Family: The True Test of Awakening

a mind of your own rethink health self improvement

 They say that if you think you’re enlightened, try spending two weeks with your family. What is it about these relationships that drives us to our breaking point?

Last week, I had a patient come in whose dietary commitments were completely derailed by one holiday weekend with her parents. She literally self-medicated with sugar because of the distress that arose in their presence.

It strikes me that, beyond being a hall of mirrors for our own past experiences, our family members challenge us to integrate. If we remain in touch with them, we have to accept not only who they are as blood relatives to us, but who we are when we are around them.

 Integration is the highest form of spirituality in my estimation simply because it requires a truce with all that you would rather split off, deny, and repress. In order to integrate, we have to look at how we are lying to ourselves, manipulating others to feel safe, and where we are asleep. And when it comes to our families, integration requires accepting all that they represent as a part of our journey in this lifetime. A journey that we may have chosen or contracted for, but one that we are not principally in control of.

In the process of awakening, our families can represent resistance and stasis. They can feel like they are holding you back. As you become someone you weren’t, they may very well not like it. It may be the eye roll your new diet gets from your mother or the ex-communication by your brother because of your unvaccinated baby. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says:  “…to be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. It is a tormenting tension and it must be borne, but the choice is clear.”

You must do you.

This requires feeling for your own truth which requires getting clear which requires self-care.

A power mantra for the new age

If I could emphasize one power mantra for women of the new age, it would be this: commit to self-care and all will be clear.

One thing that might become clear is that before you flee your family and tell them all to enjoy their unawakened lives, recognize two things:

  1. You are giving them your energy if you still feel triggered by them so…
  2. Make peace and cut energetic cords before cutting relationship cords

It’s a part of eastern philosophy to find peace, satisfaction, and even joy in the mundanity of life. I believe there is deep truth here. Be ok with what is, first. When you focus all of your energy on what you want, what you need to manifest, you lose an opportunity to neutralize the energetic pull of the circumstances you are looking to run from. And those circumstances – whether it’s a relationship or a house or a job – will continue to pull on you through your fear, resistance, and negative emotion.

When I decided I wanted to move out of my current house, I found it intolerable to spend another day there and used my meditative time to wish and pray and command its sale. My teacher told me to focus on thanking it. Thanking it for all of the literal and figurative shelter is gave me during the time that it did. I did and within days I felt a deep ease around the uncertainty of the process.

It turns out there is almost always something we can thank an experience or relationship for, even if it was the chance to know better what we don’t want. There was a time I would have experienced this and related sentiments as hollow platitudes, but I know it to be true – that we chose to see the good in those who challenge us, they are far more likely to rise to approximate that depiction.

My work with my own family has ceased to become active work. I credit the year of kundalini teacher training with what I’ve called the “harmony effect.” Strangely, without even trying. Without sitting down to big serious conflict-resolution talks, without tears, and without turmoil, the relationships in my life began to fall into order. Call it resonance, call it my own evolution, but it’s been real. It’s helped me to see my family in a humanizing light and also to have compassion for myself when I feel frustrated, misunderstood, and disrespected. I feel gratitude on a daily basis for the very family I thought was hopelessly “not getting me.” It’s a way to simply flip the script without actually willing yourself to do that.

Find your soul family

Some of you, however, may be in abusive situations that require a swift self-dignifying exit and the institution of boundaries to uphold your own integrity. In this case and in many, we find our soul family. When we awaken to ourselves, our soul family hears that call and they come. These new friendships, romantic dynamics, and collaborative partnerships emerge from the fabric of your new life experience.

>When you find these people, you will know because you will feel like you can be yourself and also that you can still be yourself even if you are nothing of the things you thought you were or that you needed to be. You will understand that your essence is a shared essence because it is the vitality of the planet and of life itself that you tap into. We share currents of grief, ecstasy, joy, and ease when we come together. They belong to the collective. It is the absence of this collective, of community, and of tribal living that has bred a feeling of otherness and that drives us to long for more than is reasonable from our everyday relationships.

Now, we are looking for our parents everywhere. We want to be held, dependent, guided, and seen. Knowing that these dynamics inform your behavior helps you to take responsibility for decisions and actions that may not have been in the highest good.

Holiday reminders

So over the coming holidays, you might find yourself hoping your family can really SEE you this time. As Matt Kahn jokes, you might show up and say, “Don’t you see my minty fresh aura? Bright chakras? Angel wings?” but prepare yourself with these reminders:

  • Let strong emotions come up and pass through, but don’t attach a story to them and don’t let them reinforce your held beliefs about your family. As feelings come up, consciously slooooow yoooouuuur breeeeaaathing dooooowwwnnnn. Command your stress response. Let these emotions move through because otherwise, they consume energy you need to feel free.
  • Love your judgmental self. When we feel critical, it’s because we feel different, apart, other. This is very simply a cry for a feeling of belonging and community. Show yourself love and compassion in these moments. Don’t judge yourself for judging. It only perpetuates the cycle.
  • If you are in the midst of your medication taper journey, wait to be asked about it. This is a complex terrain that is very hard for people to appreciate in both its complexity and the calling that you felt to embark upon it. This page may help get some info across if needed but debating and arguing never works in this case. Just continue to commit to your self care, over and over and over, and they will eventually see what this is all about.
  • Wish them well. Do this because we need as many people as possible to wake up right now and your blessing may represent the energetic tipping point in an otherwise stuck dynamic of old patterns. So Purkh is a mantra you might consider playing in the background of your daily life, or even learning and chanting if you have relationships with men who need to be raised up. Our intentions matter.
  • Be prepared with your own food and snacks! Don’t let the mob mentality of old patterns pull you off your path. Hold your space with conviction and strength, not preachiness or righteousness, which may require some grassfed jerky in your bag ; ).
  • Connect with those who see you as a touchstone after weathering these challenging interactions. Come home to your people. Share your experience and then let it go. Join our tribe here if you’re in the market for some soul family!

Whether you choose to allow your experience of your family to passively unfold or if you are certain you need to cut cords, you will know what to do (rather than reflexively reacting) when your body is healed and your mind is clear. When this is your priority, the path to honoring yourself while honoring others becomes so apparent and all you have to do is walk it.

Interested in step-by-step support to help you optimize your health?

Vital Life Project is a community for like-minded wellness seekers in search of a better way to live with vitality in a world that can make it challenging to move toward this goal. This monthly membership provides guidance and accountability to help you make small changes in mindset and daily routine that can lead to radical shifts in health reclamation. Click below to learn more.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More