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The Family You Wish You Had

In this time of holidays you are likely seeing more of your family of origin than usual.  Being someone committed to personal growth, you know that seeing your family is a never ending fountain of growth opportunities :)

Media puts pressure on you with holiday images of happy loving families.  The need for family is so basic and primal that you can easily find yourself wishing for your family to match those images.  You imagine your family members greeting you with warmth, acceptance, and curiosity and listening intently to your challenges and celebrations.  You see yourself doing the same for them.  You imagine a free flowing ease with laughter, fun activity, and relaxation.

When you gather with your family maybe there is some of this and maybe there is none.  Either way you choose to honor the bond of family by showing up.  Part of showing up in compassion is letting go of who you wish your family was and seeing who they are while still maintaining a sense of your own integrity.  This isn't necessarily easy.  There are stages to go through that go cycles moment to moment and over decades.

The cycle of coming into greater integrity, compassion, and acceptance with your family usually includes some version of the following stages:

  • Anger:  Feeling anger and claiming your birthrite to be loved and accepted for who you are.  This stage usually includes lots of empathy from others and from yourself.
  • Grief:  Letting yourself feel the grief when it arises.  Grief for all the ways you wanted to be embraced and how it didn't happen.
  • Compassion:  Reflecting on the wounding and challenges that each family member has faced and how that limited his or her ability to be the loving family member for whom you hoped.
  • Recognition:  Seeing the ways in which each person makes an effort to meet you, offer kindness or generosity, and or demonstrates gifts and strengths.
  • Acceptance & Empathy:  Feeling yourself relax into what's true about your family and hearing each person's feelings and needs regardless of how indirectly those feelings and needs are expressed.
  • Risking:  Looking for moments to express more honestly than you have before and to ask for something more back.

You might find yourself in one of these stages for years at a time.  You might find that you have gone through all these stages and you are starting a new more subtle cycle and moving through the stages again.  You might notice that in a ten minute conversation you visit every stage.


Take a moment to reflect on your relationship with your family of origin relative to these stages.  Where are you now?  What would you like to cultivate?  How might you begin the next stage?

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The Tragic Cycle of Overwhelm & Withdraw

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