Good grief! I just googled the definition of ‘Family’ and this is what I got:
Is it just me, or is this definition way out of date?
Two parents? In this day and age! Wow!!!!!
But what is family? Is it parents and children? Sibling relationships? Aunts, Uncles and Cousins? Defacto relationships – do kids even need to be involved?
What about all those people who have moved interstate, or overseas? Is family their inlaws?
What about the family we chose?
When my Father chose to stop talking to me, I was 14 years old. I spent a whole lot of sleepless nights repeating to myself “You can’t not talk to your Father – he’s family!”, and then I’d rationalise “But you’ve done nothing wrong ‘Tina; he’s the adult, and he’s not talking to you.”
This back and forth went on for some time and it wouldn’t take a psychologist to surmise that being abandoned by someone who is meant to love and protect me no matter what, has influenced who I am as a person and some of the subsequent choices I have made in my life.
When I was married, we didn’t have kids; in part because I was frightened that I could turn out to be a parent who behaved like my father. Years later, when I was single again and the biological clock started ticking, I realised that I was my own person and that those earlier fears were no longer serving me. I bravely (am I allowed to say that about myself? It sure felt brave!) undertook the painful, long, (unsuccessful) IVF process, with the support of my family and a bunch of very special friends.
Part of the appeal of having my own child was to feel that special bond that I hear and see between parents and their children. But having a very close bond with my Mum’s partner Leis, has also taught me that family are the people you choose, and not necessarily those with whom we share blood ties.
Research taken at various stages over a lifespan shows that human beings have a fundamental need to feel connected and that it is ultimately better for our health if we feel part of something bigger:
- Newborns who have had ‘skin-to-skin time’ with their parent, have a stronger child-parent bond, show enhanced cognitive development and the newborn is protected from the well-documented negative effects of separation. Basically – the newborn feels safe.
- Men who have marital partners, live longer than men without spouses.
- Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, observed positive results when he studied people who socialised regularly and often. These people had 43 percent less disability than those who had fewer occurrences of social interaction, even when allowing for such harmful influences as smoking or a history of disease.
- Online dating is a multi-billion dollar business because on so many levels (let’s not go into which ones LOL) it taps into our need to feel connected.
Most of us want to be liked, feel a special bond with others and be part of an inner circle who protect and support each other. So how can we create this?
- Start with you; get to know who you are – the good bits and yep, those truly ugly bits. Yes, we want to be liked and accepted, but working on your greatest asset (yes – that’s YOU :)) develops self-esteem.
- With greater self-esteem comes the understanding that we are all different and special in our own ways. That knowledge frees us to understand not every person is going to appreciate or “get” us and that is perfectly OK.
- Evidence from Lieberman and Eisenberger suggests that the same area of our brains compute both physical and social pain, so there really is truth in the saying someone has a ‘broken heart’. Admitting what we feel, especially when it is deep hurt and pain, can be hard at first. When I recognised that my fear of letting go was a cover for my need to maintain control, I found that feeling deeply became easier and is now something I cherish… even when #lifesabeach.
- Get out; start making time to do those things you love. When we are truly in our element, it absolutely shows and that’s super attractive.
- Smile. “Smile if you want a smile from another face” – Dalai Lama. Enough said!
- Talk to people and listen to what they are really saying. Read their eyes, their body language and ask the deeper questions that go beyond “what do you do for a living?” and discussing the weather. We are all ego driven, so people will respond to someone who is interested in what they are saying and that’s when deeper connections can start to develop.
A great relationship, whether at work or in our social circles takes time and trust. If you value someone, you believe they connect with the qualities you have identified in yourself as being important and you want to get to know them better, smile, take a deep breath and be brave enough to show them who you are and you may just get the same in return.
Be the family you choose.
Let’s chat further. I’d love to hear how you are going about creating connection as you create the life you want. Feel free to comment below, or connect with me offline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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