Navigating Family Relationships
Typically, in my blogs, I like to start with the dictionary definition of things. However, I suspect that everyone already knows the legal definition of a family is. Typically it’s those people associated to you via birth or marriage. There’s a little bit of a disconnect with this concept in my mind. Let me illustrate it this way for you: When I ask you who you would call if you were in a dangerous position, name the first two people who come to mind. Most people will name at least one non-family member.
A lot of my clients over the years have had challenging relationships with their family of origin, in laws, and extended family. The biggest tip I ever give people is “Would you be willing to spend time with your family if you weren’t related to them?” I can’t recount the number of times I have heard the answer no to this question. If the answer is no, then my automatic next question is, “Then why do you surround yourself with them?” Birth, blood and marriage are no excuse to surround yourself with toxicity.
As an empath, I’m especially careful with whom I surround myself with and where. If someone puts me down, disrespects me or judges me; you can be guaranteed that the amount of time we will be spending together will instantly be significantly diminished. I am very direct about the people I allow into my circle of trust and support today. I value my health and safety. I don’t believe that it’s possible for me to spend time with toxic people and it not have an impact on me. Depending on the toxicity level of a relationship, I may actually limit my interaction with people to once or twice a year.
My goal with this blog is to arm you with the tools to be able to navigate any situation, regardless of the toxicity level of the interaction. These are great skills to enhance and increase the healthiness of any interaction.
- Set boundaries: Typically I explore my personal boundaries before I interact with others. I like to know where I begin and they end and vice versa. I don’t expect anyone else to honor my boundaries. That’s honestly not their job. Here is how I see this playing out: if it’s my job to establish my boundaries and then it’s also my responsibility to respond if they don’t adhere to my boundaries.
- Have a buffer: This looks differently for everyone. As an empath, it’s crucial for me to have an energetic buffer. But some people allow their spouse, friend, child or pet to be a buffer. A buffer can be someone who puts your family on “good behavior” or someone who deflects the attention off of you. Whatever works for you, there is no right or wrong way.
- Have an escape route: If I’m going to go spend some obligatory time with someone who doesn’t necessarily affirm me; then I typically have an escape route. My escape route isn’t necessarily something extravagant or showy. It’s typically in the form of needing to leave at a specified time for a specific opportunity. This has been very helpful for my clients and I.
- Don’t take anything personally: I seriously can’t stress this one enough. Even if someone says to you that they don’t love you or even like you. It’s never about you, and it’s always about them. I highly suggest reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”. In a very brief summary, the jist of this particular agreement is that people’s responses are not about you. It’s about them. Another person’s behaviors, attitudes and actions are always about their perceptions and their responses.
- Let it go: I’m aware that this suggestion can sound fairly trite, but it really isn’t meant to be. Whether you visualize the issue shrinking, switch your focus or find another topic of interest; letting it go is always very beneficial. Holding on to the energy, the attitude or the infracting behavior is not going to help anyone move on or move forward.
- Love them regardless: Love is an all encompassing emotions, a positive feeling or hope and compassion, and it’s a transforming energetic response. When I say love them regardless, I’m not encouraging you to spend time with people who treat you poorly or who are toxic towards you. What I am telling you is to love them despite how they treat you. Love them in spite of themselves. Love them through the chaos and garbage, because it’s good for you.
- Forgive daily: Even the most compassionate people, with the best of intentions, make foolish decisions and mistakes. Let’s remember my definition of forgiveness: giving up the hope of a better or different yesterday. Do you see how that takes the people and places out of the situation? Implementing regular forgiveness is good for your physical body, your spiritual self, and your emotional self.
I want to encourage you all to create your own version of family. Some of my closest family members are people who have no blood relation to me. Family is what you make of it and who you design it to be. I am not concerned with who I am related to by birth, by marriage or by law. The people I keep close to me are those who treat me well, who respect me, who love me and who believe in me. Drop me an email and let me know who is in your family.
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