Many of us have mixed feelings about our childhoods and families. And it can sometimes take years to achieve perspective on how both the good and bad aspects of our early years shaped us as people. At 24-years-old, Shailene Woodley is old enough to feel grateful looking back on her unconventional upbringing — including what she describes as her "super-fucked up" family.
The actress grew up outside Los Angeles with her psychologist dad, counselor mom, and younger brother — as well as whatever house guests her parents happened to be hosting with their open-door policy (e.g. a family of domestic violence survivors). “I came home to things that weren’t great,” Woodley told Net-A-Porter magazine in a new interview. “My family is super-fucked up in many ways, but they are also my everything.”
The Snowden actress made clear that her family would do anything for her, and vice versa. "That’s a lot more than most people can say about their families," she said. "I’m grateful for the shit that happened.” While she doesn't go into detail on what that shit was, exactly, it's easy to imagine a child in her situation being exposed to things way beyond her years, what with patients and friends of her parents coming in and out, emotional baggage in tow.
It also sounds like her mom and dad used some unusual parenting tactics. For example, whenever she and her little brother Tanner had a fight, their parents made them stand in the front yard and hug each other for hours. “The whole time you’re just seething, you’re disliking this person with so much energy, but if you let go you have to stay there for an extra hour," she explained. "That was the kind of reverse, manipulative psychology my parents were into!”
Their parents also refused to blindly take Shailene's side on every issue, like when she got upset about something that happened with other kids at school. "They would be like, ‘I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way, but what do you think that person was feeling?’ Oh, I hated it," she explained. "Now, of course, I understand; it enabled me to recognize that no one’s evil, they’re probably hurting and can’t express themselves, get no love at home, so it’s repeated. It gave me a broader outlook: just put yourself in another person’s shoes.” And now, Woodley is not just a successful actress who puts herself in other people's shoes for a living — she's an unusually empathetic person, too.