Because the family is the framework of human society and the system into which a physical human is typically born and socialized, it is critical to become aware of family in general. But in the recent years, people have become confused about what my stance actually is on family. I’m hoping to clear up this confusion in today’s episode as well as to bring you some awareness about family in general.
Family is a complex concept because a family is really a group of people who are related either by blood (being descended from the same ancestry) or by affinity (being marriage or adoption). The affinity piece is the thing that makes family complicated because it implies that one can choose who to consider family. It implies that even though the government itself only recognizes relationships that are legalized in some way (such as legal marriage or legal adoption), in many people’s minds family may have more to do with who a person considers to be kin or who they feel belonging with, regardless of whether they are blood related or not and regardless of whether they live under the same roof or thousands of miles away.
But for the sake of this episode, I’m going to talk about family in terms of those blood or affinity relatives whom formed the social framework which you belonged to in your childhood. People like mom, dad, step mom, step dad, brothers, sisters, step siblings, grandpa, grandma, uncles, aunts, cousins etc.
Physical humans are a relationally dependent species. A family provides the framework for the sharing of material substances (such as food and shelter). It implies the meeting of each other’s needs. It implies the giving and receiving of care and nurture. It implies attachment as well as moral and sentimental ties. It implies enculturation and socialization. Family also provides the framework for successful reproduction. In theory, the purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and subsequently the wellbeing of society at large. Ideally, families would offer nourishment, predictability, structure and safety. For this reason, family is a value that is placed super high in most societies if not at the very top. And because society values family so highly, you have sayings like “everything comes and goes, but family is forever” and “family is where life begins and love never ends” and “family is what matters most”.
Indeed, family must never be trivialized. Family is fundamental to a person’s foundation and sense of wellbeing in the world. It is intensely traumatic and also goes against human nature for a person to separate from, become alienated from or go against their family. Separating from family is perhaps the closest external experience that an individuated person can have to losing a part of themselves. For this reason, it is a tragedy when this occurs. It is not the ideal situation at all. The ideal situation is that an entire family unit would adjust so as to ensure the wellbeing of all of its members and get closer in a healthy way. If I had it my way, any work that a person did on themselves would bring them closer to their family and all the people in their lives. Unfortunately, this ideal situation does not always occur. In fact, it rarely does. Tragically, the family’s unwillingness to make changes might just be the very thing preventing one of its members wellbeing, thus putting that person in the lose-lose scenario of parting ways with the family for the sake of their ownwellbeing or staying close and sacrificing their own wellbeing to do so.
What I am about to say will most likely stir a lot of offense. But you need to understand that to go against the family or to separate from them is an unnatural experience. It goes against biology. What has to happen in a family for this to occur or to be a healthy choice is very extreme. But the members of the family usually don’t recognize any ‘wrong doing’ on their parts. If a member of the family has separated from or gone against the family itself, the first place that a family should look is at themselves and at what needs to change within that family system. I could go so far as to say that when a person in a family is truly willing to look at themselves so as to make a change so as to repair rupture with another member, EVERYTHING would be on their side for re-connection. I’m going to give you a rather triggering example… Cults.
You will hear people saying that a cult ruined their relationship with one of their family members or that a cult separated them. It is true that a genuine cult often seeks to separate an individual from any person who is not a part of that cult. A person who is isolated is more susceptible to control. But unless there is a gap there already… an emptiness due to pain or missing needs due to family dysfunction, there is no space or need there for a cult to be able fill. No weakness to exploit. It is the family itself that creates those patterns of susceptibility and vulnerability and the family itself that is in dysfunction when trying to “rescue” one of its members from something that the family itself helped create and re-enforce. Going into a “hero/rescue” pattern is an avoidance of this realization as well as an avoidance of seeing what patterns within the family need to be changed and would constitute an actual solution. In other words… the joining a cult is a symptom, not a cause. And yes, I know how painful that is to swallow.
