Jordan Allen, Ph.D.: Estrangement Unveiled — Coping Insights | All Together #49

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Jordan Allen, Ph.D., a distinguished interpersonal and family communication scholar

Dealing with family estrangement can be a real challenge, but it’s important to remember that you can overcome it. In this episode, Jordan Allen will share practical ways to cope with family estrangement.

Meet Jordan Allen, Ph.D.

Jordan Allen, Ph.D., is a dedicated scholar of interpersonal and family communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research delves into how individuals navigate difficult family conversations, aiming to offer insights for enhancing communication in personal and professional settings. She focuses on understanding how parents and children communicate about religious differences. 

As an educator, Jordan Allen is committed to guiding students in honing their communication skills through applying research and theory. She creates engaging and practical courses, utilizing evidence-based practices to redesign introductory courses like “Introduction to Interpersonal Communication” (COMM 2110). Students can develop empowered communication practices by prioritizing practical communication application and reflection over busy work.

Beyond her academic pursuits, Jordan Allen offers valuable insights into understanding and coping with complex family relationships. Drawing from her personal experiences, she recommends the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” to explore the positive aspects of divorce and its impact on family dynamics. Additionally, Allen suggests the podcast “Psychology in Seattle” by clinical psychologist Dirk Kirk Honda for its relatable exploration of psychological theories.

About the episode

In this episode, Jordan Allen explores family estrangement, challenging conventional ideas about family relationships. Her research dives into the complexities of estrangement, highlighting its various forms and the emotional difficulties it brings. From personal experiences, Allen shares that estrangement is more nuanced than commonly believed, often defying stereotypes.

Estrangement can arise from different reasons, from serious conflicts or abuse to simpler issues like communication problems or differing life paths. Allen stresses how societal pressure to maintain ties with estranged family members can worsen tensions and hurt those involved. Cultural differences also play a significant role, with some cultures valuing close-knit families while others prioritize individual freedom.

Estrangement can manifest in different ways, from complete silence to indirect communication through others. Outside interference, like hurtful comments or taking sides, can make things even more complicated. Allen points out how society’s messages about sticking with family despite estrangement can make things even harder emotionally.

Apart from the more common reasons like conflict or abuse, Allen brings attention to other stories of estrangement caused by simpler issues or a lack of connection. These stories challenge the usual narrative about estrangement and highlight the need to recognize the diverse experiences within estranged families. Cultural norms also shape how we see estrangement, depending on how much value is placed on family closeness versus individual independence.

Dealing with family estrangement means looking inward and growing. Allen stresses the importance of reflecting on whether to rebuild relationships and what changes are needed. Both sides need to heal from past hurts and let go of negative patterns, which can lead to healthier dynamics if reconciliation is chosen.

Untangling expectations from reality is crucial in handling estrangement. Allen introduces the idea of “clinging” in Buddhism, suggesting that letting go of rigid expectations can ease feelings of guilt, shame, and pain. Understanding that estrangement doesn’t mean someone is broken but simply detached from certain people is key to self-worth and personal growth.

At the end of the podcast, she encourages recognizing individual autonomy and respecting boundaries for healthier relationships, whether that means reconciliation or acceptance of estrangement.

In conclusion

It’s okay to step back and cope with family estrangement. Rethinking the idea of family and your experiences can broaden your understanding and personal development. Whether you choose to reconnect or move on, respecting each other’s boundaries is crucial for building healthier relationships. To learn more about coping with family estrangement, check out the detailed ways in this episode.

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