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How Can You Feel Better Around Your Family of Origin?

photo: Eric Chan on flickr

photo: Eric Chan on flickr

Dear Meli,

I have a problem. And it’s not me. My life is great – I have a wonderful husband, we just had our first child, we both have work we love, we’re part of a beautiful spiritual community. The problem is my family. When I’m around my husband and child, I feel so happy and so connected to Spirit. But when I’m around my family I feel like crap. They criticize me. They criticize each other. They’re miserable, and being around them makes me feel miserable too. I feel bad saying it, but I don’t want to hang out with them at all. And I feel like I have to. What do I do? 

Frustrated in Fremont

Dear Frustrated,

First of all, congratulations on your awesome life! The joy and love you have in your life is a great testament to your own healing work – especially given the description of your family of origin. It’s wonderful evidence of your consciousness. Yay you for that!

I joke that spending time with our families of origin can be like taking the most exquisite and highly-valued spiritual workshop, for FREE! If we ever long to know our next area of spiritual growth, time with family can be the perfect solution!

Seriously, people pay thousands of dollars to take workshops in order to explore unresolved psychological issues. Just a day or two with family can reveal the same answers! What a gift!

That said, there are four things I explore after feeling crappy following an encounter with someone else:

1) How am I just like them? Am I reacting with distaste to an aspect of their personality or behavior that I have as well? Perhaps a part of me that I have yet to embrace with love?

2) How am I absolutely committed to NOT being like them? This is more similar to the first question than you’d think. If there is a way of speaking or behaving that I am VERY committed to NEVER expressing, it could be a part of my nature that I am rejecting.

Notice the caps in that sentence. I am not referring to a simple preference, or a way of speaking or behaving that wouldn’t ever occur to me. I’m referring to the things that do occur to me, but I repress with great fervor! In the process, I reject a part of myself.

3) Is there a different (better-feeling) way to tell the story I’m telling? Both of the above questions point to the way we view a situation. The story we tell about a situation (or person) becomes our experience of it/them. For instance, when we adore someone, we often find endearing qualities in astounding behaviors!

In order to explore the story I’m telling, I like to ask those wonderful questions in The Work by Byron Katie: “Is it true?” “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” “What happens when you believe that thought?” and “Who would you be without that thought?” These questions allow me to look back at myself and glean all the good available from the situation.

4) Is this someone I want to spend time around? If my answer to this is “No,” do I have to spend time with them? There is a big difference between having to do something, and choosing to do it.

Perhaps you spend time with your family because, in doing so, you’re being who you want to be. Choosing to spend time with your family is not an obligation. Some people choose to spend time with their families, and others choose not to. The key is to figure out what choice feels best to you.

If never seeing your family doesn’t feel right to you, own that. It’ll feel better!

You are not a victim of your family, or of the situation. Even if you choose to spend time with them simply because you don’t want to hurt them by rejecting them, be honest with yourself. That would be far more empowering than the story of “I have to.” For instance, it could become the story of “I spend time with them in order to be kind.”

And remember that whatever you choose, in the end, if you can choose it without judgment or rejection, it will be more empowering. You may discern that a particular situation is not right for you, and choose to detach with kindness. You can love others exactly as they are, and still choose to spend less time with them.

Ultimately, any choice or communication can be made from a stance of love. And who knows – this awareness might be your greatest take-away from this awesome free workshop!

Blessings and Love in All You Do,

Melissa

How do you approach time with your family of origin? Share your comments below!

Have a question for Meli? Interested in a private session (in person or Skype)? Contact her at meli@ohmygodlife.com

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6 Responses to How Can You Feel Better Around Your Family of Origin?

  1. Paula January 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    What an empowering answer to this question!

    • Melissa Phillippe January 28, 2015 at 11:45 am #

      Thank you, Paula! How sweet of you to say so! :)

  2. Mary March 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Hi Meli,

    Family has been a really challenging area for me. I have found it most helpful to let go of wanting to get something from them – especially a better childhood! I try to remember, before I spend any time with them, to let go of getting and just focus on giving. This has helped me tremendously.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Mary

    • Melissa Phillippe March 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      Hi Mary,

      The same awareness has blessed me in my relationship with my family as well! It’s such a powerful thing to head in to a family gathering with the intention of giving…and then any “getting” seems like a magical blessing to me! Happy you’ve found your way to what works for you, too!

  3. Karen March 13, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Is there anything more fun than time with family?

    Don’t answer that!

    I have come to look forward to my time with my family, but this wasn’t always the case. I appreciate everything you say here – I agree with it all.

    I have also found that sometimes I have to bring the fun with me. And by that I mean: my family can sometimes be a little bit negative. If I remember to keep up and peppy, no matter how they’re being, it can help me get through it!

    • Melissa Phillippe March 17, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

      Thanks for this reminder, Karen! So true! And I find, too, that humor is the BEST medicine! It can change a challenging conversation into a light one – at least when done with an authentic lightness, or playfulness. (I’ve also “tried” and failed when I wasn’t really feeling light in the moment….eek)

      Grateful to you for this reminder of lightness – and bringing the fun!

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