Family is the most important mode of association in our life. We can love the family or hate it but like it or not it will shape our future. It is hard to ignore or neglect the central role family play in our life. It is the matrix of life where our journey begins and in this matrix we share a bond of common experience and love that is unique in its strength and depth. It is this beginning which leaves in us a psychological imprint of our family and influences our future relationships. Sometimes without us even knowing that our family experience is influencing us. At times I see patients who know that the way they are conducting themselves doesn’t make any sense but they still continue repeating the same destructive behavior because they don’t know how to stop it and it makes no sense to them that they are doing it. It is not until we examine the early childhood experiences and the patterns of behavior that got established, that we fully start to understand the present behavior. The family is such a rich source of information about ourselves that some therapist don’t even want to work with the patient directly until they interviewed as many family member as they can to understand the family dynamics because that’s where the best hope lies for helping the patient.
We don’t get to choose our family, like we do our friends. We are born in a family , we have no choice of the parents and no choice of our siblings. If our values and outlook on life differ from those of our family we still have to get along with them until we are of an age we can leave home. Family, therefore can be a demanding training ground for learning how to live with our fellow human beings. Generally speaking if we “graduate” with flying colours from the family life then we will do well in life outside the family. If we had a difficult time of it in the family, experienced little love and support, didn’t feel safe and secure; were unable to resolve the problems with our parents and our sibling then we will take these issues with us when we leave the family and then recreate them in our relationships with others outside the family until we learn our “lesson”. Many of the problems that are reenacted result from suppressed feelings stored from incidents that happened when we were children. The same unresolved conflicts we had with our parents always seem to ” mysteriously ” reappear to affect our current adult relationship.
Most people’s experience of the family is as a loving support system from which we can live our lives, venture out into the wider world to explore and interact with confidence; and then come back to a loving family at the end of the day. The family also act as a mini-society where we can test and put into practice all the ideas about the sort of life one wants to lead. If we want peace in the world, we can try to create peace in the family; if we want a loving life we can practice building loving relationships within the family. Our family will give us very accurate feed back on our performance which can be valuable information for our own personal growth. It is hard to overestimate the influence our families have on us and some people believe it starts even before birth.
Importance of the Family may also be one of the important ingredient for creating a positive future for the world according to sociologist Elise Boulding. She writes….The truth is that the home is the training ground where people first learn to live with one another, where they learn to love , to hate, to get angry, to fear , to forgive. Unless they can learn in their homes how to love and work with other people, how to handle hate, anger and fear so that it does not destroy themselves or others, and unless they can experience the full depth of forgiveness in the give and take of family life, they are not going to be able to go into the world and help….
Chop Wood Carry Water
By Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingrasci.