Our families are our strength and our weakness. I’ve heard this expressed in countless ways before. No matter how you define them and what ups and downs you experience with them a connection exists. This is the case even if you haven’t seen them and they’re only the smallest flicker in your mind at a particular moment – the connection is still there. Contemplating all of this, I feel family acts like a mirror reflecting back to us our own strengths and weaknesses.
We don’t always get along with our family, but because of that connection, we’re given the opportunity to go deeper. To stick it out and make attempts to solidify these bonds. Sometimes we end up torturing ourselves in this pursuit, but I believe this is more because we’re attached to a certain idea of what a familial relationship should be as opposed to accepting it as it is (and accepting our family members as the people they are). The relationship doesn’t have to be perfect or ideal for it to be beautiful and rich in lessons we can learn from for our mutual growth. In truth, it’s those seemingly messy and dysfunctional relationships within our families that we have the potential to learn from the most if we are willing.
If a family member consistently triggers annoyance, irritation, anger, sadness, disdain, or any other negative feeling within you, there’s a good chance that they’re simply reflecting back to you your own shadow side. Something you may be trying to hide even from yourself. Or it could be forcing you to meet a challenge you may have otherwise avoided given a different set of circumstances. With family, it’s harder to evade. A personal example of the former is my penchant to feel irritated when family members act stubbornly. These actions trigger irritation within me because I (often subconsciously) see this inflexible side in me and realize that it’s imbalanced behaviour. If I refuse to recognize this side of myself, it causes me to lash out and blame others for their behavior (usually in the form of criticism or an angry snap), which doesn’t help either of us.
Looking at my life thus far, some of my greatest life lessons have come from my father. My father and I are estranged. We don’t have a picture-perfect father-daughter relationship, and we don’t need to. That’s not the purpose of our relationship. It took me a long time to understand that he did the best he knew how to during my childhood and that he could only offer me as much love and care as he felt for himself. Throughout his own childhood and onto his adult years, he has received conditioning to believe certain things about himself, and so he has his own shadow side to work through. I am grateful for this awareness as it absolves me from feelings of being a victim and allows me to forgive him. This relationship also revealed to me my own power and pushed me into territories I may have never gone to had our relationship been different. I truly feel I’m a better person because of it. My father acted as an example to me of not needing to hold onto conditioned patterns of being that we learned from our parents and others. We have the choice to let go of it once it’s brought into our awareness and put a stop to certain patterns.
On the other side of things, with families, we can continually demonstrate our strengths, learning from each other in that way as well. My family provides me with the type of encouragement and support to be the best I can be as no one else could. I’m so blessed to have them as my family. And as I learn to love, value, and accept myself more, I’m able to clearly reflect this side of my family out to the world.