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The Security and (Sometime) Dysfunction of Family

184665954_6e032f5ac8In any situation involving relationships, we are in pursuit of security. Security is neither positive nor negative. If we are comfortable with conflict, we will be secure in situations that are contentious and chaotic. If we operate well when our surroundings are calm, we will be secure in an environment that is calm and peaceful.
An outside observer may see someone in a violent situation and not understand why the person doesn’t simply leave. However, the person in the violent situation is familiar with these surroundings and has learned to adapt to them. As a result of this adaptation, he survives in this environment while any other situation is unfathomable and unrealistic. He simply accepts the fact his life is violent. By his own definition, he may seek out relationships where he will find conflict. Unless he directly confronts this belief system, he will continue to find security in violence.
The good news is he can shift his security. It is entirely possible for him to realize he doesn’t have to accept the violence as his reality. If he experiences enough discomfort, or sees a more attractive lifestyle, he can find the motivation to change his belief systems and his life.
In the media, we hear stories about people who have gone down a path of crime and self-destruction. We describe them as “victims of their environment”.

Although it is undeniable many people in our society are born with some severe disadvantages, to describe them as victims would not be completely accurate.

Your family background plays a major role in these scenarios. Your earliest definitions about life are formed at home. For some, these definitions are very positive. These individuals learn and understand the positive expressions of love, which form a solid foundation for them to build on for the rest of their lives. Their ability to make decisions from a stable and secure mind-set is evident. However, for many others, there are usually some flawed perceptions that develop from dysfunctional family situations.

•    The word family connotes relationships to which we are indelibly bound.
•    Being related provides the opportunity to have a strong connection but doesn’t guarantee this connection.
•    A dysfunctional family is one in which abuse, neglect, closed- mindedness, and absence of affection are characteristics which create the atmosphere at home.

Here are some simple things you can do to determine how your definition of family affects your life today:

1.    Write a brief (two or three sentences) description of an ideal family. Focus on the emotional characteristics.
2.    Compare this description to the environment in which you grew up; again focus on the emotional characteristics.
3.    Write down three positive characteristics you developed as a result of growing up in this environment.
4.    Write down three negative characteristics you have used to justify any negative patterns in your life.

You were not in control of the environment you were born into. However, you do possess the ability to alter the direction of your life today. Your awareness is a major key to taking control of the direction of your happiness. Although you may have been victimized in the past, you don’t have to remain in that state today.

Intimacy and Connection

“My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem. But they don’t really know me.”
~ Gary Shandling

When most people hear the word intimacy they conjure up images of adults in “adult situations.” Because of the sexual connotation of the word intimacy, it can be difficult to engage someone in a conversation on this topic without becoming at least mildly uncomfortable. So let’s start by clarifying what I’m talking about when I refer to intimacy. I like to define intimacy as:

closeness and familiarity; closeness that comes as a result of having the courage to be completely engaged and connected

But how do we become completely engaged and connected in a relationship? It starts with a better understanding of ourselves.
Many people today have grown up in families with varying degrees of dysfunction. Whether due to alcoholism, drug addiction, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or sheer coldness, many of us have been exposed to factors that have left us in a state of self-protection. In spite of these factors, many people are able to let go of their pasts and move forward in their lives by building close and intimate relationships firmly rooted in trust and love.
They are able to do this by realizing that they are not slaves to their family’s behavioral patterns or genetic pre-dispositions. Although these patterns and predispositions clearly have an effect on an individual’s behavior, they are not the only determining factors. They get to a point of finding their own definitions of success and happiness and begin surrounding themselves with people who support them in their decisions. Once you let go of your past, you too, will be able to identify the differences between what is a negative pattern or predisposition and what you want in the here and now.

Here are some simple things you can do to improve the level of intimacy in all your relationships:

  • Clarify your definition of happiness. Don’t borrow someone else’s, find your own
  • Write down the significant relationships in your life and determine whether they support this definition of happiness
  • If you decide a relationship doesn’t support you, deduce what changes you can make to alter the nature of the relationship

Remember that the level of intimacy in your life is predicated on your willingness to be open. A fear of intimacy is often created by circumstances out of your control, but you can seek help to resolve these issues whenever you choose. Intimacy and connection go hand in hand. As you become more open, the joy and happiness you experience will increase exponentially.