This is about observing your family and close community without judgment but with curiosity. Most people establish certain roles within their family and community that play out over and over again. These roles may be helpful and useful, but they also can keep you stuck in places that keep you from growing. By observing closely your family interactions and behaviors as well as your own role in these dynamics, you can begin to make more informed choices about what roles you want to play.
Observing Your Role Within Your Family
Most individuals in families take on certain common or archetypal roles. Some family members will be the boundary pushers (often called troublemakers) while other members may be the peacekeepers. Observing the roles of your family members can help you make more conscious choices about what role you want to play.
Pay attention not only to the words used by your family but their actions. Although a family member may want you to think one thing, their actions may be something else altogether. Remember, you are an active member of your tribe. This means that your behaviors play a part in the family drama/comedy playing out. Observe without judgment.
Observing Your Family/Community Stories
It is not unusual that some of our most intense stories emerge within the close ties of family or community. Our longing and expectations for being loved are the highest within this group, yet that longing often feels unmet. For example, how many of you felt your parents favored a brother or sister more than you? This thought may invoke feelings of inadequacy and perceptions of not being good enough, whether it is true or not.
Learning to be aware of your feelings and thoughts is the critical step in growth. Because of the intensity of our family bonds and experiences, becoming aware can create stories that are painful and harming.
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Observing Your Body When Experiencing Family Engagement
Your body is a wonderful barometer for how comfortable you are. It can tell you when you feel safe and when you feel threatened. Sometimes, your mind will be saying one thing but your body may be telling you another. In fact, your body is tuned into all sorts of information that can help you become more mindful. In a sense, your body is a barometer reacting to various pressures from your internal and external environments.
Taking deep breaths and clearing your mind of thoughts is helpful. Just focus on your breathing. Then you can begin to really get in touch with your bodily sensations. If you are choosing actions that are not aligned with thriving, your body will offer you insight, either through pain, tightness, shortness of breath, or other forms of sensation.
Developing skills that help you grow through adversity is the name of the game. You must make an effort to work on your interactions and cultivate mindfulness when you interact with your family. Finding ways to get unstuck, therefore, does not involve waiting for your family to get their acts together. Rather, when conflict or adversity flares, recognizing that this is the perfect opportunity to mindfully choose a different approach that does not reinforce old harmful family dynamics.
The 12 Life-Giving Habits Program provides services and resources designed to help you experience an Amazing Year. Led by the founder and president Kevin “Doc” Klein, a thirty-five year veteran of Outward Bound, our team of passionate educators and entrepreneurs is constantly finding ways to help people of all ages thrive and flourish. It is our mission and our aspiration to create a movement of compassionate citizens who are in service of lifting individuals and communities up to their highest aim.
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