The staged family

Are we staged or real?  Is it good, or does it just look that way?

Many of us are familiar with home staging; the process of rearranging and minor redecorating of a home for maximum optical value.  I experienced recently the dynamics of a family stager; a person in a family whose role seemed to be to keep the family looking its best to onlookers.

Now I mean no offense to home stagers.  Their role is vital and genuinely value-adding to the home sale and home ownership process.  Most people are heavily influenced in their buying decisions by a few simple optical criteria.  The flip side is also true in that it is not uncommon to choose against a purchase due to some small detail(s).

The family I am referring to is in crisis.  To continue the house analogy, clearly there was a cracked foundation, rot in the walls, warped floorboards, and a leaky roof.  But the family-stager seemed to want to simply re-arrange and re-decorate over it all.  In fact, the family-stager had reportedly been doing this for decades.  It had become her role.

Sadly, the current crisis involves children.  It is greatly impacting their emotional wellbeing, sense of security, and sense of identity.  Family-stager to the rescue!  In her denial of the structural damage to the family, she attempts to get the children to simply go along with what is going on with the adults and their insane, selfish behaviors so that “we can all be a family again”.  But the kids are not buying it.  How can they?  It is false and veneer-thin.  They don’t feel safe.  They don’t trust it.

Look back a generation, and this is the way the family-stager managed her family.  So this is now a well-rehearsed set of behaviours.  So when the crisis de jour arrives, why would she do anything else?  When she reaches into her tool kit, she only has her staging tools, not her repairing tools.  She doesn’t even own any or see the need.

But the kids need more than just re-staging and optics.  They need the adults to act like adults.  The family, in my estimation, needs professional help by a professional, objective, capable third-party.  They need to look at the cracked foundation, leaky roof, and rotting walls.  But how will they if another coat of paint, a new area rug, and rearranging the furniture always worked before?

What about us?  What about me?  How easily do we fall in the trap of staging when foundational and structural repairs are needed?  Not just with our families, but with our health, our relationships, with our finances?

The journey forward is not re-staging.  It can only be real.  Otherwise it will crumble, crack, and peel in very short order.

Do we know we have done some deep foundational work on which to build and move forward?  As we move forward, have we continued to do so?  Have we sought and utilized every resource available to us? 

We live in exciting times.  There are more resources available to us at this point to learn, heal, and grow than any other time in known history.  Many are free.  Most are affordable.

Lets keep building what is real, and not fall into the trap of just staging.




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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12 Responses to The staged family

  1. eremophila says:

    While I’ve looked at family dynamics and roles within them, I’d not come across the use of the term ‘staged’ before, but can immediately understand what you mean.
    Sometimes an earthquake is needed……
    Sadly, yes once again it is the children who suffer.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Eremophilia…

      “Staged” is a term that simply came to mind when experiencing this situation. Where optics were being enforced in spite of underlying dysfunctions at deep and toxic levels.

      But if all we have ever done is stuffed the toxicity and staged the optics, what else would we do when the next problem occurs.

      Yes, an earthquake seems to be the only thing that can shake us loose and start asking the tough questions about ourselves, our conduct, and our thinking.

      “We tend to grow at the rate of pain”, is how a friend and vetran of personal growth once told me. If we ignore pain and just stage around it, we can kid ourselves for a long, long time. Sadly to the deferred detriment of ourselves and the oblivious harm to others.

      More evidence for the fact that we can only deal primarily with oursevles.



  2. Punch says:

    This post sparked a guttural and primal response in me. It spoke directly and sternly to my most violent emotional trigger of being manipulated by those that love me. Staging is one of the most wicked forms of manipulation, for it takes away a foundational pillar of hope, that those around us in the chaos can see the insanity and help us, in some way. The delusional reality of staging is an assault on hope.

    Love your work, it never fails to help.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Punch!

      I relate. When I was in deepest of despair, rearranging the optics felt like it did no good. Today, I see it as something that can be helpful, but certainly does not address root issues and is far from sufficient on its own.

      And yes, I too have felt the down-draft of emotion when people were trying to fix my extierior when inside I was crying and dying. My repsonse was typically a reflexive two word phrase.

      Yet in conjunction with dealing with root issues, ‘acting as if’ can be an enhancement. It can help draw our focus out of dark places. Again though, it is an accessory, not the core of healing or recovery.

      How did Dr. Phil used to put it? “Get real”!!?? I believe had been his tag line. Staged is not real. Staged is surface. Visuals. Appearances. And often, deception.

