“I think I’ve propelled forward with that just being loved for who I am, that I don’t have to be someone else, do something different, listen to this kind of music or wear these type of clothes or conform.” -Kathi Hennessey

Shout out to all the black sheep! Given the interactions I’ve had with many of you over on IG, self-declared black sheep make up most of this Wounded Healer’s audience. We kindred souls are a misunderstood bunch. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines us as different from the rest of their family or another group and who is considered bad or embarrassing. We are often derided for being independent thinkers and doers in heavily co-depended family structures. We hold up mirrors to intergenerational issues, reflecting ugly truths. 

Most back sheep fight the good fight, often alone, minus the guidebooks and helpful infographics tailor-made for other notable members of the family dynamic (see: middle child, only children, first-borns, etc.) With so many black sheep about town, you’d expect to find volumes written in our honor. Where are the books detailing our experiences or offering keen insight into the unique psyche of black sheep? Fear not! The definitive tome on black sheep is in its research phase, courtesy of my guest Kathi Hennessey, LICSW. 

No presh, Kathi, but…we’re waiting, so hurry up!

I met Kathi over on IG, and we hit it off immediately. It’s one of those great INFJ vibes with ENFJ friends-for-life stories. As the black sheep of her family, Kathi searched in vain for support plus validation on her healing journey. We certainly found validation and healing together during our conversation, bonding over everyday struggles and celebrating the twisty paths that have delivered us to sustainable self-preservation. 

Kathi’s black sheep backstory is laden with classic markers: Irish Catholic upbringing, a family history of alcoholism, resentment, denial, divorce. Those compounded traumas don’t always add up to black sheep designation. So what does? Kathi aims to find out. She hopes her research will offer guidance on how folks can black sheep better because––families.  

Bad and embarrassing? The OED got it wrong. Sure, black sheep unleash Kali energy on that sticky generational trauma loop. But we do so as a means of healing. If smashing the status quo lands us outside a broken family dynamic, bring it on. Black sheep are a breed apart. And we’re far from alone. 


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Kathi Hennessey LICSW is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Massachusetts. I am conducting research on people who are the black sheep of their families. As the black sheep of my family, I was looking for support and validation for my healing journey.

Let’s be friends! You can find me in the following places…