As we continue our series in relationships, we want to know how we can make our current relationships more meaningful and satisfying.
Exploring our past gives us information about what we bring with us into our present day relationships. We may not always find the answers we want, but we find enough clues to help re-direct, fix or change courses today.
Patterns are repeated from generation to generation.
Children growing up with an alcoholic parent are only too aware of how destructive addictions can have on the family. They swear they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Yet, more times than we want to recognize, children growing up in alcoholic families end up marrying an alcoholic or someone with an addictive personality.
We repeat what we are familiar with. It is what we know. To keep from repeating them, we need to have new information to work with.
Remembering those good times
We often forget the positive experiences we had growing up. There were those times when we knew we were loved and appreciated, complimented or encouraged. Who were involved in these affirming experiences?
Grab hold – let go – and swing!
You don’t know what you are asking!
But as we grab hold of understanding our past, we can let go of those parts that hold us hostage and keep us from swinging free into tomorrow.
My son was born without the muscles to hold up his head. A special brace was designed just for him so he could learn to walk and do all the things every kid does. It had a metal rod that went up the back and was anchored around his waist and around his forehead to hold the head up.
He never let his brace or lack of muscles deter him from grabbing hold of life and swinging into the unknown. He let go of anything that kept him grounded and swung freely.
Handicaps of any kind do not need to deter us. Difficult childhood experiences of neglect, lack of love, favoritism, alcoholism, rejection, abandonment or abuse can feel like handicaps. They can make us feel as though we are trapped in an ongoing cycle of shame, anger, self doubt or depression. But these nor any other handicaps need to keep us imprisoned to a past or unable to find hope for the future.
Let’s create a rope we can grab hold of and swing to a new way of doing things.
Years ago, I facilitated many parenting classes for Kaiser Permanente Health Education. We helped parents identify the needs of their children and the importance of establishing rules, structure and communication within the family.
If children know what is expected of them, they will know how to comply. They will understand the consequences of their choices, good or bad and know that they are making those choices.
When children are unsure, there is an undercurrent of not knowing what to do.
One way for parents to set rules and structure is to do hold periodic family meetings. In these meetings kids are able to give their input while parents make the final decisions. Here rules and responsibilities can be discussed and chores and household tasks set for everyone. It is here where the family can discuss vacation options and review different outside schedules.
Families not only have an influence on how we approach problems in life or the blueprint we follow, but it can have an effect on the course of our marriages.
It is important to remember, that regardless of our upbringing and past experiences, we are not prisoners of our past.
With knowledge and understanding, we gain personal power to make better and more appropriate choices.
While family dynamics help shape and mold us, there is another component that can have an effect on our relationships that few people think of.
Long term research confirm that our birth order and position within our family of origins has an emotional effect on our lives in predictable ways. It is a phenomenon that occurs in all cultures and countries.
Where do you fall within the structure of your family? Were you the oldest, the middle child or the youngest? How did you feel about your siblings? Did you feel lost within the family, or feel that others received special privileges while you always had to be the “good one”?
“Please, God, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed.
Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection,”
Psalm 6 – The Message
Families: it’s where we fight for our position in the sun, vie for Mom and Dad’s attention, fight over toys, learn to make excuses and blame others for our failures.
“He took my fire truck” – “No, she took it.” Or “He hit me first!” “I did not”
It’s where we believed that Mom or Dad favored Johnny or Suzie more than me. We may lash out in our perceived injustices, nurse our hurts and believe nobody understands how I feel.
“You always take her side – you don’t care about me – you’re mean – I hate you”
Other times, we bury our feelings because we are afraid to express them.
If we are lucky while growing up, there will be a parent, grandparent, teacher or other caring adult who listens, let’s you know you are heard and helps you through those early childhood traumas.