The word whānau is often translated as ‘family’, however, there is a fuller meaning that includes a physical and soulful connection to those whom you care for and/or have care of, whether related by bloodlines or not.
We all, without exception come from families and though they will differ in size, culture, socio-economic status and emotional experience, they are the starting ground of our relationships and inevitably shape how we grow, perceive and choose to be in the world.
Family offers the opportunity for us to build foundations that nurture deeply respectful and caring relationships with ourselves and one another. Family can be the training ground where our children understand how precious and treasured they are, allowing them the space to blossom into confident, contributing adults. Family can be the safe place where we understand how to navigate through our hurts and misunderstandings, where our feelings are honoured and we are encouraged to express without fear of judgement or recrimination.
However, for many of us, this is not our experience of family. For many, families are complex, dynamic relationships carrying a mix of wisdoms, wounds, secrets and joys, passed on whether spoken or unspoken, dealt with or swept under the carpet, which wind their way through generations. This family history can define us, in so far as we can become a product of the values and structures we were raised with and unconsciously perpetuate the ideals and beliefs that have gone before us.
Tensions and resentments can arise when we rock the boat, challenging the long held values and beliefs of our family group.
Without an awareness and willingness to understand and question how family ideals and beliefs are serving our families, we are ignoring the health and wellbeing of each individual and allowing generational hurts to grow careless and disrespectful relationships.
We champion the importance of family, yet statistics demonstrate that family environments are where much of the world’s abuse takes place. It is not ‘stranger danger’ as we are raised to believe in the Western world, but our own households where abuse at low level through to extreme is at play every day.
The current staggering statistics of family violence in New Zealand is an extreme and sad testament to this - we have one of the worst rates for family and intimate partner violence in the world.
For our families to reach these extremes begs the questions - what are the foundations we are building our families on? And how do we support each other in growing true families?
True family is committed to the practice of loving, respectful and harmonious relationships.
True family has the capacity to hold the differences and expression of each individual allowing a space for each to grow and develop where all feel safe and respected.
True family recognises that each member plays an important role within the family group and supports one another in their responsibility.
True family recognises we are a microcosm of a larger world family for which we have equal responsibility.
Responsibility begins with each of us individually.
The cornerstones that support our relationships with ourselves and others include:
how we care for our bodies;
the quality of how we live each day;
our awareness, and healing of the baggage and beliefs we carry and how this impacts upon ourselves, others and the community we live in.
This level of care and responsibility comes from within us and flows naturally out to all, paving the way for true family.
With a no nonsense, down to earth and humorous approach, psychotherapist Jean Gamble talks about how we can build respectful relationships within our families.
“There is no abuse in love, there is no dark side in love,
there is no emotionality in love."
Eunice Minford shares her observations of a family living the way of love – something real and accessible for us all.