Does your family drive you mad?

Now this may be a bit controversial but I am in the camp of appreciating you choose your friends and not your family.  

This week I have had a similar conversation with a number of clients who are harbouring a lot of guilt because they perceive they should get on with their siblings and be dutiful children.  When the story starts to open up, these siblings are often not very nice people, and the parents may have scored a 'must try harder' grade in the parenting exam.  However, this sense of obligation to get on with these people still presides due to some unwritten rule that you should always play happy families

If you have been following this blog for a while you will have some insights into the fact that my Dad has not always been a kind person and the events of the last 40+ years have left more unhappy memories than happy ones.  I also have a brother who doesn't just have a chip on his shoulder, he has a damned great boulder that he tries to dump at my door when he can.  So I feel as if I can talk with a degree of 'been there, done that' when helping these people review their sense of duty and make decisions on how to conduct those relationships in a way that is not so painful.

And there are two things that I talk about:
1.  Your primary duty is your own happiness - not theirs!
2.  The aim is to make the relationship the best it can be - and accept that 'best' may be a very long way from good.

I work with many people who are constantly trying to please parents but dead horses and donkeys come to mind!  Often these people are still seeking parental approval and their inner child wants to hear that they are loved.  And the reality is, sometimes that is just not going to happen.  That inner child needs to find the love it needs from within you.  There is a wonderful therapeutic technique that can really help here but even without getting help from a hypnotherapist or counsellor, understanding that you are looking for something that is not available can help you to stop looking - and in doing so, stop feeling disappointed each time you don't find it!

The only person who can 'make you' happy - is you!  The only person that can make others happy - is them.  So time to take responsibility for your own feelings and start to do what you know leaves you feeling happy.

The second point can be applied to many things and I find it really useful when it comes to family life: A positive outcome is not always available.  And I use a little analogy:  If 0 is dreadful and 10 is perfect, how far towards 10 do you think you can reasonably get?   

For some, this may be a 2, for others a 6; there is no right or wrong answer.  However having identified the best it can be, achieving that number suddenly becomes the definition of success - you are achieving the best it can be!  And when you achieve that, it feels so much better!

These two little techniques are ones that I come back to time and time again in many different contexts and they have helped many people (including me!) to deal with family life that is less than optimal.

So what do you think?  Could you see yourself adopting these techniques yourself in any way?

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