Family Is Important and So Am I: Part Three: Choose Your Sources of Respectful Support and Loving Connection
Family Is Important and So Am I: Part Three - Choose Your Sources of Respectful Support
and Loving Connection
Today's blog is Part Three of three-part series: Family Is Important and So Am I.
This series is for individuals who have worked on their wellness, or for those who are currently embracing a path of recovery, or for those who have chosen an intentional healthy way of being which is much different from their family of origin. And in spite of their levels of wellness, these individuals find themselves still injured by family members.
Although we cannot change the unhealthy behaviors of others, we can choose our response to them.
Let's grab hold of another healing choice. It is time to stop hurting and…
Choose Your Sources of Respectful Support and Loving Connection
We have learned that we often stay in relationships with family members who are harmful to us out of guilt or because of allegiance or loyalty to them. Another reason why individuals continue to be injured by family members is because of how each family is structured and how individual members are cast in certain roles within that structure.
This varies greatly from family to family, especially when there is disturbance, or dis-ease, or dysfunction within a family. It is important to note that the formation of family “roles” is not always an intentional labeling or conscious targeting by one or more family members. It is more often than not an organic outgrowth of the make-up of the family system itself and its levels of healthiness or lack of.
For example, in families where a member is struggling with addiction (of any kind), the actions of the addict create negative effects on the entire family. In order to cope with the chaos, family members take on or assume various roles: the enabler, the hero, the scapegoat, the mascot, and the lost child. While these roles “may” help individual family members survive their traumatic experiences and unhealthy environments, they usually do not serve them well over their lifespan and in their relationships.
Whether a family is dysfunctional or is healthy, roles may benefit some members in a family --granting them favoritism, flattery, or influence over others. However, for other family members, roles can be highly destructive and damaging -- relinquishing their importance in the family and minimizing their sense of belonging.
Recently, a client returned to therapy after spending some much-needed time away since the pandemic began. Although she enjoyed many of her travels, engaging in activities which were meaningful and visiting places which were nourishing, she disclosed that time spent with a few family members was painful. Her role in the family of being the "invisible one" -- of being diminished and dismissed -- was still in place.
At the end of our session, the strong, caring client shared that upon her return home, she attended a board meeting for a civic group she volunteers for. With a bit of a heavy heart but with a smile, she shared the following:
"It's amazing how easy my relationships are within our group! I know the board members respect me and the work I do." She paused and added, "It's so sad my family cannot do the same."
Although she feels “invisible” to her family, this client not only finds purpose and meaning in civic service, but she also is active in her place of worship where she is a valued member of several outreach programs. She is constantly being called upon to lead, guide, direct, and mentor. In addition, wherever she goes, her warm, welcoming persona draws others to her. Her compassionate generous spirit keeps them coming back. Her family may not see the “gift” she is, but so many others are blessed by her presence.
You can't choose your family. And, you certainly can't change them. But you can choose your sources of respectful support and loving connection. Each time you do, the shadow of injury following you becomes smaller and smaller.
Exercise: Think over these two statements carefully. Use them as criteria to identify your sources of support and connection.
First, write down your responses.
1) Define who and what nourishes you, gives to you, supports you, respects you, and recognizes your value and importance.
2) Determine who and what are worthy of you.
As you read these two statements, you may feel you are being selfish. You are not. This is about empowering you to determine who or what recognizes your worth and who or what does not. This can be difficult to acknowledge. You might be feeling sad or disappointed. Honor what you are feeling. Take your time. Move on.
Then, looking over your responses, thoughtfully prioritize your time and intentionally select how and to what degree you will invest into these people, places, and things. This includes all kinds of investments such as personal, financial, professional, relational, etc. Take your time.
*Note: More help with "selective investment," is available in Breaking Through Betrayal Chapter 9 - Revive and Restore. There are concrete exercises that illustrate how to reassess your relationships, how to apply "selective investment" so that it works best for you, and how set and adjust expectations of yourself and of others. This is hard work and it is rewarding work.
As you move forward, breathe in the ease, comfort, and validation of these relationships.
As we bring this series to a close, your story may be much lighter and easier than the stories I shared as examples. Or, your story may be much heavier and harder. What is important is “how” your family of origin impacts you. Although this can be hard, it starts with you being honest with yourself.
Spend time reflecting on these two conditions. Which one most closely describes you?
1) Is it typically the case that after you have been with family or with certain members of your family, you have been treated with unconditional positive regard, respect, love, acceptance and belonging? Do you feel you matter? Do you “know” that you do? Have your relationships with family or certain members augmented and enhanced your wellness and healthy way of being?
2) Or more often than not, after you have been with family or with certain members of your family, have you been injured? Do you wonder if you matter? Do you feel less than, invisible, shamed or shunned? Do you wonder if they will ever really see you, understand you, and respect you? Do you wonder if it is time to start choosing you?
In closing, when we are making a shift in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors doubt creeps in and we question what we are doing. We might experience anxiety or uncertainty. When we stand up against land-standing norms and generational expectations, we feel emotionally exposed and at risk. However, it is in our vulnerability where we have an opportunity to be brave - to grow, heal, and transform our lives.
Remember, you have nothing to fear or to lose by choosing you.
You have everything to gain.
Coming January 2022
SHIFTING Bravely: a Path to Growth, Healing, and Transformation
For more healing resources, connect with