Are you craving more quality time with your family? Perhaps you have noticed that your family pattern includes “walking on eggshells,” and there is a lack of openness and communication? Maybe your family has become a minefield of overreactive, angry encounters?
If you can relate to these examples, you are not alone. You, like so many others are experiencing disconnection and pain while longing for harmony at home.
Creating harmony at home is the shared hope of so many families, and it can feel isolating and painful when families are no longer responding with loving care and comfort. Sharing our feelings and being vulnerable can be quite difficult, especially if we aren’t sure what to do, or where to start.
What Keeps Families from Sharing Hurts?
Sharing your feelings is a courageous act of “putting yourself out there,” not knowing how you will be received. The voices in your head may be wondering “Will my feelings be rejected?” or worse, ”Will I be rejected?” Fear is a feeling so often accompanied by hesitancy and a reluctance to speak up.
Sharing hurts and reaching for one another takes an active effort of responsiveness. As we investigate and make sense of what isn’t working in family interactions, we can start working together to challenge and change established patterns that are tearing our family apart. Self-reflection and openness in exploring on a personal level about how to change and grow is also hugely beneficial for yourself and your family.
Tending to self-responsibility as individuals in a family is perhaps the most challenging task because it requires awareness and willingness to look in the mirror at our own growth edges. Fortunately, laying the foundation of accountability can certainly be cultivated in small, effective ways:
- Utilizing the power of “I”: As shamelessly cliché as it sounds, it isn’t necessarily easy to replace “you” with “I” in family interactions and conversations. For example stating “You are so inconsiderate” sounds quite different from “I am feeling really overwhelmed and stressed.” Simply noticing the amount of times “you” is used in your own inner dialogue, as well in family interactions, can shift the noticing to active awareness and motivation in how you make changes that will contribute to healthier family interactions.
- Naming your feelings: Dr. Dan Siegel suggests naming what we are feeling to increase connection and understanding. When you notice yourself or family members becoming becoming distressed, simply sitting with yourself and assessing what feelings are arising for you right now is beneficial to you and your family. A quick self check-in with questions like: “What am I feeling in this very moment?” “Where in my body am I feeling this emotional state?” “What is it I need right now to feel comfort and nurturance?” As Siegel recommends, the “name it to tame it” concept can promote insight and body awareness as well as offering a way to tame and regulate difficult emotions.
- Challenging the relationships not individuals: Family therapy views family struggles as arising from family interactions rather than from individuals within the family system. It is easy to fall into the trap of “pointing fingers” and “blaming” one particular individual in the family. When we focus on the process versus one specific person, family members can hear one another without blame or accusations and learn how to help each other with difficult emotions to build safe, supportive, and trusting bonds.
Practicing self-compassion cannot be overemphasized. Nearly all fulfilling experiences in life include loving relationships. These relationships require support, understanding and reassurance and especially celebration of efforts. Family life isn’t always easy, and acknowledging your learning moments, as well as your loving efforts, is what self-love is all about. Practicing self-compassion does not have to be an over-the-top glorious gesture. Some small ways in which to cultivate self-compassion include:
- Self-statements:”I am capable of giving and receiving love,” or “I am doing my best and my learning moments will help me become the best version of myself,” develop self-love that taps into our inherent positive qualities.
- Self-compassion meditations: Responding to ourselves when we are suffering includes shifting our self-talk from criticizing to compassionate. Exercises such as guided meditations can help develop a more supportive and caring inner dialogue.
- Seek support: If you feel like your family situation is so overwhelming you’re not sure where to start, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute consultation. At Pathfinders, we provide a safe and encouraging environment, and help you uncover the strengths you have within you as we work together in processing hurts, heal relationships, and create deep emotional bonds. Attending to both self and system helps to address our fears, forgive hurts, and create trust. As hard as family conflict can be, conflict can provide opportunities to love one another better. In doing our own personal work, we help ourselves and one another, while learning how to change and grow together to create peace and harmony at home.
Sofia Aguilera specializes in working with families and strengthening relationships. You may contact Sofia directly at 970/373-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.