Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted. ~Paul Pearsall,Ph. D., author,lecturer and keynote speaker. 1942-2007
If you read yesterday’s post you will know that I had all the family, with the exception of my son-in-law, here in the evening. Sitting and watching the interaction between the members made me think of relationships in families and how we all fit into the jigsaw that is a family.
Of all the relationships in our lives those with our family are the most difficult to manage with equanimity. My dictionary defines equanimity as “Calmness of mind and composure” while Roget’s Thesaurus offers “Balance, poise, good temper and coolness”.
So why do we have more problems interacting with family members than with strangers? Well, firstly family members know us with all our faults and imperfections. they know our arrogance, our fears and foibles and our reaction to certain stimuli. Maybe at times, they even use these stimuli to manipulate us.
Does a child win when mother in desperation, gives in to an unreasonable demand? Of course he does and having learned what pushes the button, tucks the knowledge away for future use.
Our family members have seen us at our best and at our worst. They are difficult to deceive. They know us. They see through our “face for the world”.
We all have rules by which we live and the rules that govern our relationship with our family are a set apart. What do you expect from your family? Do you expect the television version of happy families? Are you old enough to remember the Partridge Family or the Brady Bunch? Were we expected to believe that this was the norm? Unfortunately, I think many did.
A family is made up of a number of individuals each having his or her own rules as to how a family should act. Fathers and mothers make rules for their children. They model their own behavior on these rules, and expect their children to follow them. In turn the children develop their own rules, usually based on the model set by the parents.
But what happens when others are introduced into this tight knit family unit – son marries, daughter becomes engaged to be married. Here are more people with their own rules, values, faults and imperfections (although the faults and imperfections may not be immediately obvious).
Then grandchildren are born. Their parents set rules and boundaries by which they will raise their children and on which they expect their children to base their own lives. In today’s world, where many families have both parents working, grandparents are having an increasing influence on grandchildren’s lives. They then have to juggle their own rules and values with those of the children’s parents. I suggest this is not always easy. And as the grandchildren grow and set their own rules and values the mix becomes even more complicated.
So it is clear that family relationships need more attention than we usually give to them. For most of us it is a given that the family is there. We may say “If I need them I can call upon them and they are there for me.” But is this enough?
How about your family relationships? Is it time you sat down with the family members and discussed how you each see your place in the family structure – grandfather, grandmother, sons and daughters, their spouses and children. And in today’s world there are often even more levels of this relationship. If one or other party has been divorced, or a spouse or partner has died and a new person has been introduced into the family, the structure will change. What of his or her values, rules and own family as you try to integrate them into your family?
Is it time to have conversations with individual members of the family? Perhaps there is a sibling or son or daughter with whom your relationship is not as it should be. How can you change this? Often just taking time to sit down together undisturbed, talking about your feelings can bring out
the desired a change in the relationship. Be open and honest with each other but not judgmental. It is often very difficult to leave out the judgment critic. Remember you each have equal rights to voice your thoughts and feelings. Listen to the other person; it’s very likely you will learn something.
You will have to set some rules for this engagement. Maybe it needs to be in an independent space, neither person’s home or office. A coffee shop during a quiet period would be ideal. Just as long as you are both comfortable with the location. Then set the rules and boundaries. This should not be the opportunity for a slanging match or verbal abuse. It is not meant to become a battle field. Before the meeting think “calmness, balance, poise, good temper etc”.
So it’s worth a try. You have nothing to lose and much to gain. Then when you see it work with one person try it on any other family with whom you think you have a problem.
Then take it out into the world. We know that nothing happens without action. This can be the first step. Our world certainly needs some peace and harmony. Perhaps you can begin an ever increasing circle of peace and harmony.