With Thanksgiving just past, Hanukkah in progress and Christmas right around the corner, chances are good that family issues may be disturbing your peace.
One question that gets put to me pretty frequently during holiday season is this: “I want more than anything to change our family dynamic, but no matter what I try it never works. What am I doing wrong?”
Let’s face it. Someone you’ve known most of your life, who also played a role in your early childhood conditioning, is bound to have a “special effect” on your psyche. The patterns you’ve established with your earliest relationships have the longest standing patterns, a high degree of emotional charge and are often the most resistant to your efforts to change them.
Does this mean that trying to shift the dynamic is an exercise in futility? No, but you need to be realistic about what can be achieved.
Family dynamics tap into powerful unconscious forces. This means your efforts to shift the energy of the dynamic may not be appreciated by others involved. When you alter your behavior, you might come under pressure by other parties in the dynamic to maintain your old role and thereby remain in everyone’s “comfort zone.”
Also, keep in mind that family dynamics have a peculiar ability to tap into our Stone Age brain’s fight-or-flight response. When this happens, avoiding the conflict or fighting about whatever it is may seem to be your only two choices. The truth is there are a multitude of other alternatives that are probably not obvious to you when you’re acting out your old role.
The point is you can’t change the dynamic unless and until you change your own role in it. That said, if you’re determined to change, you’d be wise to keep it simple. Set your intention to change just one thing you feel you could do consistently, even under pressure.
One vital shift you could make right now is to recognize that your objective is not to change the other person’s behavior. It’s to change your own behavior and to interact with greater consciousness. While the other person’s behavior may not change, shifting your role consistently and without judgment of the other person can have a profound impact on your self-esteem and sense of well-being. These alone make even small changes in your role a worthwhile endeavor.