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Family Healing

I remember years ago, the moment in therapy that marked the beginning of healing the relationship with my mom. I had described to my therapist how in a visit with my mom, I felt tired and lethargic and everything took extra effort.

My therapist suggested that I was putting off meeting my needs and hoping that she would finally come through and be the mom I wanted her to be.

In that moment,  I got  how it was time to let go of my mom being some certain way. It was time to start relating to her as another adult rather than just my mom.

In NVC terms, I was attached to a particular strategy for meeting my needs. I was attached to her meeting all my needs for safety, affection, love, and nurturing. I wanted her to process all the unmet needs and difficulties of my childhood with me and then make up for these unmet needs with new behavior.

This was my unconscious strategy for healing. It wasn't very effective.

One of the things I love about NVC is that it asks for and helps create a deep level of self-reflection and self-responsibility.

Parts of me, very young parts, were still waiting for my mom to meet those needs. Seeing this I could mentally and emotionally go back to visit with various "younger selves" and offer empathy for the pain, loneliness, and fear they experienced. I could reassure them that the me of today can take care of those needs with the loving and reliable people I have in my life now. The me of today can create experiences in which needs for safety, affection, love, and nurturing are met easily.

When I have this healing relationship with myself and others who can currently meet my needs, I don't have to wait for my mom to change. As a result, there is a space in me to accept my mom just as she is. There is space to offer her empathy and understanding.  There is space to express my needs and requests in simple and non-reactive terms.

Resentment, anger, or the kind of listlessness I experienced, are all good signs that you might be holding fast to one particular strategy to meet your needs, particularly, one that isn't working.

Reflect on your relationships with your family. Is there someone your waiting on to change? Do you want them to recount what they did that stimulated pain for you, own what they did, express regret, and ask how they can help you heal from it? Sometimes family members will hear this request and meet you there. Sometimes they won't.

When they won't, you can look for other strategies for healing. You can heal the hurts from those relationships in how you relate to yourself and with others in your life, friends, counselors, teachers, pasteurs, and community members, who can meet you you there.  The healing work you do is always a contribution to your family, whether you process the past with them or not.

Take a moment now to name for yourself the people in your life that are a contribution to you.  How have they contributed to your healing and well-being?  What action do you want to take on your side to nurture and maintain those relationships?

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4 Responses

  1. Jul 06, 2012

    Are you me?!
    As I read your gem this week I resonated deeply with so much similarity, it left me thinking for two days now. I have taken your 8 week workshop on NVC and truly find myself attempting to change, really thinking more deeply, trying to slow down my thoughts, no panic and react in the moment.

    My mom at times making daily rituals that should be easy so incredibly tough! Just last week she said something so painful to me one minute after entering my home without realizing the gravity of it.

    "I really want that painting back!" as she peered to painting hanging in my living room, I had just painted the walls to match the color. It was given to me 15 years earlier by her. Now she wanted it back... In reality it is the only material possession she had given me. It was the one thing I cherished all my life growing up. My cousin had made the frame to house it, now we lived apart and he had battled some health problems. He was more like a brother to me. I watched him build that frame out Koa wood, a very expensive wood found in Hawaii. But, my mom never knew what it meant for me to have it.

    Instead I just replied in my sheepish way, that "I really wanted to keep it. Please mom, please... "

    At the ripe age of 46 now, I find myself reflecting on so many failed attempts to get my mom to nurture me too. Yet, still I find it is not in her nature nor in the cards. I have two girls of my own now, and constantly try to be different.

    I thought about this gem this week as I painted my porch. YES the NEED at the moment for me is to get rid of the pealing paint in my life!

    LaShelle you continue to inspire me with these little things you share. I appreciate your honesty you bring.
    Take care,

  2. Jul 09, 2012

    Thank you
    In may case, I need to finally come to terms with my mother having no interest in me. It hurts. I never realized what a workaholic I am. Fortunately the people I work with are supportive. I can't wrap my head around my colleagues being more supportive than my own mother. As I started reading about mother - daughter relationships, I realized that this is not so uncommon...
    Fortunately there are other people who care about me and whom I care about.

  3. Jul 10, 2012

    Dear Lashelle
    As I deepen my awareness of NVC in every aspect of my life - I understand more and more the aspect of the request- how do I get my needs met, and I love the expansion I feel when I notice that there may be more than one way to meet them. Thanks for this example. I think relationships in the family are the most difficult, no? Thanks for lighting the way

  4. Jul 16, 2012

    Thank you both for your comments. It is enriching for me to hear that I am connecting with you and you are taking this work into your life in a deep and personal way.

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