The holidays are upon us and ’tis the season for family “stuff”! And besides the usual messages of gratitude and celebration, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned about energy and how it moves through families.
One thing I see is that there’s a “family healer” in most families. What is this?
These are not necessarily the people who become doctors or who obviously take care of everybody. In fact, family healers are usually too busy (energetically) to assist in these ways.
They don’t always look like they’re doing anything useful. A family healer might be…
- the one with the foul mouth
- the one who gets cancer
- that trust fund kid who “never amounts to anything”… a creative free spirit
- the devoted wife who gives her creative energy to her husband and kids
These people earn their money. They earn the care they often demand.
They express what the others don’t. They feel the rage or the grief or the longing.
Because if you think about it, healing is not about making things perfect. It’s not always pretty. It’s about returning to wholeness.
For truly, whatever we deny or disown will run the show in our lives. In families, old lies and betrayals and secrets and shame affect generations to come. Almost every family has this “stuff”.
Often, it got buried years ago. It probably started with people we’ve never met. When I work with a client who’s really stuck, I frequently find the cause in unconscious ancestral patterns.
It may also be current. One or more members of the family stuff their feelings or deny their greatness, and another one expresses those feelings or becomes successful in a way the other did not. Then the other one hates their guts. For instance, a child will naturally express his parents’ unexpressed stuff, triggering the parents to no end!
Families, in general, keep improving. And so family healers become what those who came before them wanted to become– if only they were ready, if only the world were ready. This can be both exciting and challenging.
I think this is one reason why grandparents love grandchildren so. They can appreciate their grandchildren’s freedom from limitations without the conflicting emotions they might have with their own children. And because ancestral healing goes deep, it can take generations to unwind.
I’ve had many conversations with my grandfather about this. He passed away in 2005, and while he took care of the family financially, he was very controlling.
I rebelled against this as a kid, and blew through the money as an adult. Looking back, I might have made some different choices.
I spent my 20’s cultivating my spirituality and creativity. I remember talking to my grandfather after I recorded my first CD and was touring coffeeshops around the southwest. I can still hear his reply to this day: “That’s nice, Ann, but are you making money?”
At that time, making enough money to support myself seemed unfathomable. Looking back, I’m so grateful that I had that time for creativity, and I’m not sure that “getting a job” was the right answer– given where I was at at the time. Still, I’ve certainly had some judgement and guilt about it.
Over the last few years, I’ve asked my grandfather for forgiveness several times. And each time, I was surprised by his answer: “I wouldn’t have wanted anything better for you.” I literally see him beaming with pride.
I’ve heard stories of how controlling his mother was. She moved with him from the east coast to LA when he went to college, if that gives you any idea. I’m sure he wanted to get away from that controlling energy, yet he didn’t know how.
He loved LA. I’m sure he loved the creative, individualistic energy here. Years ago, not thinking about healing my lineage, I moved here.
And I was the one, more than anyone in the family, who chose to live that free-spirited creative life. It might have looked great on the outside, but honestly, my 20’s weren’t always easy.
It took me a long time to learn how to stop feeling everyone’s stuff as my own. It was much easier after a decade or so of focused spiritual studies had strengthened me to the point where I could start a business and have a relationship.
Even after that, I still became the “family healer” in my first marriage. His sister, who had been “it”, died a month after we were married when her heart transplant failed to take. As the years went on, I’d sometimes get their Mom’s physical symptoms. Through these experiences, I’ve become fascinated with the connections between energy and our bodies, and I’ve learned a lot about holistic health.
Once, a business coach had me reflect on my greatest success story. She said it didn’t need to be a client, just a time where I used my super powers and it changed someone’s life in a powerful way.
My greatest success was my Dad. Into my 20’s, he would still as get drunk and obnoxious as he did when I was young. While I didn’t live with him, we still visited and spoke with one another, and the energy was tough.
I spent most of my year in “psychic school” clearing my Dad’s energy out of my space. It was huge for me in finding my way in life, but looking back it was even huger for him.
Around the end of that year, he called me when he was drunk. I set a boundary and told him I wouldn’t be able to talk with him in that state. And I hung up.
Weeks later, my Mom called to tell me he had quit drinking cold turkey. I am sure the combination of setting that boundary plus a year of releasing his energy was a major factor.
As we come upon the holidays, I invite you to look at where you heal your family in healthy or unhealthy ways, consciously or unconsciously. Since I did it unconsciously for so long and have worked with many clients in similar positions, I can see the pros and cons of doing so.
We usually have good reasons for healing our families unconsciously:
- We love them and want the best for them
- We want to feel safe and secure in their presence
- We are natural healers so why not?
- We don’t want them to suffer
Here are the drawbacks of doing so:
- This type of healing arrangement can take a long time and may never shift. Why? Because by taking on their pain or letting them live through us, they don’t get to find their own way. It perpetuates dependency and assumes they cannot do it. This is why my releasing my Dad’s energy and setting a boundary worked after decades of healing him unconsciously did not.
- It can keep us from living our own full, healthy and vital lives. It’s much easier to be healthy and successful in love, work and money if you know how to center yourself. You can learn to find compassion without taking on other people’s stuff. This benefits your family.
- People don’t always appreciate it. As I mentioned earlier, you may be expressing the qualities they’ve rejected in themselves, or succeeding in areas where they could not. On the other hand, they might judge you for “failing” in life, not seeing how your unconscious healing is keeping you too busy to “get a job,” “settle down,” or whatever they want for you.
Can we heal our families without taking their stuff on or repeating unhealthy patterns? Yes!
Here’s what you can do instead:
- Take responsibility for yourself, not for your family members. If you have a small child or an adult family member who is truly dependent, you may need to be responsible for them in certain ways. More often, we feel responsible for others’ actions– or even feelings– which we have no control over. Try to recognize that others will do and feel what they do. In the case of children, you can keep them safe and give them healthy limits while still honoring their feelings and choices. See if you can focus more on what’s coming up for you, and less on changing others.
- Communicate. Ancestral patterns often perpetuate because they weren’t talked about. It’s human to want to hide our pain and shame and protect our loved ones, and at the same time, light will free us from the dark. That means talk about things– at least to a counselor, a trusted friend, or select family members. It’s actually much easier to share the uncomfortable truth than a pretty lie, because our sensitive loved ones will feel unsettled with a lie even if they don’t know why. Lies are exhausting while truth brings relief.
- Honor what you’ve been given. In my younger years, I was too busy rejecting my lineage (due to all their energy I took on and couldn’t fix) to appreciate it. Now, I see how gratifying is for a parent or ancestor to be appreciated. It’s heartwarming and relaxing to all! Even if there are things you don’t like about your family (and we all have them), on a spiritual level consider that you chose them for a reason. Let this holiday season be an opportunity to tell them all the things you love about them, and all you have learned from them.
I hope this was helpful! As always, feel free to leave a comment below, and reach out if you’d like to explore your family “stuff” more in depth. Happy Thanksgiving!