Crappy Family Relationships
Humans being human, we often save our worst traits and nastiest moments for those we are closest to. For some reason we feel safe letting our fullest and sometimes our most challenging emotions rip around those we grow up with, or love. In those environments, we don’t hold back and can let our mouths run! I’ve come to see that is really isn’t possible to get through life without messing up with the people you are supposed to love from time to time and it’s a rare soul that doesn’t carry a bruise or two on their heart from a parent, a sibling or a love relationship.
Many of the people who see me in therapy sessions or join us on our weekend healing and detox retreats are carrying wounds from a tough childhood or pain from not being loved or recognised the way they should have been by someone close to them. These early relationships in particular can set the tone for how we experience love for the rest of our life and it’s super important to take time to see whether what you are holding onto is worth carrying from one decade into the next. Letting go of this past trauma can feel incredible.
In my time as a therapist, I have witnessed many ancient moments in time causing real-time suffering for people and it is too high a cost for them to pay. I have seen a client in his late 70s break down in sobs from a cruel dinner table moment fifty years ago, thoughtless words uttered from a parent long dead. Our bodies do not have a sense of time and can carry traumatic memories from the past like fresh wounds on the skin for too long. The problem with this is that we are letting past moments damage our vital immune and nervous systems, poisonous thoughts through our minds pour poisonous stress chemicals through our internal chemistry. Left unchecked these chemicals over time mess with our adrenals and is a major reason behind the disease and depression we see out there.
So what is to be done? Is there a solution or do we have to carry these old memories like suitcases on our back and keep playing out these stories onto our own children and on and on…
Unlike many colleagues in the therapy business, I am not prepared to sit and listen to my clients sharing the same tough story about the same person for too long without interrupting them to find a way to free themselves. I am always looking for a way to find a supportive resolution and solution.
If you don’t get to that place, you don’t get free. You are essentially still stuck in a jail cell with that person for eternity – and who wants that!
Our bodies certainly like to carry a grudge. So we have to check in and with our body, feel the emotion and then importantly LEAD our body to say “Hey! – enough now!” if we want our body to let go.
The thing with historical trauma is that the body is looking for an apology for or at least a recognition of the trauma or injustice felt. The problem is that it is often hard to get recognition when one side doesn’t have a clue of the damage that was done. These moments that create feelings like a rock in the belly are usually only worn by one person. The parent who uttered the thoughtless words is usually completely oblivious to the child’s traumatic experience or writes it off as an ‘oversensitivity’ so only one person is feeling the pain. It helps to understand that the two emotions that keep us locked sometimes for years in this unhealed discomfort are need and expectation – we need to have resolution and we have an expectation of how the one who has wronged us should behave. The body can feel that things won’t be okay until we get our needs and expectations met.
Here’s a powerful tool that the body responds well to – a tool I have seen work time and time again in my clinic. I have a playful way of releasing those challenging people who give you the gripes when you think of them. I call this The Sandbox.
The Sandbox Technique
In your mind’s eye, imagine that the difficult person you are dealing with is only a small child playing in a child’s sandbox. See them head down and focus on crashing toy cars around and making a lot of zooming noises. We all have a certain understanding that small kids are not that great with managing their emotions or with using language with care, being kind or sharing. We kind of understand that about them. So, in order to begin to heal the pain of a tough relationship within you – and to release need and expectation – see that person as an annoying toddler lost in their own selfish world, because most likely, emotionally, they might actually be incapable of more advanced behaviour.
The next step is to imagine yourself watching them from a good safe distance as they continue in their own world crashing cars into the sand.
Then, say these words out loud and say ‘em like you mean them!
It’s done. I release you. I release this drama and all expectations or needs I have within me of you. What’s yours is yours, what belongs to me, belongs to me. Enough Now!
Now, imagine yourself walking away very peacefully, breathing deeper and calmer than ever before as the toddler personality continues playing in the sandbox.
For some of my clients, they find it helpful to also imagine a cord that once connected them to that person or situation, being cut by a giant pair of scissors as they say the statement above. Whatever works for you is good.
This doesn’t mean that you are letting people get away with crappy behaviour. It’s just no longer your job to be the Judge and Jury on it or to let your mind go around in circles long after. Karma will take care of that for you my Friend! This exercise is a pure decision not to let that person’s mess take up any more space in your head or your beautiful mind and heart – and that is a WONDERFUL feeling!
None of us get through this life unscathed. We all say stupid things and mean things from time to time, even the best of us. Cut yourself and others some slack – let go and see how good you can feel when you have all that free space internally!
Catch up again soon x