The first thing that you must understand about a family is that it is a social system. Social systems involve roles and ways of relating and social strategies and beliefs that are intensely resistant to change. Social systems are not always functional even if they are operational. In fact, most families in today’s un-awakened society are dysfunctional in that contrary to popular belief, they do not ensure the wellbeing of all of their members. Because of the various roles that each member is placed into, each member tends to have a very different experience of being a part of the family itself. Even though most families create wellbeing in certain ways and also prevent wellbeing in other ways, the reality is that some members are in more pain within the family system than others. The greatest tragedy of all in a world where most families have some element of dysfunction is that the members of those very families don’t even realize it. In fact, most people think their family is functional. People will fight tooth and nail that their family is not only functional, but healthy and good and even ‘the best’ family. Families often fight to not change, even if not changing means that one of the members stays hurting. In fact, they often make that member’s belonging in the family conditional upon that person not changing too. This is the reason that the successful addiction programs insist on involving the entire family system and on creating changes in the ways that each member interacts with each other within that system. Otherwise, the family system itself acts as an oppositional force to the addict’s sobriety. So often the dysfunction taking place in a family system is the very reason that one of its members has turned to addiction in the first place. Of course, hardly any family points to themselves when they are putting one of its members into a center for treatment.
There is extreme resistance to seeing one’s family for what it is, both positive and negative. People subconsciously and potentially even consciously think there to be a consequence for recognizing anything negative about their family. And sometimes the sad reality is that they are right about there being a consequence. This is why people tend to justify everything when it comes to their family. And families tend to justify everything they do when it comes to its members. They say things like: “yeah, but they (or we) did the best they (or we) could”. Or they normalize things like “yeah but everyone’s parents did that”. Or they minimize things like “yeah, but so many other people had it so much worse than I (or you) did” or “other kids have parents that give up on them in that situation”. Or they invalidate things like “yeah, but they gave me so much money and totally set me up in life to have the success I have today”. In other words, people tend to go into denial when it comes to their own family as a coping mechanism to avoid the consequence they fear would come as a result of seeing the truth about their family or making a change as a result of what they see. But this only ends up keeping them stuck. For this reason, it is important to watch three of my videos. The first is: The Catch Up Effect (Why We Really Fear Change). The Second is: The Real Reason That People Don’t Change. And the third is: How Normalization is Hurting You and Hurting Society.
A social system (in this case your family) and the role which you play within that system and the way that each part of that system relates to one another may just be the cause of your suffering and what is keeping you stuck. Even if the intentions of the other members of that system itself are good. Because the family system itself is so resistant to change, it resists you changing. This is why living with your family of origin as an adult usually makes it harder to create positive personal change. For example, imagine that you are trying to create abundance but you live with family members that believe money doesn’t grow on trees and all that matters is hard work and that rich people are evil. That environment acts as a daily oppositional force to your desire and goal. Unless the rest of the members in that family system are truly on board with supporting your new way of being and changing themselves to do so (not just saying they are and acting the opposite), it can be compared to trying to heal on the battlefield itself. What you need is a different thought and a different experience in order to shift. Not to try to shift despite being inundated with the same thought and the same experience that did cause or is causing the problem in the first place.
The second thing you must understand about family is that it is the foundation of your physical existence. You can think of it as where you acquired your building blocks. It is where your first formative experiences with relationships take place. It is the place where you were first programmed. This means your childhood experiences, primarily in your family, is where your patterns begin. Those patterns either set you up for things like success and pleasure or for things like failure and pain. Imagine that a cake came out of your oven and when you tasted it, it was inedible. The first thing you would do is to go back to review what ingredients you added. Or imagine that a software was malfunctioning, the first thing you would do is to go back and review the code and the original programming. When a person gets into self-awareness work, they must get into the habit of going back to find the family-based origins of their problems in their adult life. Their unwillingness to do so out of a sense of solidarity with the family, makes awareness of the problem and therefore awareness of what needs to happen to resolve that problem impossible. Essentially people sometimes and tragically choose solidarity with family over all other elements of their own wellbeing, even if doing so condemns them to a life of suffering in other ways.
For example, I knew a woman who was in the role of the family helper. She only fit into the family system if she was constantly putting everyone else first. Doing so was all that ever got her approval and therefore self-esteem. She slipped into a chronic patterns of self-neglect and complained about it for years until as a result, she developed a kind of cancer that occurs when someone is refusing to prioritize their own dreams and desires and purpose. In fact the type of cancer she had is nicknamed “the self-sacrifice cancer” in the natural health community. She was conscious enough and also aware enough of the emotional element involved with cancer to know this already. But her family put pressure on her to do what they wanted her to do as usual, but this time relative to her cancer treatment. She knew she would die by going along with what they wanted her to do for their sake and their sense of what was right to do. She called me to tell me that herself. But in the end, she decided to go along with their wishes and desires and needs because “she couldn’t live with the idea that if she died without fulfilling their wishes, they would always talk bad about her and about how she could be alive if only she had done the right thing… what they wanted her to do”. She literally chose solidarity with how her family would see and remember her over her own healing and in this case survival. Never underestimate the power of family dynamics to prevent the healing and progress and wellbeing of one of its members.
