Friday, March 5, 2010


As our trip to Australia nears an end, I'm once again surprised to find myself with a new and hopefully broader perspective on my dealings with my family.

The Universe may have it's borders, may not be infinite, as hard as that is to fathom and yet I suspect that for all of us as human beings, there may not be a bottom to the psychic well that is our feelings around our parents, siblings and the loved ones with whom we've grown up and shared so much emotional intimacy.

I've had my 'buttons pushed' several times over the last week and a half in ways that I thought were done with. In the past that would have spurred me to seek distance, to shut off and become an emotional island. As I get older I realise that ultimately those islands end up being more painful than the alternative: allowing oneself to feel those uncomfortable sensations that occur when old wounds are momentarily jabbed and actually finding a way to move through them to find what may lie on the other side, instead of backing away from the entire dynamic and allowing it to remain static.

This doesn't mean confrontation. After all, at some point in this process, when we've hopefully done some meaningful personal work on these relationships, we understand that the person doing the jabbing on those wounds ends up being us. The painful agreements that we've worked so hard to break continue to function, long after they are even still objectively in effect.

No, this isn't about proving anything to the other person. It's about finding a way to have an open, clear relationship with them, and that means no expectations of multitudes of warm and fuzzy moments with them. An inspirational teacher in my life uses the term 'getting our hooks' out of other people. These hooks represent our need for their approval, our fear of their judgement and our own judgements and expectations of them, among other things. As long as those hooks are attached, it's very difficult (maybe impossible) to have a meaningful, loving relationship. Walking away from those hooks is equally impossible for two reasons; one, because they will be there when we come back and two, they will then take shape in the new relationships that we form because this internal emotional dynamic started so early and therefore has become a psychic habit that manifests itself wherever we go.

So what's left to do? One word has raised itself above all others through my dealings with family in the last 10 days.

Acceptance. Yes, I know I'm not inventing the wheel here. We've all heard that phrase before. But only now am I ready to actually commit to practicing what it means on a more fulltime basis. Because I see what's possible.

Kahlil Gibran said, when referring to relationships and marriage, that the 'pillars of the temple must stand apart'. That makes perfect sense to me now. Only through surrendering judgement, through giving up our desperate need to change others in order to nurse old wounds can we find the appropriate distance to really see who those people actually are. Once that is done, we will be able to choose to love them for whoever they turn out to be and, make no mistake, there are enormous reservoirs of love inside most of us for our family once we clear away the dead wood and get those hooks out.

This doesn't mean we'll agree with them. But it also means we won't have to argue every point or fight every battle. Just the ones that get in the way of that clarity. What a relief to know that while our relationships with family don't have to be beds of adoring roses 24/7, they also don't have to be scorched earth either.

Having said all that... I don't know where these relationships are headed. I only want them to be alive, not dull reruns of past behaviours. I have the power to initiate that every time I engage from that healthy, 'unhooked' space between us. A fluid space that allows me to draw them into a deep embrace and also stand back far enough to see them clearly and not in soft focus.

Acceptance. I just wanted to say it again. I may need to be reminded of it from time to time.

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