Are you close to you originating family? Do you live near them? Are they your best friends and confidants?
Or maybe you rarely (if ever) speak to them. Have you moved far away? Do you feel like the “black sheep?”
This week I’ve had discussions with people on both sides of the spectrum, and it’s given me the opportunity to evaluate where I am. I fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to family matters. I want contact, but not too much. I live close, but not too close. I like to tell them about my my life, but not with too many details. I need connection, but I also need a good deal of space.
There is no right way when it comes to family, but I do think we need to be conscious. As children, we’re spoon-fed the rules, traditions, and expectations of our tribe. It keeps us safe and gives us a starting point. But then we grow up and need to decide if we buy into our tribe’s thoughts and behaviors. Are we in alignment with our family’s political beliefs? Religious beliefs? World view? Work ethic? Family expectations?
If you align overall, great! You might not have to roam too far from home to feel content and fulfilled. You have a built-in support system that satisfies your needs and feeds your soul.
But some people’s life journey involves creating a surrogate family or finding a new tribe. If your family foundation doesn’t match the person you’ve become or yearn to be, it’s important to find people who are like-minded. They’ll know how to better support you and help you feel like you belong.
To do this, some people need to break away completely from the old tribe, especially if there’s abuse. Others want to maintain relations with the originating tribe, while they strike out on their own. They love their family, but they have needs and desires that take them elsewhere.
This can be tricky. Some families have no problem with individuation, and they don’t take it personally. But others get offended or angry if you do things differently. They might accuse you of getting too big for your britches. They might feel judged or abandoned. They worry that something bad will happen to you. They resent the time you spend with others. They try to guilt-trip you into doing your duty.
They are spinning a web designed to keep you enmeshed in the tribe. They aren’t purposely trying to hold you back. They love you and want to keep you safe and sound. And they want to keep the tribe intact (even if it’s a dysfunctional tribe).
But you can’t let yourself be trapped if your soul yearns for something else. Instead you get to learn connection without being entrapped — how to individuate with love by:
- Kindly setting boundaries;
- Gently expressing your feelings and needs;
- Realizing that you aren’t responsible for others’ feelings and needs;
- Staying centered in yourself;
- Allowing other points of view;
- Being gracious while holding strong.