You would think they would be, logically, it makes sense, these are YOUR PEOPLE, you grew up with them, they raised you, they love you, you love them, all fairly straightforward you would think… except I find it’s one of THE most common subject matters in the therapy space. Why? Because it’s our primary source of relationship. It’s our safety & security, where we can be seen and soothed, or at least once upon a time, it should have been. Now as adults, we have to think about how we navigate these relationships, just like we would any other. What did our families think, feel, do, assume that we also do, or perhaps feel we have to do but don’t want to. Do you sense disapproval because your partner isn’t from the same background as you? Does your choice of career not align with your parents hopes of you? Did you leave a religion behind that the family adhere to? Did you vote a different way to them? Did you get a tattoo on your face?! No matter what it is, I bet my bottom dollar that you can think of one thing your family brings up in you (and if you can think of one, I bet you can think of a few more too). You are not alone yet it feels very frightening to step out of a line, take a stand, honour your own values etc, no matter how independently you live. As I see so many clients in my counselling room/zoom who discuss things in this area so I thought I would outline my thoughts to hold in mind when dealing with your family.
Please pop a comment in the section below if any of these resonate with you.
- It’s ok to have a private life – You don’t have to tell your parents what you do or who you do it with, it’s your business and your life. Families that are enmeshed often leave you feeling guilty if you haven’t shared everything. This is why boundaries are talked about so often, they protect you, keep them up.
- You don’t need their approval – if you are making decisions or choices like where to live, who to see, what to do based on what you think your family expect then you are not living your own authentic life. You would be amazed how common this is and that is because at the heart of it lies the fear of rejection. But you are a grown up now so choose yourself, make the choices that make you happy. You don’t have to go out of your way to hurt or upset your family and burn all your bridges but you can prioritise the things that are important to you. Start by asking what it is you want, not them.
- Self worth is not family determined – this follows on from the last point and reminds us of the need for boundaries again. You can now be your own parent, you are an adult, this is what we call Inner Child work. With kindness, self compassion, self validation you can honour your own self worth. Be good to you.
- You are an individual in a family system – this is called differentiation, it’s not just desirable, it’s critical. Can you be yourself, honouring your own beliefs, thoughts, ideas & feelings and still feel acceptable in your family? You are not your parents. This is a hard one, I am honest about that but celebrate differences, got a right wing anti vaxxer in the family? That is ok! Conflict in families and indeed in all relationships is normal. I repeat it is normal. It’s learning conflict resolution that matters. Ruptures and repairs. Breakdowns to breakthroughs. It’s not feeling coerced to think & feel like someone else does. There is room for difference.
- You are allowed to see your family in small doses – Are you expected to do certain things at certain times? Consider the wider family in your choices regarding your time? It is allowed to take space, say no, change plans and traditions. Sounds simple, feels hard so take this as permission.
- The model has changed from Parent > Child to Adult > Adult – doesn’t matter how old you are, do you ever get on the phone or in the room with your parent and feel 14 years old again? Or 6? You are not alone but as the Transactional Analysis model of Parent Adult Child explains, notice your position and the role you find yourself in. The goal is adult to adult.
- Feeling unsafe is always a NO-NO – physical, mental, emotional abuse, stress, pressure of any kind does not have to be tolerated.
- Boundaries – I have mentioned these so much because they really are everything so they deserve their own point – have them, hold them, honour them.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Posted with love. x