Updated: May 6, 2022
The word “family” can carry many different meanings. For some, family are the people you are biologically connected to, for some it is those you choose to have in your lives, and for others family refers to anyone you have a profound love for. There is no correct definition when it comes to those you choose to identify as being your family. What is important is that we learn to navigate through these relationships in a healthy and positive manner.
It is not uncommon for people to relate to the word family with feelings of trauma, anxiety and anger. When we grow up in a family structure we learn conscious and subconscious behaviors by those who are caring for us. Our first bonds are formed when we are babies and the nurturing or lack thereof, can have profound impacts on how we see relationships and our understanding of love. Attachments are meant to begin with the family we are raised in but there can be instances where attachments are not formed in a manner that encourages trust and love and may only form as a result of the need to survive.
Our childhood trauma in regards to attachments and bonds does not mean we can never experience love or attachments in a healthy way when we are adults. What it does mean is that we need to understand how our underlying family beliefs and experiences can influence our present day choices and behaviors. We do the work needed to heal so that we do not repeat negative behavioral patterns.
We learn to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members.
We engage in honest and uncomfortable conversations with family members that have hurt us in the past
We take accountability for the roles we played in hurting others in our family
We forgive others and ourselves so that we can move forward
We understand that moving forward sometimes means letting go of family members whose relationship with us is still unhealthy
Understanding our past can help lead us into a future we desire not only for ourselves but for our current and future family. Love is fluid and it ebbs and flows and changes just as frequently as we change. Realizing that we are all entitled to a type of love that is nurturing, supportive, and safe allows us to seek out relationships that are conducive to these traits and to steer away from environments that breed dishonestly, manipulation, and control. It is never too late to learn to love yourself and others whom you call family and it's only natural that family dynamics change over the years. It is equally important to constantly re-evaluate your relationships within your family and always know when it's time to work on improving them or when it’s time to let them go in peace and love.