As I move through my healing journey and observe my companions on the path, I’ve noticed that universally, dealing with family issues is most difficult. Our other relationships are relatively fluid. Even if they are stuck in a certain impasse, most of them haven’t yet lasted very long and the other people involved are often willing to shift and change along with you. Family? Not always so much.
Over and over again, I hear people say that as they heal, dealing with the shift in family dynamics is most difficult. I’m talking given family, not chosen family – usually parents, but also siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, the whole shebang. When you’ve grown up with certain standards in place, usually standards that your parents created, it’s tough to transform them. It’s just the way it is, right? It’s the way it’s always been, and whether those standards are upheld consciously or unconsciously, changing them proves challenging.
If you are in the healing process and aren’t quite ready to tackle your family issues, I get it. If you’re also conflict avoidant, shifting these patterns that have existed your entire life feels like an insurmountable obstacle! I too have avoided doing so for the most part, unsure how to communicate effectively – and non-violently – in a way that gets through to those who are only used to hearing me in a certain way. Our families already have a set idea of who we are, and people don’t like it when their beliefs are challenged.
Maybe you don’t even realize that your family dynamics are unhealthy – after all, they’ve been the status quo for as long as you can remember. Sometimes it takes beginning the healing process for another reason to uncover what those issues might be – or sometimes they jumpstart your journey. Everyone is different, but almost everyone has something within the family system that does need examination, unpacking, and resolution.
I highly recommend some outside help and advice before you begin the process of shifting family dynamics. Personally, I talk things over with my therapist, but it could be anyone you trust to have an impartial opinion, give you honest feedback, and help with effective non-violent communication. That being said, I believe that it’ll be more helpful if you find someone who has personal and professional experience dealing with these specific issues. It’s tough to navigate such delicate and life-altering territory all alone.
Most of all, try not to get discouraged or lose hope. I know it’s terrifying and overwhelming to address familial issues. I know you’re most likely dealing with relatives who are not yet awake to where they are wounded and what they can heal for themselves. It’s not your job to take that work on for them – only you can heal yourself, and the same goes for everyone else.
It does get frustrating when you’re shifting and they either won’t or can’t understand. Remember that just as you have no obligation to do their work, you do have an obligation to take care of yourself and honor what you need. Your family members are just people. They have no more right to violate your boundaries or disrespect you than anyone else, so feel free to treat them similarly. Most of us have terrible boundaries with family, but you are absolutely allowed to let them know that there are certain things you will not tolerate, and tell them they may stay in your life only when they are willing to respect you.
This is tough work, but you’re doing it. Step by step, you’re changing your reality. You can reimagine relationships, even with family. I believe in you. Sending love.