I have been asked several times in the last week about what to do when you aren’t comfortable being around a family member and yet you don’t really want to cut off relations completely.
I want to address this question fully from the practical standpoint and I want to answer it in terms of our own inner boundaries.
We don’t choose our family but in a way we really do. I believe somewhere back there before we are born, we actually do choose what we need to learn in this life. All of our hardships and traumas contribute to that soul education, so that we can move closer to connection and love. Most of the trauma we experience in childhood tends to make us want to close off from others. We find ways of justifying that later in life so we don’t have to face our own inner demons.
Because history builds up with family, it is extremely hard to be objective. Patterns form and we identify with certain roles. Perhaps you have always been the fixer and the hero. We might be the victim of someone’s abuse or someone’s blame. We may learn to protect our vulnerability at all costs because of the pain we have suffered.
At some point if there is work on oneself, we may come to the realization that we no longer want to be in that role. The game has always been played with more than just you and probably for many many years So what starts to happen when someone drops out of the game?
The first question becomes how does one drop out of the game?
This is how we exert a healthy boundary. In the beginning, we will not be skilled at doing this, so it might look like withdrawal or even no contact. With more skill, it is learning to cook in our own reactions, bringing sensation to our bodies and giving full attention to watching the phenomenon going on inside of us while we are with the other person. We attempt to not express this to the other person and we don’t suppress it either.
This takes a LOT of practice and can be more easily achieved if there has been a steady practice of maintaining attention in other less demanding situations.
When we start to do it in highly charged environments, where a family member is really pushing our buttons or triggering an automatic response, we begin the work of understanding how we are identified with our own suffering.
This may sound extremely harsh to those of you who feel persecuted or misunderstood, those of you who feel invalidated or not respected. This brings me back to the age old quote, “ we don’t choose our family.” We love those who have not treated us well and know that they probably had no ill intention. They more than likely couldn’t help their own behavior, so what do we do about what we will put up with and what we won’t.
Usually when we are able to see the phenomenon behind our own reaction, it affects the other person’ actions. Understanding ourselves and tempering our own actions is all we can do. We cannot change other people, nor should we try.
If we are in an abusive relationship, it is up to us to walk away and that can be very sad, if it is a parent or a sibling. We gain enough self respect to extract ourselves from such denigration, and establish parameters around which we will interact with this person.
If it isn’t physical or psychological abuse, but simply a bad dynamic then it is worth trying to establish a boundary within yourself. This is a boundary we must establish with our own ego, so everything has to be put into question.
Are we being triggered by a distorted perception that has been tainted by the past? Do we drag the past into every encounter with that person like it is a ball and chain around our leg? Are we wanting to be treated more respectfully and yet find ourselves blaming the other person for the entire bad relationship? Are we projecting our actions onto the other person?
It is terribly difficult to have objectivity in relationship, especially with family. We have to start with ourselves because that is all we have to work with. Our own personal work will affect the relationship positively.
In order to see objectively, we must watch ourselves like a hawk and keep our actions in check. When we are tempted to speak unkindly or do something we really don’t want to do, we must work inside to not react, speak, or do that very thing we know is in complete pattern. We start to discover what is happening to us on the inside.
When we do act mechanically/in pattern/without choice, it is usually based in some need that is camouflaged and unmet. These desires run the gamut from needing to be loved, accepted, and heard to the need to accept and love oneself. We may understand that conceptually, but we will continue our mechanical suffering until we understand it in our Being. We have to feel and see it in a way that acknowledges this need on a deep level; on a level of intense vulnerability.
As we reach that place, we can begin to grieve this needy place in us. With consciousness of this, we can begin to heal. We feel a new kind of peace in this self recognition. When we heal, we will see ourselves in others. Our empathy will free us from the confines of the conflict. We find ourselves able to be in the presence of the person who could not show us the love. We understand that they couldn’t love us because we couldn’t love us.
We start to see them as us and then we can dive into forgiveness like never before.
When that cracks open, love is possible. The other person will feel it. They may begin to melt and your new found boundary that comes from self respect and love does not project need onto them. We don’t feel the need to react when they aren’t giving us what we want because we don’t need to have them give us this. Their actions begin to change because of our lack of reaction. The game is over and they quit blaming us or picking us apart.
It is worth it to find your way through to acceptance and forgiveness, even if this person has deeply hurt you.
Without it, we will continue to act out the pattern unconsciously in frustration and deep unhappiness. We continue to stay connected to our suffering. We continue to blame someone else for our own unhappiness.
And the Game is still on.
Have a great week,
If you get something from this blog, sign up for my newsletter where I will keep you up to date on all things Awareness School. You will get the blog right in your inbox.
Our Live Ecourse Practical Awareness starts October 1st, so check out the deets for this tremendous class with material to use for a lifetime.