I have significant limitations when it comes to my family-of-origin (FOO). Many of us do. My challenges are feeling unsafe, ignored, not valued, and needing to protect myself. I’m sure some of you will find yourself nodding, identifying with the words I have written.
I can’t imagine being the child of parent who spend time and money on me (I began contributing to the family finances when I was 12). Verbal accolades, pats on the back, or a smile from my father? This didn’t exist for me.
At my mom’s celebration of life, one of her work friends said “she talked about the boys all the time, but we never heard anything about Debbie”. Ah, yes, even my biggest supporter was a super-fan of the two super-athletes in the family, my brothers. I wasn’t even invited to my dad’s celebration of life until I had left the west-coast (they told me there would be no ceremony). Shortly after I returned to the east-coast I was told there would be a ceremony in two days. Hmmm.
This stuff has always happened to me. When my brother got married, he invited my whole family to family pictures the day of the wedding, but forgot about me! Wow. I stayed small, didn’t complain. I tried to live my own best life.
When you add all this manipulation and disregard up over the years, it becomes a tsunami. The trick for me was turning this emotional wall of water into mist.
To escape the tsunami, I did several things to help myself:
- Exercised forgiveness (for self and others).
- Learned that no one could hurt me unless I let them.
- Learned that this is my life, not theirs. I get to decide my path. My path is not reliant or impacted by the opinion of others.
- Exercised the wisdom of discernment, instead of judgement.
- Tried to remember to speak to their spirit, from my spirit.
- And for me, the most important was to set healthy boundaries.
Oddly, no matter how many FOO challenges I am faced with, I have not become an expert at protecting myself and maintaining boundaries. I do try, and it is getting better, but I recognize I still need assistance in this area.
Recently, I had to make a choice. This choice was a boundaries exercise. I didn’t recognize it right away. I felt uncomfortable when I was debating the choice in my mind. I felt guilt and inadequacy while contemplating a “no” response, while my “yes” would continue to reinforce the crushing tsunami position in the family. I got really hung up on this for a couple of hours. Fortunately, I have a partner who sees the situation more clearly than I do.
He asked two questions:
- “How would it feel to say “no” in the absence of guilt and inadequacy?”
- “How would it feel if you say “yes” and refuse to play the old family role?”
A few things came to mind. If I let go of the guilt and inadequacy I felt, I could say “no” without self-harm. Fortunately, I have had opportunities to make this decision before! I understand thoughts and feelings are not facts. Guilt and inadequacy are throw-backs from my FOO experience, elements of the tsunami. If I let them go, I am free to say “no, thank you”. I am free to vaporize the crushing wall of water and turn it to mist.
On the other hand, I could say “yes” and try really, really hard not to make myself small and insignificant around the family. I could push back against the oppressive and manipulative elements of the tsunami. Then I realised, I have had opportunities to make this decision before! I understand the energy spent on wise and well moments in my life are much more important than spending energy on trying to control a tsunami, which will likely never abate.
I can forgive myself for falling back into the old flawed storylines I tell myself: guilt, inadequacy, and for the old beliefs and limitations: oppression and manipulation. But that doesn’t mean I forgive and forget. I use discernment to make a decision that is right for me and me only.
I forgive my FOO for conditioning, socializing and creating the illusory limitations I thought I had to live by, but I don’t forget. If I forget, I spend hours in the spin of “should I or shouldn’t I”, thinking the tsunami has all the control. Once I realise I have been given an opportunity to decide on my response many times before, healthy boundaries kick-in, and help me make a decision outside of my FOO conditioning. Outside of the grand opinion of others. I am free!
What a relief it is to make a decision free of the old conditioning and the big “V” I had allowed to be branded on my forehead.
For decades now, the “V” (victim) has been replaced by third-eye wisdom, which also helps me move from FOO-lishness to healthy decision making much more quickly. I have nurtured the pineal gland of the third-eye chakra over the years, which has had immense impact on reinforcing learning in adulthood: I am loved, I am valued, I am seen, I am no less or no more than anyone. What a relief to get to this point in my life. Like everyone else, it has taken time, work, money and practice.
The time I have spent on learning to love myself has been enormous. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I realise, even in this latest decision, that I forgot to honour myself first. Instead, I thought of what the FOO would expect of me and what my response would be.
If I was solidly in the self-love zone every minute of every day, I would not have spun for two hours.
I would have said “I honour the beautiful, divine energy which is me by setting healthy boundaries. I chose to spend my energy on those things which reinforce love while honouring and respecting my energy, and the energy of others.” Sounds so simple now that I write it down!
The work. . . the work has been useful in some ways, not in others. I have opened to many courses, energy healers, academia, self-help, counselling, various modalities and practices. While some have not been particularly helpful, all the them have led me to the next learning. For that I am grateful.
Of course, all of these activities are associated with financial investment in self. While I have denied that investment over the years based solely on fiscal responsibility, it has not stopped me from seeking alternative sources of support which I may not have sought out otherwise. These free groups and bartered resources have been instrumental in my growth. I feel so fortunate to have been supported as I have. I am immensely appreciative.
As you have probably come to realise, practice is up to each of us. It is personal. The modalities we use, like yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, loving-kindness, mediation, etc., are energy-centred offerings. Our role is to find out which resonates with us; which practice elevates our energetic resonance. Once we are able to establish a practice, there are infinite possibilities for that practice to be experienced – everyone experiences each differently. Just as if you were in church/temple/synagogue, your personal connection with the spiritual leader, and the offerings during that hour or two, are going to impact each of us in a different way, even if we are sitting side-by-each.
The time, work, money and practice are not separate from your everyday existence – they are you. They are your energy manifest.
I’ve found ways for energy manifestation which brings me peace, joy, love, compassion and gratitude. I have taken the greatest lessons from my FOO, both light and dark, and have deconstructed them to understand them and release their wisdom. I do this as a natural course of life, just as I did in the most recent question of “should I say yes or no”. It is important to note, in saying “no” I can be grateful for the exercise (the lesson), and appreciate the opportunity to once again reinforce respect and honour for my energy, my “self”. A “no” decision is a gift, as much as. “yes” decision.
I wish you the opportunity to turn your tsunami’s to mist by honouring yourself, and seeing the value and wisdom in the process.