By opting into the nature genetics (which includes ancestral memory) and nurture experiences within a family, what you are really doing is to metaphorically speaking opt into a deck of cards. Some of those cards we could from one level judge as awesome and others we could judge as total crap. For example, a Scandinavian athlete may have opted into incredible physical prowess which gives him sexual attractiveness at the same time as aloofness which makes his relationships feel quite empty and distant.
We need to learn how to either change or exalt our crappy cards as well as to capitalize on our good cards that were given to us as a result of belonging to the family that we belonged to. Everyone has both transgenerational gifts and burdens to sort through. Everyone has both experiential gifts and burdens to sort through. Ancestry is an intensely powerful element of self-awareness, which is why I so often tell people to go back to their homeland at some point in their process of awakening. To understand some more about this, you can watch my video titled: What Your Parents Did Right.
The third thing you must understand about family is that some families are toxic in their current state. Some families exist in a state of ‘shadow tribe” and instead of ensuring the wellbeing and positive growth of its members, some families prevent it. When this is the case, the question is where do you draw the line and decide that being around them is not healthy? Or that not communicating is healthy? This is not an answer I’m going to give you. It is a question you must ask yourself and answer yourself. In general, it is in no way necessary for people to sever contact with and stop talking to their family in order to heal. The ideal would be the opposite, that they were conscious advocates for the process. But a person might very well be in a situation where they specifically can’t heal while still being in contact with certain family members. At least for a period of time.. such as the time it takes to feel solid in themselves so that their parent’s constant criticism doesn’t impact them in the same way. The biggest problem is that so many families exhibit behavior that is dysfunctional all the way to downright abusive without realizing that it is. In fact, most families think that they are being loving when they are in fact being the opposite. For example, a father might think that demanding academic excellence from his child is beneficial to the child, when in fact it may simply be instilling the pressure and the belief that they are only going to be loved if they succeed. An older brother may think that its loving to beat his younger brother up in order to ‘toughen him up for the world’ when in fact, it is simply teaching the younger brother that he is unsafe and has no advocates in life. A mother might hold the fact that she gave life to her children as leverage over their heads so that they ‘owe’ her later. This obligation to take care of each other may be seen as love by her, when in fact, it is entrapment. So much dysfunction and damage is disguised as love or mistaken for love. And unless we recognize those patterns and change them, our relationships and families and therefore human society will not improve.
For this reason, it is critical to understand that your family had dysfunction in it, whether you consciously recognize it or not yet. This is especially true if you are the kind of person who is drawn to self-help or spirituality. To be brutally honest with you, the people who are drawn to trying to figure themselves out and sort their problems out in the first place with self-help or spirituality, tend to come from families that fall on the more dysfunctional end of the spectrum. That dysfunction, no matter how minimal or extreme you currently judge it to be, did have a negative impact on you and on your adult life whether you recognize it yet or not. It is critical to be willing to see what those detrimental patterns were and are so as to change them. If you keep making excuses for them, you will keep yourself stuck.
The reality is that everyone has a valid excuse for everything. That does not change the reality that it did damage. It does not negate the pain. It is not a betrayal to your family to look to recognize these detrimental patterns and change them so as to have a better life experience and a healthier family system. And especially, to change those patterns so that they do not repeat in future generations. What does it say if your family considers it a betrayal for you to do so?
Families MUST get to a point where they care infinitely more about awareness and improvement and evolving and about the subjective experience and wellbeing of every one of its members than families care about defending their rightness or goodness in being the way they are or were. The sad reality is that if families got on board with a full system change when one of its members well-being depended on it, a person could un-do their trauma in no time at all. Healing would happen so fast if a person could do it with their family instead of in spite of their family or with the opposition of their family. I often think about this when all I would need for a person to shift immediately is the permission of one of their family members for them to do so. We must get to a point where we do not consider it a betrayal to the family to become aware of the negatives and positives and to question things and to ask for a system change.
So all that being said, don’t mistake someone making you aware of dysfunctional patterns within your family (so that you can change them for the better) for someone trying to separate you from your family.