      Hang in there my friend. Solutions come at times we never expect. What does the hour before the miracle look like? Not a lot different than the week or month before.



  3. cyndiw says:

    Chaz, this is so well written. I am a very visual person so your analogy of the home stager really made your message very clear and compelling. I had selected the 1980 film “Ordinary People” to do a paper on for my psychology class–in fact I just watched it last night and one of the lines the father says to the “stager” mother is “What have we been playing at?” And it is exactly what you were saying–it had all been a sham, a show, the walls and foundations were crumbling around them.

  4. Chaz says:

    Cyndi…. Booyah! Awesome connection!

    I was just recalling that movie the other day for a different reason. You are absolutle correct! Mary Tyler Moore’s role was very much a stager. She stuffed things she didnt want to deal with and wanted to keep up appearances. Yet her son needed so much more than staging. He needed real help. But what was she capable of given that all she had practiced was staging.

    I am going to try to find that movie, now out of circulation I believe. But I am old enough to remember it when it was out and saw it on video (probably VHS) some 15 – 20 years ago.

    Thanks for birnging this up.



  5. Chaz,

    What a great way of framing what we tend to do within families and independently! We redecorate instead of remodeling, and rebuilding. Yes, often, an “earthquake” is required, but I have seen people dust themselves off from these “earthquakes” to continue doing what they’ve been doing their entire lives. The aftermath then becomes he new normal. Thanks for your post!

    • Chaz says:

      Hey Conv….

      Yes, one earthquake doesnt wake eveyrone up. Some of us need a 9.9 richter experience. Even so, some die never having woken up and changed.

      For this reason, I take personal growth very seriously. We have unknowingly programmed in all kinds of thinking and behaviours we never realized. And any of us can be as oblivious as the next person.

      I continue to learn more and more about the deeper level of coding in my heart and mind. I am discovering things today that only by having dealt with things at a more surface level years and months ago, would I have ever discovered. The onion analogy is well-used but still relevant.

      For me, the greatest danger is the ever-more subtle notions that I have arrived at some place. And that it is ok to plateau. So how much more would the person who never asked a question about their own thinking and behaving be stuck in patterns, no matter how harmful to themselves and others close to them.

      Always great to hear from you. Thanks for adding to the dialogue.



  6. kweenmama says:

    I had never called it “staging” but I do recognize the type of people you are describing in a few people that I know. Perhaps I need to have them read this post???

    • Chaz says:

      Kweenmama…. well sure, send em on by! Chaz’ll straighten em out! 🙂

      ‘Staging’ is simply what came to mind when I experienced this circumstance. And perhaps cause I had recently watched a show on home staging, somehow the concept clicked and thus the term.

      In my experience, people who are deeply self-deceived enough to be perpetual family-stagers, or any other compulive controlling behaviour, typically don’t awaken to anything other than, well as a previous reply termed it, an “earthquake”.

      Until what we are doing blows up in our face and we have no where to hide it, excuse it, or blame someone else for it, but instead feel the pain of our mistakes, we are not likely to change significantly.

      The person I am referring to is in her 70’s, is treated like a doormat by her husband, has 2 of her 4 kids divorced in very dramatic and frankly bizarre circumstances, the same two can’t hold jobs, another is living at home until mid-40’s, leaving the fourth kid to be her trophy-kid.

      She has been staging for decades and there is lots of material to stage around as I am sure you can see. The latest staging was to blame one of her grandkids for why her adult 40-something unemployed kid couldn’t hold a relationship together. Self-deceived or what? While staging her lay-about son as a productive member of society, she shoves her grandkid off the stage to fall into the orchestra pit.

      In my experience, for such a person, some serious “it-shay” needs to hit the “an-fay” whilst it is blowing in her direction (preferralby while mouth open) in order for them to wake up.

      Thus the glory of pain! It is there to teach us something if we let it. But until the pain is severe enough… we probably just will go on doing what we have always done.

      Thanks for popping by KM! See ya on the blogs!



  7. packphour says:

    Well said.

    I was going through my old blog posts and came across one of your comments, so I wanted to check in on you. You were always honest and real with your comments/views, that this post was no surprise to me.

    All the best sir.


    • Chaz says:

      Hi Wade…. thanks for popping in. Glad to run into you again.

      Fascinated by your list of original quotes on your blog.

      Hey everyone… worth a visit to Wade’s blog!

      To pick one that speaks to me…

      ■“We’’ll create our own reality, even if it’s wrong, just to feel right.”

      This may inspire a forthcoming post.

      Will pop by again.



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