It’s so interesting to see family members you haven’t seen for a while, isn’t it? It suddenly gives you insights into your family’s unique ways in the world.
Basically you get to see your own issues in full view.
A while back I had the pleasure of spending time with a wonderful relative whom I get to see very rarely. She’s thoughtful and spiritual, warm-hearted and special and every now and again she said or did things that were freakishly familiar. That weird open-eyed feeling where you recognise something. In those moments I could see my mother and myself and my grandmother and grandfather and my uncle and my siblings… in her. “Oh… so it’s not just my mom, or me – she has it too. This is a family thing”.
It’s a wonderful wide look at your gene pool’s unique way of engaging with the world. And a really good foundation for understanding yourself and your life journey.
The new insights from my time with her show me that, for all my self-criticism about the things I wish I did better, given where I come from, I’m doing damn well in certain areas. That’s such a nice thing to know. It calms me. There is progress.
Darwin would be proud.
Whenever someone tells me they are going to visit family – especially en-masse, like at holiday times – I get very excited for them. Yes, intense family visits might include a touch of hell (how much depends on the family you’ve got) and most likely a lot of eye-rolling excercises. But I know they’re heading for a gold-mine of self-awareness, understanding and potential healing. So I suggest they spend their time with family observing the dynamics and understanding the different players better. Approach each member as a researcher would;
View your object of study – approach them with respectful curiosity, avoid preconceptions and appreciate new knowledge gained. We presuppose so much. Find out who they actually are and what they’re all about – as a person, not just as your sister, mother, uncle, dad… You’ll often be surprised – I know you have your doubts at times, but they’re actually human.
This approach has at least three benefits; One, you learn more about yourself and where you come from in terms of things you struggle with or beliefs you have. Two, because you are busy respectfully observing, you are less likely to get hooked into the usual patterns with your family. Three, as a result of being less hooked in, the visit is usually more real, more open-hearted, more intimate and accepting from all sides.
How was your last family visit? Do you think this might work for you?