While it at first might seem counter-intuitive, our families are not really in a position to really understand us—except in those rare cases where a family member is actually engaged with the ongoing growth you’ll do throughout our life. So despite the fact that they historically spent a lot of time with us, families tend to innocently trap us in time. They fail to note the normal human growth that happens at various stages of life.
The reason that’s all okay is because we did it to them too. Each family member develops an idea of what each of the others is “like,” and this is done when our encounters are new—essentially in the first few years we know each other. Of course, everyone grows enormously as they age, and the biggest sorts of changes often happen after major life challenges, when people are 35 to 75, and yet your parents and siblings will relate to you as through you never changed since you were a little kid. And you’ll generally do the same with them too.
They’ll rarely note changes simply because it’s human nature to have our radar only scan for the things we expect to see. So they only look for their thought-image of us, and they established that when we were six. Of course you can find signs of any kind of personality in anyone if you watch them long enough.
For your family, every time you give them even just a glimmer of the “old” you, they’ll be on it—Aha! There you are! And that experience will be added to other spotty and rare examples of old-you-ness that they will drag out as stories during holidays. But again, you’ll do that to them too, because that’s how egos see the world. Egos don’t live now. They live then and in the future.
So what I’m saying is, even if you’ve changed a lot don’t expect your family to give you much credit for that growth. Their egos will blind them to now and the current you. This means they’ll give you advice suited for someone that you aren’t. They’ll make defining statements that madden you because they point to the exact things you worked so hard to change about yourself, and they’ll suggest those things haven’t changed when now you don’t exhibit that behaviour any more than they do.
There is no defence for this blindness. You can’t teach them to see the new you. That would only happen if they tackled their own ego. At least if you tackle yours, then you’re free of judgment. That way you can often feel your own meaningful sense of belonging. You are connected to the whole universe simply by being fully yourself. And if you can do that often enough, then you’ll be more interested in finding your spiritual tribe than your biological family anyway, although many times there is overlap.
Forget about being understood. Forget about being respected. Forget about wanting approval from outside yourself. You have never actually been disconnected. You have never actually been outside, or unwanted, or unloved. You live within love, you are made of love, and everything you do is love. And your family is still a part of that wholeness even if they’re unable to appreciate it.
Show your family your love by letting them be themselves. And that should include allowing them to be the kind of people who just don’t get you.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.