This week in The Brain BS™ Blog and Podcast we are going to explore three important points related to the concept of how to enjoy our adult family time.
· Cultivating Self-awareness
· Creating healthy boundaries and reinforcing them despite discomfort
· Self-care strategies that can help us to show up as the best version of ourselves that we can be.
I have a few points I want to make regarding self-awareness. First, I want to begin with discussing the importance of self-awareness and how it is critical to family relationships. When we were little, we did not have the knowledge accessible to us now. We were not aware of emotional adulthood and that we are responsible for our own emotional health. We were just kids and we thought everything was happening to us, not for us. We did not understand that our thoughts were optional and that we had choices about how we wanted to think about our parents or siblings. We really believed our thoughts were factual and that everybody else was the problem.
I will share an example here that you have heard me mention in many posts and podcast episodes, because it was a subconscious brain filter that contributed to my challenges growing up in a family of ten children. I really believed that nobody cared what #9 had to say or how I felt. I viewed myself as a bit of a victim in my own family and felt sorry for myself that nobody cared about my opinion or what mattered to me. Naturally, when I thought like that, my brain looked for evidence to support that thought and could not see anything else. As a result, my mind just kept reinforcing the Brain BS™ that caused me pain and overlooked all the times where my family did show me that they cared and that I was important to them. That lack of awareness will just keep perpetuating the lies our mind has offered us over the course of a lifetime and impact our family dynamics in a negative way. It creates unnecessary drama and suffering when we are living life from our subconscious programming and totally unaware that it is even there.
On the flip side, if we are able to cultivate some self-awareness, it can change everything for us. Not only will it be valuable to all family members, but it is also critical for our own sake because it enables us to cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves. That in turn is super important because if we love who we are, we are less likely to be triggered by other family members and their perception of us.
For example, once I finally discovered that nobody cared about #9 was total Brain BS™ and a subconscious brain filter that I viewed my family life from, it opened up my eyes to the fact that it was me causing all of my problems, not my family. I thought I did not want to be around them because they were insensitive and hurt my feelings too easily, but the truth is I could not stand who I became when I looked at life through that filter. I could go all kinds other places and feel great about myself, but as soon as I got back into a family situation, my mind resorted back to that filter that caused me to suffer for so long. I carried this filter that began with my family of origin into my new family as a wife and stepmom because I did not even know it was there. Becoming aware of this changed everything for me because I finally realized my thinking was the problem! So instead of continuing to blame everybody else and trying to get them to behave a certain way, I realized that healing had to begin with me and my perception of myself in a family unit. This was huge for me! With this awareness came the knowledge that trying to control our other family members or wishing they were different would never be the answer. This is how I reclaimed my personal power. I no longer hated the way I was showing up in my family because I loved this new powerful version of myself. Consequently, I no longer projected those negative opinions I used to have of myself onto my family members.
Another point I want to make about self-awareness is that it is really beneficial to be aware of how our behavior impacts those around us if we want to enjoy harmonious family time. As adults, we get used to doing things a certain way when we live in our own homes. We develop habits and patterns that bring us comfort (not always in a good way!) on a daily basis. We become somewhat self-centered in the sense that we don’t have to consider other people outside of our home and we get settled into our daily routines. That’s all good and fine in our own homes, but when we get together with family as an adult, we need to bring common courtesy and considerate behavior along with us. This means we might have to compromise at times and realize what we do on a regular basis might not be appropriate in the family setting if we want everybody to enjoy the time together. I will present you with another way of saying that. Say you like listening to loud opera music before you go to bed every night, it probably is not going to go over well when you are with family if they are sleeping already or don’t like that kind of music.
The last point I want to make regarding self-awareness, is that when we get together as adults, we need to behave as adults and live from the present moment. Families tend to hold onto the past and the perceptions they have of one another from childhood without even realizing they are doing it. When we are still holding a grudge from something a sibling or parent did decades before and it is contributing to our current behavior toward them, we might want to take a look at that. We have to let the past stay in the past and approach family time with a future focus. Whether it takes therapy or getting a coach, it is every person’s responsibility in the family to take care of their emotional needs related to wounds from early family time. It is everybody’s responsibility to bring emotional maturity and self-awareness to the family as an adult.
