The majority of us have been raised in a family but how many of us have found this to be a truly harmonious and supportive environment to be in? Some of us have beautiful memories of our earlier years, many have a mixture of warm loving memories interspersed with recollections that are painful to remember while others, sadly have only known pain.
Many family structures were closed, portraying the picture of happy families to the outside world, but hiding behind closed doors, afraid of the judgment and comparison that created gossip in the community.
These types of family structures tend to set up a sense of separation and loneliness – a ‘them and us’ situation – which is defensive and harming to all.
Often belief systems were held which made our own family ‘right’ and ‘normal’ while others in the community were deemed to be ‘wrong’ or ‘dysfunctional’. In many instances, family life was considered private and nobody else’s business which portrayed a false picture of togetherness in order to protect one’s social standing in the community.
The solidarity of the family also accentuated the expectation that we ‘keep it in the family’. Family groups frequently overlooked or ‘turned a blind eye’ to abusive behaviours such as incest, domestic violence, alcoholism, gambling, aggressive conflict and coercive control, to save face. It was allowed to continue because of the shame that would be brought onto the family if it were exposed. Family members often chose to be party to an unspoken contract to keep quiet about what was happening. Often other members of the community were aware of what was occurring but chose not to speak up because it was considered none of their business or they simply didn’t want to get involved.
How many of us diminish our own sense of self-worth to keep the peace and not be attacked or excluded? If we disrupt the family status quo by stepping outside of the family’s code of ethics we can run the risk of not being accepted or maybe even ostracised. It is not uncommon for family members to impose on each other so that no-one feels they can express their truth, therefore compromising themselves to fit into the normalised roles and expectations in order to feel that they belong or that they are ‘loved’.
Expectations can become a set of rules, unspoken or well-voiced, which members are expected to live by. Many who don’t play the game are given the label of ‘black sheep’. These people may in fact be the ones with greater awareness of what is actually going on behind the scenes.
In the past it was considered that ‘family’ referred only to blood relatives where there was a sense of ownership and obligation just because they were born into the family lineage.
‘Family’, as the foundational unit of society, perpetuates the idea that ‘blood is thicker than water’ which removes our responsibility to engage equally with others.
Many people have suffered horrendous discrimination according to their different socio-economic, religious and cultural rules and traditions.
Nowadays the structure of the ‘nuclear’ family unit is not so defined with divorce, blended families, single parenting, same sex couples and inter-cultural marriages all being more readily accepted. Social ‘norms’ are changing, for instance, it is not uncommon these days for children to have more than one set of parents, or parents of the same sex. On this basis, it would appear that we are heading in a healthier direction where there is less judgment and more acceptance of the different ways that people choose to live as a family.
We now have a broader understanding of what family can be but is this sufficient? Whether our childhood memories be happy or imbued with blame, shame, hurt, or abusive behaviour, might it now be time to establish and develop family relationships that are based on truth and love?
Everyone in their heart yearns for true family; an environment where there are no dynamics, one where we are supported by our community to be all of who we are, and where we feel totally accepted and valued for who we are – within a community based on living with the qualities of harmony, joy, truth and love.
What gets in the way of this is our unexpressed hurt which gets buried in our bodies when we avoid feeling the pain. This makes it harder to connect to these innate qualities because our hurts colour our actions and we then react with childish or abusive behaviours, or we contract then feel less than others and not worthy of being included in a particular friendship or group. This results in us living separate from ourselves, our families and our community, and hiding from the world.
Living in this way, sets up a ‘need’ for love which makes us look outside of ourselves instead of realising and reconnecting to our own true source of love within.
If we could let go of all comparison, competition, jealousy and control, and instead honour each other as the equal beings that we are, might we then be closer to a model of true family that is way more inclusive and loving, in true connection with ourselves and all of humanity.
Lynne P-M., Ruth A., Sandra N., Australia.
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The Harm of Keeping the Peace