Family Relationships: Why is Honest Talk on Family Off Limits?
02.08.2017 by Dr Judith Wright
Do you cringe when someone brings up your family? Was your mother a saint? Was your father your hero?
Do you hate the thought of “going there” when people ask you questions about your family?
When it comes to working on our personal growth, figuring out our baggage, and resolving the things holding us back, why are we often SO afraid of addressing our family relationships? Maybe it’s the fear of having to confront our parents about things we had no control over, or perhaps it’s confronting our own fears and the realization that there are parts of our makeup we cannot control.
Yet, when our spouse says, “You’re just like your dad,” …Oh boy! Those are fighting words!
Oh, We’re Going There
Our family relationships are often seen as “off limits”—they’re the elephant in the room. They’re the reason why you see Harley bikers with “Mom” tattoos and you see grown men come to blows over “yo’ mama” jokes. It’s this feeling of “say what you want about my friends, my spouse, and even my kids, but don’t say anything about my parents!”
“You don’t know what my mother went through!” or “I was a rough kid to raise and my parents did their best. I’m not going to blame them for my issues!”
Our relationship with our parents is often sacrosanct. We just don’t go there—and we don’t want others to go there either.
What if I told you that your family relationships are exactly where you should go? Scary right? I know, but hear me out.
Whether you like it or not, your emotions, your internal makeup, and your beliefs about yourself are largely completed by age six. Yes, experiences and particularly traumas can change us and cause us to have more fears and more internal “stuff,” but for the most part, our emotional fabric is made up as children and very early on.
Scientists, psychologists, and researchers have studied this extensively, and it’s the reason why programs like “success by six” and parenting classes are so heavily promoted in kids’ early years. Infants have a bond with their parents (and particularly their mother) that’s like no other. If that bond is shaken or broken in any way (and there’s no perfect parent, so there will always be a few cracks in the facade), it can lead to beliefs that hold us back. We call these deep-seeded yet false beliefs “limiting beliefs.”
What Are Limiting Beliefs?
Your limiting beliefs might be things like:
- I’m not good enough.
- I’m not safe.
- I don’t deserve to be heard.
- I’m “too much.”
- It’s not okay to share my feelings.
- It’s never okay to cry.
- Being angry is unacceptable.
You see, our limiting beliefs might prevent us from resolving them. If we believe it’s not okay to question our parents and that they’re always right—then we may never move forward. If we can’t get angry or if we hold back our emotions or if we feel like we always have to be positive and perfect, we can’t address the real root of what’s going on inside of us.
When I was young, I was a perfectionist. (I’m still a “recovering” perfectionist, to be honest.) I was the girl who did everything right. I got straight A’s. I was a leader in the marching band and the color guard. I was popular. I worked hard. I tried to constantly do the right thing.
Deep down inside, though, I had the limiting belief that I wasn’t measuring up.
I believed I was “faking it” and if I wasn’t careful, I would be found out as a phony. This is a common belief that plagues even top executives and CEOs (and particularly women)—it’s called “imposter syndrome.” It’s the feeling that you aren’t REALLY as smart, professional, talented, or even as attractive as you’ve “tricked” everyone into believing.
Even through college and the early parts of my career, this feeling of being an imposter haunted me. It held me back from my personal transformation and growth. Ultimately, it kept me from feeling fulfilled. Through every success and every milestone, I still felt I didn’t quite deserve it. I felt like it wasn’t real because I was faking it. There was this fear I would be found out and *poof* it would all be gone.
Where did this belief come from? Well, like any limiting belief, it was founded before I was even aware of it. It came from my wanting to be noticed as a child. It came from my longing for praise and acknowledgement…from parents who were proud, but not “too proud.” …Parents, who encouraged me to always strive for more. While this was a positive thing in some ways, it also created and reinforced this limiting belief that I wasn’t enough, and that I needed to be perfect, to try harder, to always be more.
