Understanding Family Relationships
by Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 We all are in families. We are born into a family, we grow up in a family, and most of us eventually have families of our own. Family relationships are the most intimate, the most loving, and the most controlling relationships we may ever have. They can be fun-filled or fearful, intimidating or open, exasperating or understanding, resentful or caring, and various other opposites regarding relationships.

 In my experiences as a coach, teacher, and seminar facilitator over the past twenty years, I have found that people seem to find family relationships the most demanding and frustrating of any relationship on the planet. Why is that? Comments vary from "if you can't love your family, how can you love anyone?", or "I have to love her, she's my sister", or mother, grandmother, or whatever family relationship. Also comments about finding family relationships hateful, resentful, hurtful, controlling, intimidating, and spiteful at one time or another; for some it is all the time.

 One minute a child, or adult, will adore a certain family member, and in the next moment hate that person. What makes feelings change so quickly? One answer is that we take things personally due to what surfaces from our belief system during an interchange of words or ideas. It feels more hurtful from a family member due to the intimacy of the relationship. Fathers and mothers will do anything to make sure their children stay within the family belief system regarding education, career, dating, and marriage. In many families the father and mother may differ in their opinions of the latter due to their own beliefs.

 How can we make sense of family relationships verses relationships at work, with friends, school, college, business, or other aspects of our lives? The answer is both physical and metaphysical. The word I used earlier, intimate, describing the depth of our family relationships is the physical aspect of why family relationships are different from others. You don't get any more intimate than a fetus in the womb of its mother nourished physically and energetically for nine months. That intimacy continues during the child's growth by close family members.

 Metaphysically, according to ancient cultures we are born into a family with agreements at a soul level long before we come here physically. Since one of the reasons we come into physical form is to learn what we need to clear from our consciousness and move to a higher vibration, the souls that form our family help us do that. That is why they are 'in our face' more than anyone else in our lives. Can I prove that? Only from what I know of Eastern cultures like Buddhism and Hinduism who have practiced this for thousands of years.

 If you are willing to suspend your disbelief about the above until I finish this article, it may make sense to you. Your family, at the different levels they exist in your life, know your character better than anyone else, and therefore can 'push your buttons' better than anyone else can. Think about it. Who has been in your face the most since you were a kid? Now I know that some of you are thinking, "my spouse is in my face the most", and that may be true as long as you have had a spouse or partner, but he/she is still family in the sense of your own new family formed from that marriage or partnership. And like the soul agreements mentioned before, quite possibly your spouse and you made agreements as well.

 The point of all this is that we have work to do, while we are on planet Earth. That work is to grow spiritually, or emotionally, or whatever way you want to describe it. Deep within you know that you want to live in a world of love and peace, and be at peace. How can this happen, given the current state of 'the world', other than for each one of use to put away the baggage we carry around and move into happier, joyful lives. We do that by someone calling us on our 'stuff' so that we can do whatever it takes to transform it. Who better than those in our family to do that?

 Is it easy? Not a bit. It is sometimes excruciatingly challenging, and we want those people in our lives causing us the most pain to leave us alone. Now understand that most of this is going on a many levels of consciousness. For example, while I may not know that you are calling me on something I just did at a conscious level, at a higher level, I know. But it is my job to 'get it' at the lower level since that is where the change must take place.

 Let me explain what I mean by someone "calling you" on your stuff. First, let's get clear who is doing what. Whenever you get upset about what you see someone else doing or saying, you are recognizing 'your stuff', that is a belief, or beliefs, that need changing. If what is said is directed at you with emotions like anger, it is 'their stuff' they are projecting. How do you determine which is which and when you need to pay attention to your own hidden beliefs? First, by recognize where the emotion originates - is it with 'them' or with you?

 Once you have determined where the emotion originated and know it is 'your stuff' you can get to work discovering and transforming the belief. If is 'their stuff' then don't take it personally and get yourself upset. (I wrote an article or two about taking things personally; check the Archives). As I said in a previous article this the major destroyer of relationships.

 Now if the person calls you on something you are saying or doing without negative emotion, for example, pleasantly and caringly pointing out something you did or are doing, suggesting you might need to be explore it further, is how the other person can help without them taking it personally. Now I know that the person couldn't have recognized that you did needed work unless that person had also encountered that same challenge. The difference is that he/she probably has already worked on that and is clear about the situation in their lives.

 As an example of what I mean by the above, I have worked on complaining for years and have gotten to a point where I don't complain as much, or sometimes, not at all. Because of this I am able to recognize complaining more than when I was also involved with complaining, and can point out to someone like my wife, for example, that I hear a lot of complaining and she might want to check it out. That said, let me differentiate between a passing suggestion to help someone recognize what I witnessed, and trying to control or change the other person. Sometimes it can be subtle, but mostly you can tell the difference. You cannot change anyone else, period. Don't even go there. If is okay between the two of you then point out something he/she might want to explore. Let it end there. If something the other person does really annoys you to the point that anger surfaces, then maybe you should look at 'your stuff' instead.

 What I have discussed in this article can be very challenging work, but if you are going to eliminate what is not working in your life, it is absolutely critical that you become aware of what I have written above and do whatever it takes to bring your life into alignment with Divine Love and life at peace.

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