So let’s get clear about why we are setting boundaries before we do anything else. Boundaries are NOT to control other people’s behavior and stop them from doing anything. Boundaries are if you do X, I will do Y. We need to establish these boundaries in order to take care of ourselves in our relationships. Some examples of healthy boundaries that we have established in our family is we look at the schedule in advance and identify the days where the girls can come and visit. Instead of leaving it wide open and not knowing how it will play out, we get very clear about windows of time where they can visit. This is super helpful to me because I like to know what is going to go on in my home and I need to have time alone to replenish and rejuvenate. Knowing when that time will be, allows me to show up as the best version of me when the girls are around and permits me to fully enjoy myself. Before we did boundaries, I would wonder when I would get time to myself and become resentful because I never got it. Since learning Human Design and understanding my energy type better, setting boundaries around socializing and time with other people is critical for my success. Yes it is uncomfortable, but it feels good to take care of myself.
Another boundary set with my stepdaughters is that both girls drive separately because they live life from totally different perspectives. The one likes to leave first thing in the morning to prepare for her upcoming week when our visits come to an end, and the other one stretches it out as long as possible and will not leave until after dinner. This gives both of them permission to be who they are and no need to control the other one when it comes time to leave.
As for myself, I set boundaries to ensure that I get some alone time when we are all together as a family. This might sound easy and simple for some of you, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done! Instead of going with the flow and going wherever they want for a morning walk with the family, I stay behind, meditate and then do a walk on my own. This gives me time to get my thoughts in order and tap into my higher self who knows how to support herself emotionally. When I used to “go with the flow” it was completely superficial, and I was totally resistant beneath the surface and the resentment was building. Another thing we do now, is Bob and I will make plans to do something on our own. We played Pickleball a couple times while the girls were visiting, and they could easily fend for themselves during that time.
So you get the idea, in order to take care of ourselves at an emotional and mental health level, we have to set clear boundaries and be willing to reinforce them consistently. We cannot say if you do X, we will do Y and then not do it! This sends a message to our family members and the Universe that we do not really have our own backs and our boundaries are not really important. Another thing to know when it comes to reinforcing boundaries, is that we have to do it in a kind and loving way. Anger and judgment have to be discarded, so that we can stay in our center of self-awareness and approach boundaries from our higher self. This means we have to also be honest and authentic which can be super uncomfortable when we first start doing this. If we have spent decades going with the flow, the family is going to be a little put off when we stop doing that. It’s totally okay though, we just need to give them an adjustment period to get used to this new version of us. It is not okay, however, to not reinforce our boundaries because it is displeasing to our family members. We must be willing to make ourselves and our needs a priority at times in order to reinforce healthy boundaries.
Okay, so this last point about self-care is really important and often the first thing that goes out the window when we get around family. When we are in the preparation phase of the get-together, it is easy to determine that we are going to eat healthy, minimize alcohol, and exercise regularly during our vacation. Then we get together, fall back into old habits and brain patterns, and frequently do not follow through with our good intentions. It could be a sibling saying something that triggers our anxiety, or it could be a son or daughter throwing out a criticism that spurs our fears and insecurities and gets us to reach for that dessert or glass of wine. Whatever goes on, it is important to remember that we cannot operate from our higher selves if we are not taking proper care of ourselves. For me in particular, that means I designate periods of our time together as vacation mode and then I get back to my healthy routine so that I can show up to my family in an authentic and positive way. If I decide to let loose and overindulge for a couple days with dessert and an extra glass of wine, I make sure I exercise a little harder and skip the alcohol and dessert for a few days as well. Instead of trying to be all or nothing with my actions (this could also be perceived as good or bad), I try to aim for moderation and give and take and a little neutrality. Meaning I accept my limitations and refrain from judging myself when I show up in a less than perfect way.
In conclusion, we must practice self-awareness, setting and reinforcing healthy boundaries, and taking care of our physical well-being when we get together with family as adults. It is the responsibility of each family member to cultivate their self-awareness and understand their own brain filters and how it impacts their relationships with family. It is essential for each family member to be willing to experience the discomfort that comes with establishing what behaviors are acceptable to them and which are not, so that the rest of the family is aware of the consequences if they perform unacceptable actions. Finally, in order to truly access our higher selves and stay in our center of self-awareness and enjoy our adult family time, we must also take care of ourselves at the physical level. We also must forgive ourselves when we come up short. Join me in The Brain BS™ Blog and Podcast to discuss this further.