There is an old indian saying that translates into "We choose the family we are born into."...and then there is the scientific theory - which is that you are linked biologically to someone and that is why they are called family. The two perspectives are quite contradictory - the former- puts the onus on you to examine your individual and communal relationships with your family and the role you play in it. And the latter absolves you of any responsibility - it allows you to look at it in the context of biology and gives you the option of cutting yourself of from them should you choose especially if the relationship is toxic.
Yet if you think about it, the family is one's first contact with developing social relationships. The family gives you stability or instability, structure or lack of structure, trust vs. mistrust. The family is also where we first learn how to love, how to share - we learn about obligations, we learn about duty and responsibility. We learn how to interact with one another, how to communicate, how to love/hate one another through our day to day interaction with our immediate family and extended family. And over time, the definition of family gets extended - because it is not only just your own nuclear family- children are born, more members are added into the family by way of matrimony, etc...
The family is probably the first contact where you experienced feelings of jealousy, feelings of rivalry, feelings of unconditional love, feelings of guilt, feelings of pure joy, feelings of over protection, feelings of restentment, and feelings of lack of control/ and power struggles. Yet despite all this - we manage to work through these feelings because of the term "family" and because we want to make it work. No matter how dysfunctional a family is, because often they are the only people that really "get" you, you work through your differences so that you can be together. If there are children involved, then the desire to work through all these emotions is even more.
Yet everyone knows that because a family is a collective unit of individuals -kind of like a group- the dynamics in the group is not always going to be perfect. There is always going to be "the star", there is always going to be the "scapegoat", and there is always going to be " the troublemaker." We all have personalities we come with, we all have issues we struggle with - and imagine a home filled with loads of these personalities. What would the outcome be? especially if we all lived together?
The answer is clear -We make choices within the family structure as to whether we want the family to thrive or dissolve by our reaction to one another. It is not so much about the individual personalities at a certain point - it is about how we respond to them and what we choose to make out of that situation. Do we communicate effectively with one another and choose to really discuss our point of view?. Or do we avoid, internalize and/or express it violently/aggressively because we don't know how to effectively communicate. And most of all, how much of it is a sincere longing to have a belonging to someone that you call your own. We all want to belong somewhere and be part of something that defines who we are. It is a human condition and a family unit gives us that. But it also teaches us alot of lessons about living.
Sometimes it is about learning a lesson of "standing our ground." Sometimes it is a lesson for us to "not take on as much as we always do." Sometimes it is a lesson in 'learning to listen." Sometimes it is a lesson in " learning to forgive." Sometimes it is a lesson in "learning to develop empathy and compassion." Sometimes it is a lesson in "learning to be humble." Sometimes it is a lesson in "learning to hold onto to our beliefs when all others abandon it." And last but not least, " it is a lesson in learning to be patient."
Think of your own family dynamics - and think of the lessons you have gained, the struggles you have had to face, and think of the role you play in your family. What would you do differently? what would you change? Do you see patterns repeating themselves in various ways?
We are heading into November by the end of this week. The leaves are changing colors, and fall is definitely in full swing. With fall, comes holiday seasons - and not that i want to begin thinking of that, but I write this piece about family more so to begin a reflection of family and what it means to you. We go through life often like a bull running after a target - and if we stop and take a breath, we will begin to see patterns, ideas, thoughts within our family structure that will help us to either make a decision to heal/mend it or remove ourselves from it should it be toxic.
Sometimes it is worth it to go all the way to save the family - because in your heart you know it is the right thing to do. At other times, it is about letting things be as they are - and making a conscious decision of not allowing your self to go there.
Whatever the choice is, do it wisely and calmly.
1. Do a five minute writing sprint on FAMILY.
2. Complete the following sentence - I want my family to _______________
3. For fun, have each member of the family do a poem with the words Vertically Written and write something. You can make a collage with it, or a photobook with it.
Fulfilling my needs, wants and desire
Amidst times of struggles and despair
Moving me in a direction of possibilities
Inspiring me to do more
Loving me unconditionally
You bring me closer and closer to you!