“No one’s family is normal. Normalcy is a lie invented by advertising agencies to make the rest of us feel inferior.” – Claire LaZebnik, author
“… fun and frolic with great food!”
Amie was a Caper, that is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia…a part of Eastern Canada known for its tight family ties, bizarre sense of humour and strong sense of individualism among its inhabitants. Amie was from a large clan and was the eldest of seven. Her siblings were spread around the globe. This was not uncommon among Capers, who had a reluctant tradition of seeking employment anywhere to secure a future for themselves and their family.
Amie had lucked out in finding work in police services as a constable in the local force. This enabled her to ‘get home’ fairly regularly. But, it was harder as her two kids got older and developed their own lifestyle and schedules, which often put dampers on their parents’ plans. Her shift work was an added burden at times.
It was this challenge which brought Amie to see me. Every year her parents, now in their seventies, had a family gathering at the family homestead. Most family members usually were there. It was a great time to reconnect, catch up on the gossip and make sure everyone was OK. Amie looked forward to it. She described it as “fun and frolic with great food!” But this year, due to work commitments and her daughter’s summer school scheduling, Amie had decided they would be skipping it.
“… deaf, not to your words, but to your values!”
And, that’s when the manore hit the fan…as it were! She had already received two irate calls from her younger siblings demanding to know why she wasn’t attending. She had explained her situation to them. But, she described their reaction with the following:
“Ken, they seemed to be either deaf to my words, or just not listening to me!”
I replied, “It sounds like they were deaf, not to your words, but to your values, Amie!”
“What do you mean my values…were all from the same family, we all share very similar values?”
“That has not been my experience, Amie! I’ve found people in the same family often have very different values, even though they grew up in the same family, the same community and even the same religious tradition.”
“Well, I don’t think that’s the case with my family…we all love Cape Breton, we all love each other and we all love coming home for our annual reunion…I’m certain of that!” she replied with an air of certainty you would see in a three day old, new cement floor.
“Do you know where your values come from Amie?” I asked softly.
“A family reunion is an effective form of birth control.” – Heinlein, author
“… Family Feud with Food!”
“From our parents, our friends and our churches, I suspect!” she said.
“Well, they certainly contribute, but values evolve more generally, from your life experiences. It is as if, your past was porridge and you boiled it all down in a pot until all that’s left is the thick, sticky stuff which you can get rid of…cause it’s glued to your insides and affects how you see everything. And so, it becomes your version of what is black and white, or bad and good, in the world. And, it’s usually unconscious and so, usually, not negotiable.”
“Ken, are you telling me even though we grew up in the same family, with the same parents, in the same house, in the same community, attended the same church…we don’t have the same values!”
“Yes, I am Amie! There will be similarities and differences. Let’s take one example. You mentioned you all attended the same church. Would you say you all have the same form of spirituality today?” I asked her.
She thought for a moment then replied, “Only my sister attends our parent’s church, another brother is an atheist, another is into to crystals…whatever that is, and another sister is a scientist who says nature is her god! And, I don’t know what I believe… yet!”
“So, can you see, just within the spiritual realm, there is lots of value diversity within your family? This applies in lots of other places as well…and, especially with regard to family reunions.”
“Ken, that’s just reminded me of a phone conversation I had with my sister a while back. She let it slip out how stressed she gets when the reunion approached each summer. She sarcastically called it the Family Feud with Food!”
“I guess you sister has her own views on your family reunion, eh?”
“So, how does this help me deal with me not going this year?”
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” – George Burns, comedian
“…I’m getting this duality business!”
“You said the reason you were staying home was because of your commitments to work and your child…these sound like two of your important values. While, your value your family, and their annual reunions too, but this year, your work and child are more important values in your learning and future…so you have decided to honour them and act accordingly.”
“Are you saying, it is not a mistake for me, not to attend!”
“Not for you Amie! If you want to know exactly why, we can uncover that information. But, there is no mistake for you to be deciding not to attend this year. And, there is no need to explain or apologize…you are simply following your values, unconsciously. But, you can also follow your values consciously, and understand what lies underneath your decisions.”
“I guess, I would feel better, if I knew exactly why because a part of me is OK with my decision…but another part, is feeling guilty. Is that unusual?”
“Not only is it usual, it is to be expected…it is the duality of our life experiences…there is no pain without an equal pleasure, and vice versa, at all times. My guess is that in previous reunions, there were moments when you wishes you had not attended?”
“I have had several of those times over the years…so that is this duality stuff going on, eh?”
“That’s it all right! Can you see, if you’d decided to attend this year, you might have experienced guilt or regret about your work or child?”
“For sure! I might have been jeopardizing my job and neglecting my son’s education if I had decided to go this year…so yeah, I’m getting this duality business!”
“Now that you can see the connection between your decision not to go, and your values, are you feeling more OK about it?”
“Yes, I am! And, I’m also realizing everyone is doing the same thing! My Mom and Dad wants us there because it’s one of the few times we are all together…their value; my oldest brother uses it to flaunt his business successes…his value; my oldest sister parades her kids around…her value…and so on and so on.”
“I find the family the most mysterious and fascinating institution in the world.”
– Amos Oz, writer
“Amie, you got it…no mistakes…only learning opportunities!”
“So, can you now see who ever turns up at the reunion will be there…not primarily for your parents, not primarily for their siblings…but rather, primarily because of their highest values!”
“But, Ken, it seems like everyone is acting out of self interest…acting selfish!”
“Amie, that’s true and it is the way it is supposed to be. It reflects our biological command of survival and learning! Who ever turns up at your reunion will be just the people who need to be there for their own evolution…it will not be primarily about your family reunion, instead, it will be about each person’s need to grow into their future.”
“So, if I understand what you’re saying…there are no mistakes…so, the people who need to be there for their future well being, will be there…everyone else will be somewhere else, that is more critical to their well being.”
“You have it exactly, Amie! Excellent and concise! That’s why there is no need for apologies in a dualistic world. By not going, you will serve those who do go! You may never know how, exactly…but, just know, it is demanded by the duality law of natural systems…like a family!”
“Ken, I really, feel OK now about my decision! And you know what?”
“What?” I asked.
“I think I will be more OK…maybe, more appreciative is a better word, for the reunions, I attend in the future.”
“Amie, you got it…just remember those two key ideas and you will always fit right into your family…first, each person acts biologically and unconsciously out of self interest and second, because of the law of duality, it serves them and everyone else…no mistakes…just learning opportunities for each person in your family!”
“The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.” – Sam Levenson, humorist
Until Next time…
So, …check out your family and notice how each one, at every second, is motivated by self interest first. And, this is OK because it ensures each family member learns to survive and evolve into their own future within the natural law of duality. Then, you will be ready to mix with your family at any event because you understand how families work to serve each other unconsciously…but, you will see the process, consciously and so appreciate the support and challenge…which is the love of your family.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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