If you come from a happily united family, where everyone gets on, you are blessed indeed. In families where the members have a sense of oneness there’s a general sense of happiness, comfort, tranquility, security, assurance, mutuality and prosperity.
Not all families, however, are this privileged
Whether your family is one of the easier ones or one of the not so easy ones, the existing family patterns will be particularly highlighted at this time of year, as most families around the world get together.
If your family genuinely enjoys being together, this holiday season will be a time of enrichment and restoration. You’ll be able to build on your store of past memories and to make new ones that create further ties of oneness.
But if your family is one where there are lingering discontents, old pains and feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt or resentment, these will be exaggerated by the extra time spent together. Without your usual routines, distractions and support systems to ease the situation, extended family times can be challenging.
You may experience a brief ‘honeymoon’ period where you try hard to live up to your good intentions, but sooner or later, the issues which haven’t been properly addressed will come out.
Naturally we don’t want it to be this way
There’s always the hope that this year things will be different – but the truth is that unless we make sincere efforts to change our responses and attitudes, the same old family patterns will be perpetuated.
And, when yet another year has passed where familiar dysfunctional roles and patterns have been replayed, the beliefs about one another become further entrenched.
Disunity instead of unity
Anything that takes us away from unity disadvantages us. Even if we think we’re unaffected by the underlying disharmony or alienation, on some level, our inner state of ease and our full potential are compromised.
While we may say: ‘You can choose your friends, but not your family’ or ‘It’s just an accident of birth’, on some spiritual level, all families are bound together for a reason. Some of our greatest spiritual growth and depth of character come from the family members who test us the most.
This situation hasn’t happened overnight
Many of these family patterns have developed over many decades so it’s unrealistic to expect them to change overnight – or over this particular holiday season – so all I’m suggesting at this stage is that we acknowledge the disharmony that may exist in our family relationships – and have the sincere intention to do something meaningful about this.
It takes courage, but someone has to start
If we’re waiting for someone else to become accountable and to apologise and change their ways, we could be waiting a long time :).
Instead, why should we not be the courageous ones who take the first step?
It may not be as difficult or as impossible as we think
The very idea of changing long-held family patterns can feel frightening and overwhelming, but this can be easier than we expect.
If it’s still too difficult to be in the same physical space as someone, we can begin with the intention of genuinely living up to the concepts of love and unity.
Words alone are never enough and we need to put our good intentions into practice
We can begin by thinking of the ones we find difficult with loving kindness and we can pray to find some common ground to connect with them.
Another practical and meaningful thing to do is to offer some of our services and kind deeds in their name so that the fruits of this may benefit our whole family. This means that we keep unity with certain people in mind as we do good things, with the intention of helping us all to move from our entrenched roles.
In any family system, when anyone changes all the others change – in subtle or more obvious ways – so please know that any efforts you make towards authentic unity are praiseworthy and productive.
This is truly heroic spiritual work
We tend to think of courage in physical terms and as grand ‘manly’ gestures, but being brave enough to start changing the course of a family’s health and well-being is evidence of true courage.
The word ‘courage’ comes from the French word for ‘heart’ (coeur) and we are deepening our own heart-courage as we work to heal past misunderstandings, mistakes and hurt feelings.
When we start moving towards unity in our own families, we’re automatically contributing to peace and freedom on a wider scale. All of humanity is interconnected so whatever we do on our own seemingly small scale ripples out to impact others, no matter where they may be on the planet.
A long-term process
This whole subject of family systems is an intense and far-reaching one, so we’ll be reflecting on this again in further posts as time goes by.
For now, take comfort in the fact that you’re a brave soul and that your efforts are having lasting significance.
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