Why Address Our Limiting Beliefs?
So why do you really need to deal with your family relationships? Can’t your relationships with your parents and siblings just be swept under the rug? Can’t you just “get over it”?
The answer is no. If these relationships and their effects on us aren’t explored and examined, they’ll continue to hold us back. We will continue to see these patterns repeat in our lives—in our careers, in our relationships, and within our social circles. We often recreate these connections and we’re drawn to them, because they’re so comfortable. They reinforce ALL the things we already believe about ourselves.
During our Year of Transformation program, we spend a whole quarter on Family & Intimacy. Why? Because it’s THAT important to helping you discover who you are and how you can be your best self.
“I had a lot of fear going into Family and Intimacy, my third quarter. There are certain fears and pain I was running away from. Even identifying my family’s rules and beliefs was challenging, realizing that I will continue to project my belief through others, whether it’s my wife, my siblings or perhaps even my newborn child.
The other realization was how I always desired to have a more forceful mother who would stand up for herself and go after her dreams and desires. I projected that “wish” onto my wife and would get upset when I didn’t see that happening.
As a result of that realization, I shifted my actions. I dug into several historical pains. After building up a lot of feelings and emotions throughout the quarter, I finally broke into tears with my mother, mostly from the pain over the loss of my father 22 years ago. I felt like it was the first time I fully expressed that sadness. I also had a heart-to-heart conversation with her regarding her goals and my vision for her.
That was the first time I had a conversation like that with her in my life.”
-Noah, Senior Research & Development Manager and Year of Transformation Student
As you can see, the benefits to tackling these beliefs and addressing our relationships with our family can make our connections stronger. It can guide us on our journey and help us transform our lives. All of us want more personal fulfillment. We want more growth. We want to be great.
To reach our full potential, we have to train and exercise our emotions. We have to learn how to be more open, more aware, and more engaged. We need to stop living a life where we question each success, or feel undeserving or as though we aren’t enough.
You are a gift to the world! You may not believe it yet, but within each of us is vast untapped potential and purpose. What you bring to the world is unique to you. It’s that je ne sais quoi, that “special thing” about you that makes up who you are.
“We can provide 101 reasons why personal transformation is beneficial, but the best one of all is this: You will give birth to a greater you.
Regardless of your age or personal development to date, you don’t know who that greater you is, but you’ve probably had glimpses. You’ve thought to yourself, if I only did x, I could have achieved so much. Or you imagine having a different, much more satisfying relationship with your spouse, our children, your parents. Or you dream about all the good you might accomplish for humankind if only you had the right team, or you didn’t have all the responsibilities, the financial concerns, the self-doubt. Somewhere deep inside of you, you understand that you could be greater than you are.
Transformation is the path to releasing this greater person from the recesses of your mind and bringing him or her to life. There’s nothing egotistic, inauthentic, or delusional in wanting to have a great life. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural impulse. Cultural evolutionists such as Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber talk about how people want to participate in their own evolution and reach the next level of development. We’re not made to settle for good over great, to accept comfort instead of challenge. We all have a drive to explore and learn, but society or our own upbringing often dampen that drive and we believe we can only do or achieve or be so much and no more.”
-Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
So, it’s time to stop holding back! Explore those beliefs. It’s time to “go there” and look at your family relationships. You may find by addressing things and bringing them out into the light, they aren’t nearly as scary as you once thought. In fact, they may bring you closer to your parents and siblings. They may also bring you closer to your true self with all of your amazing potential.
At Wright, we have several classes and options to help you improve your relationships with your family and yourself. We offer Family and Parenting workshops to help you improve your parenting skills or to take along with your kids to improve your relationships. If you’d like to learn more about personal growth or our Year of Transformation classes, or if you’re be interested in joining us for a free Foundations Training weekend, please visit www.wrightliving.com. Take the first steps toward unlocking your potential for a better you and a better tomorrow!
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.