The season of festivity and family conflict
was about and how would they feel if the person died. They usually don’t seem to have answers to both questions, which I think is quite telling.
This is the time of the year to try to cast a different eye on the person you feel has hurt you, to try to look at your relation as a human being who has made mistakes like you or anyone else; a person who is growing and learning like you. This is the time to try to focus on your relative’s humanness rather than the situation that created the estrangement (if you can even remember it accurately). I have also noticed that over the years the truth and facts of the original conflict wildly change.
When family members choose to hold on to grudges, but still attend family gatherings, it is important for them to try to think for a minute how awkward a situation is created and in particular how out of place they make the object of their angst feel and the difficult atmosphere created at the family gathering.
Forgiving a family member does not mean that you agree with what they have done, but it does mean that you have decided to take a righteous position and you have decided not to hold on to it anymore. There is true freedom in forgiving.
Family members sometimes try to manage their unresolved emotional issues with one another by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them in order to reduce their own anxieties. This type of distancing can happen on a physical level, by refusing to see them or on a more interactive level, such as avoiding conversation and managing the relationship through one’s behaviour and manner of communication.
When someone has an estranged relationship with a family member, the question is often whether the distance they place between themselves and their family member is due to healthy boundaries (some relationships can be toxic and one is better served to end them), or instead due to an unresolved emotional detachment.
When a relationship with a family member is not healthy for whatever reason, the person affected has every right to stop interacting. After all no one would advocate having to tolerate any unacceptable behaviour just because you are related.
Why are many family members not speaking to each other these days? Some people may choose to cut off family members as a result of religious beliefs, conflict, betrayal, addiction, mental illness or some unhealthy behaviour. Latent and unspoken reasons are usually the core reasons for family estrangement.
If I had to isolate the common thread in most situations, I’d have to say it’s because of intolerance. Intolerance is usually the root cause of family fights that lead to rifts. By this I mean a prejudice toward differing points of views, small mindedness when it comes to giving up a grudge, or pettiness and nastiness about forgiveness. Sometimes we just have to ask ourselves if we want to be right or want to be happy (sadly I know for some people being right will always come first, so they remain miserable).
The drama of family members refusing to speak to one another generally revolves around long term lack of communication with a family member. Often, it is difficult to find the words to express or explain important issues, particularly if a family has a history of poor communication with one another. When people cannot use words, they resort to actions that symbolise the intensity of their emotions about a particular issue such as severing ties with one another.
Lifelong unresolved issues of competition, sibling rivalry, poor self-esteem, feelings of deprivation, rejection and other central psychological problems when left unresolved, wreak havoc on people’s lives; can lead to the eventual estrangement of family members.
The drama of family estrangement is not actually about any one given incident, rather an accumulation of negative feelings and lack of communication. The drama is of a lifelong nature and for many, becoming estranged is the final scene. It is a highly dysfunctional method of coping, but the subplot and scenes of the drama exist in each players mind and memories.
Living with a family estrangement is extremely painful and can be debilitating, but all healing starts from within. The most important reconciliation is the one that you make with yourself. When you feel good about yourself and the ways in which you relate to others and are at peace with your spiritual self, then you know all is well and it will be okay whether or not your family speak to you.
As you prepare for the Christmas and New Year festivities, keep in mind what the true meaning and value of healthy family bonds is all about. If relationships have been damaged maybe it is time to mend the damage. With many people losing their lives through illness and other unknown reasons, we should learn from this that none of us knows when our time is up. Regrets are a painful and a complete waste of time and emotions.
There is sufficient conflict going on around the world that if you can make your surroundings this Christmas and the New Year conflict free, you will be doing something for the good of humanity. We cannot make anyone change their behaviour; we can only make changes within ourselves with the hope and belief that through those personal changes it will have a positive impact and effect on others.
May peace and love reign supreme in your home and with all your loved ones!