeling a bit helpless, like “I can’t do anything about this.”  That sense of helplessness conflicts with our natural compassion for safe families where the young are protected. Those two feelings do not go together.  That is why the best route is to do something helpful, wherever you are on the debate. Read up on it. Investigate both sides without a bias. Get in touch with the decisionmakers on the position you have worked out for yourself, and ask them how you can help.  

Families cannot be ignored, because we can’t ignore a part of ourselves.  Pay attention to the issue, and support the best solution.


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