We don’t get to choose our families that we’re born into. That’s a truth everyone can understand… and for some people that truth is very painful. The reality is that some of us win the family lottery, and others, not so much. For some of us, family will be the greatest support system and a place where our dreams and aspirations will not only be birthed, but also incredibly encouraged. And for others, family will be the source of pain and struggle, and more of a barrier to success rather than a catalyst to it.
It’s without a doubt that our childhood affects us. It has a strong influence on how we relate to other people, communicate, and often, why we’ll be drawn to different types of partners. Romantic love, to me, is where we go to heal a lot of our wounds; the wounds that were given to us by our parents, and to them by their parents…. and so on. Then, it would seem, that love, and pain, are both hereditary.
Despite the wide array of childhood experiences, we, on average seem to turn out pretty okay don’t we? A lack of love in our childhood can sometimes be the contrast we need to make love our priority as we age. Even a blissful childhood can reinforce the importance and power of sharing an emotionally-healed family tree. Yet we can often shame people with great childhoods… but that’s only because we wanted what they had.
As Carolyn Myss says, “One of the greatest sources of pain for almost all of us, is the giant misconception that we deserved a great childhood.” No one escapes childhood unscathed. We all have scars. We all have pain. And no one owns the copyright on hurt. My level ten of emotional pain might be your level three… but that doesn’t make my pain any less valid than yours, it just makes it different.
Regardless of our childhoods, where we come from doesn’t determine where we go, we do. We decide what our childhood means to us. We decide how to transform our pain into purpose… that is up to us.
To me, us healing as individuals is some of the most powerful work we will ever do because we are literally taking away generations of pain patterns and emotional wounds that have travelled through our DNA as we become the first person to say, “Never again. Never again will I allow someone to be unloved. Never again will I let the pain of my family be transmuted to the pain of my children. Never again will I allow fear and disconnection to get in the way of love, community, connection, and safe arms to be held and to hold.”
Healing is powerful shit. It’s not just for us… because when we heal ourselves, we heal all of those around us, and most importantly, we heal up. And by up, I mean we shoot healing laser beams up our relatives’ asses and even to all the dead ones that passed on their hurt.
I was working with a client recently who said to me, “But why do my mom & dad deserve my love if they’re the very reason I’m having to process and feel all of this pain, hurt and trauma?” To which I replied, “Imagine if your parents have never felt what it’s like to receive unconditional love? And you get to be the first person to give that to them?” Phewwwwf. That’s some boombastic stuff that hits us right in the feels. When we love unconditionally, for a lot of people, that will be the first time they’ve ever experienced it.
And you know, not all of our parents and relatives are going to respond well to our love and forgiveness… but remember, we’re not giving other people love SO THAT they’ll respond a certain way. That’s conditional love. We’re sending others love and forgiveness simply because that’s the energy we send out into the world.
“I love you no matter what. Whether you choose me. Whether you receive my love. Whether you’re even capable. I love you because love heals. And when I give you love, despite alllllll the reasons I have not to, in doing so, I love myself. I heal me. Through you, I find me.”
Easy to say, right? I want to share with you a true story about this very subject:
I have a friend who comes from one of those families where everything you hear from his childhood makes your heart cringe. You wonder how parents could ever be like his. You can feel his heart and the pain that has been transplanted into him. You can feel his search for healing. You can see the child who never really felt loved for who he truly is.
He was raised religious… and when he barely turned twenty one, he got married. That’s what they did in his family, community and religion. But he didn’t marry for love…he thought he did back then, but more so he married because he thought he was supposed to… I mean, it’s what you do, right? We follow the stories and narratives of those who surround us.
Despite the obvious space and disconnect between him and his wife, he was receiving the approval of his church and family. Throughout this time he was desperately disconnected from himself. His religion shamed true self-expression and he felt trapped… And when we feel trapped we do desperate things. So, he had an affair.
His marriage would end because of that (and clearly much greater issues)… and so too would be the beginning of the end of his relationship with his family. His father and mother slowly distanced themselves from their son because they felt ashamed of his choices, his failed marriage and disassociation from the church. He was not being a good practitioner of his religion. He was not being an “ideal” son. He was human, flawed, imperfect, like all of us… but he was not given the space to make mistakes and to learn…. but boy, was he learning.
He would go on to marry the woman he had an affair with. No gaps between relationships. No time alone. One day, she said to him, “I don’t trust that if I were unable to work, that you could support us.” This cut deep.
This man had never felt supported. He didn’t know what a safe and secure relationship felt or looked like…. It was never modelled for him. He was terrified that she would leave him…. So he cheated on her too. Hurt her before she hurts him. Prove that he’s not lovable because he does unlovable things and never felt loved by his family… and the pain pattern continues.
So now, we have a vulnerable and lost man who’s never truly been himself. Who became the type of person and made the type of choices to get the love and inclusion of his family, community and religion. And yet, despite following the path he was taught, has never been more lonely, alone and abandoned…. by his family, community and religion. Shitty deal, right?
He was terrified that he would never achieve financial success to be enough to get the love of a woman. So, what did he do next? He started running drugs to make quick and easy money… and he was quickly and easily caught.
The thing he feared most, loneliness, would be forced upon him as he was sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison. In there, he would finally face his choices, his heart, his soul… and he would come face-to-face with his truth.
Today, that man is a great friend of mine. He’s one of the most giving, loving and community-oriented people I know. He has built a great business, and a wonderful life.
Not so long ago he wrote his parents a letter expressing his experience. He told them about his pain, about how much it has hurt that they haven’t made an effort to speak to him in ten years. That religion and family should always be accepting and loving… and that has not been his experience with them. He told them that, despite all of this, he loves them and forgives them… and yet, he still hasn’t heard back.
But that doesn’t phase him. You know why? Because this man has taught me that we can create our own families. We have a ritual in our community where we have “Framily” (friends+family) dinner every couple of weeks. The host rotates and so does the theme. Friends are encouraged to bring others who don’t know anyone… new transplants to Vancouver or maybe just passing through. People who maybe don’t have a family and may have never known one.
If this sounds amazing to you, create it just like we have. It may sound scary (and super exciting) but I want you to know that, despite where you come from and whatever your past is, you can create what you seek. You can be the architect of the life and family you want. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to give it to you… the healing comes when you give it to yourself and then share that love with all of those around you. I don’t even know you… and I can tell you that I love you.
Friends can be far better brothers, sisters or parents than our own. Our past doesn’t dictate our future. We don’t forgive others so that they may move forward, we forgive them so we can.
We don’t need to be blood to be family, nor do we need church to find God. We are all family, and knowing unconditional love, is knowing God.
My GO TO recipe for family are these amazing tacos
Who doesn’t love tacos?! Try them and change your life…
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