Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Because They're Family, Do I Have to Love Them?

Family relationships can be our biggest source of happiness or pain.  We choose our parents, our families, all of it because we have karma to work out with them.  We don't choose our family because we'll be so happy with them.  Often, that is far from the case.  Our families of origin help us to work through lots of past life karma and set the tone for how we deal with all of our future relationships.

Many of my clients have difficult relationships with their mom, dad, brother or sister.  I've met many people  who haven't spoken with their family in years, and I've met many others who stay in touch with their negative family members out of a sense of obligation and duty.  In my opinion, neither option is ideal.

I remember once a priest at our church explained the commandment that reads: Honor Thy Mother and Father.  Here's a summary of what he said:  Honor your mother and father means that you'll take them to the doctor if they're sick and feed them if they're hungry.  It does not mean you should willingly stay in a bad situation with dishonorable parents.

That put a lot of things in perspective for me.  Just because someone in your family is mean or rude or untrustworthy does not mean you have to run away from them or put up with them.  What it does mean is that you have to learn how to set boundaries and limits with them while learning how to love them and forgive them FROM A DISTANCE.  If someone is always negative toward you and creates animosity within the family, you are not under any obligation to put up with that.

Here's what I recommend:

1) Don't take their actions and reactions personally
2) Don't let them push your buttons.  Switch the subject, smile and walk away.
3) Be honest.  Don't engage in passive aggressive behavior or avoidance techniques.   Tell them how you feel honestly.  "I don't call you because I find your words hurtful.  But I love you and I'll be here for you when you need me."
4) Erase your expectations.  If this hurtful relationship is with a close family relative like one of your parents or siblings, try to drop any expectations of a close and loving connection.
5) Prepare to mourn this relationship at many different times throughout your life -- births, graduations, marriages, holidays and birthdays.  But recognize during these difficult times that you're learning important lessons from this person and protecting yourself in the meantime.
6) Send them love and prayers. Give your relationship with this person to God and ask your higher power to heal this relationship for the good of both of you.  I always recommend daily or weekly bathing the person in pink light.  Just imagine the family member in your mind's eye and picture wrapping them in pink light.  This infuses their aura with love and forgiveness while softening interior anger.
7) Be open to forgiveness.

If you're having problems with a family member, don't judge yourself or them.  Just recognize it for what it is: a wonderful opportunity to learn very hard lessons.

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