Family Relationships – Breaking Free of Feeling Judged
March 6, 2011
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Dear Parvati, I have been brought up in a very controlling family, with very dogmatic religious beliefs. Even though I am an adult now and have been living on my own for a long time, I still feel this fear of being controlled and judged by them, to the point where I don’t even want to talk to them or visit them anymore. How can I move past that and have a healthy, balanced relationship with them?
Thank you for your sincere question. Many, I am sure, can relate. No matter what kind of family we are born into, good, loving, kind, abusive, indifferent, we have an opportunity to grow. At a soul level, deeper then the personality, our family members are very powerful teachers that I believe are perfectly matched for what we need to learn in this life. Whether or not you have a postcard happy relationship with your family, whether you speak to them every day or once in ten years, all that is in your life is there to support you learning and evolving.
Learning to see a situation as it is, beyond hurt and the grip of emotional reactivity, is to me the first step to finding healing. When you look deeper, you see that a judgmental person is a fearful person. We can all relate to being afraid. We all share deep, primal fear of not being loved.
Being able to see a person as they are helps us to understand what really is, and in so doing, we to learn to love. A judgmental person likely does not feel loved. Knowing that behind a judgmental person is a fearful one helps us to feel more connected to them at a soul level. Maybe our personalities don’t jive, but somehow, we can relate to another’s human experience. We too can feel afraid. We too can judge. Rather than falling into the trap of judging those who are judging us, which just perpetuates the cycle of suffering, we learn to be present for their fear of not being loved, which mirrors our own fear of not being loved. So in essence, you really are not dealing with judgment at all. You are learning to let go of identifying with the fear of not feeling loved and not taking someone else’s fear of the same personally.
Once we know what is really going on, we can find much greater inner peace. We can be more honest within ourselves about how we are afraid of not being loved by the people who were our primary caregivers. Biologically, our very life depended on these people when we were children. So we wanted and needed to feel loved – for survival. But as adults, our life no longer depends on them the same way. Instead, we learn to connect inwardly to the true source of love, which is not our parents, but the universal flow of pure consciousness that is in all things, all the time. We learn to see ourselves as a reflection of that love, and our family also.
So, you may ask, if my judgmental family is a reflection of that pure consciousness, why do they act in a way that I find hurtful? A judgmental person is not plugged into the reality that he/she is a reflection of pure consciousness. Nor is that person seeing you as such. The key is, it does not matter if they see you that way or not. You find freedom by seeing it yourself. You cannot control when they wake up to seeing things as they are. But you can control when you can. They may never see you as you are. But you can learn to see them as they are right now. In seeing them as they are, you are actually seeing yourself more clearly, because you are tapping into unconditional love. And your true nature is Love.
When you plug into the reality that you are love, that you are loved, when you choose to live in the positive possibilities, you can see that their fear is a reminder, a teacher that guides your choices. Their judgment shows you that acting in disconnect causes pain for everyone. So you learn not to do the same. Their pain teaches you to let go of the hurtful cycle of judgment so that you love yourself and others, something they, at this time, are not able to do, likely not because they are mean, but because they don’t yet know how.
We are geared to see our biological family as our safe place, as our source of love. As children, we needed our families to be that for us. But now, we learn to see ourselves as part of a much bigger family, the human family, and find our source of love from the timeless universal rather than from the limited personal. As we grow older, we must leave the nest to find our own expression of I AM. We can fear that we will surpass our parents, and that then we will not get the love we had hoped we would as children. But being able to see our parents and siblings as they are is essential in becoming who we are. As we see them for who they are, as they are, rather than as we want them to be, we learn to accept them as they are, and love who we are. Our source of love no longer is held captive within them, limited mortals that they are, but found beyond all things temporal. Life then becomes a co-creative dance with the timeless source of love, through the temporal expression of it. We learn to see that what is before us in our lives is teaching us to love better, but is not the source of love.
All that happens, happens for a reason. We are part of a much greater, intelligent infrastructure than what our little ego can perceive. As such, what happens in our life, offers us an opportunity to grow beyond the grasp of our ego. I believe that our family members provide us with the perfect setting to learn to truly love and realize who we are.
1) The essential questions
No matter what happens in life, we can choose to grow. We can choose for life to break our heart closed or break it open. So as a starting point, I would be asking myself some key questions:
- What am I learning here?
- What is this situation gifting me with that only this situation could offer?
2) Seeing things as they are
We are distracted from the present by being attracted to what we like (thinking that will bring us happiness, however fleeting) and repulsed by what we don’t like (running from what we fear). Both attraction and repulsion are based on running: running to, and running from the fullness of life. When we allow ourselves to see things – as they are – without a story attached to it, we begin to experience that which is.
All relationships provide us with a very powerful mirror. If we like what we see, we tend to say: “I like that.” If we don’t like what we see, we say: “I don’t like that.” We tend to attract again and again similar people, who at some point we don’t like, because we have not learned to accept that part inside ourselves.
Perhaps, having grown up in a judgmental family, you may find yourself prone to being judgmental. Even when we tend to not like things in our family, sooner or later, we find they exist in us. Being judgmental about judgmental people is a quick and easy trap to fall into. Practice finding a neutral point of view, to the best of your ability. Practice seeing your family members as they are with no story attached.
For example, when you hear one of your family members being judgmental, do you immediately think, “Oh! There he/she goes again, being so judgmental!”? By reacting to another’s judgmental nature, in effect, you are judging. Instead, see if you can develop a point of view to see things as they are. So he/she judges and you say to yourself, with neutrality, “Ok. There is judgment.” As though you were saying, “The sky is blue.”
3) The power of raw and real
By learning to pause when you tend to react to feeling judged, you can begin to truly feel what you are feeling. Beyond the discomfort of feeling judged, you may feel disconnected from the person who you feel is judging you. And in that disconnection, you may realize that you feel sad and alone. In that aloneness, you may notice that you feel afraid. In that fear, you may doubt that that you will ever feel love or loved. In that feeling of disconnection you are left raw, real and honest in that moment. The reactivity of being judgmental was masking that vulnerability of your naked, open honesty.
The question you may be asking is, why would I want to feel naked, raw and vulnerable, any time especially around people who I feel judge me? True power comes from honesty, not from masks. We can say nothing to someone who hurts us, and pretend it does not matter, but all the while, our stomach is churning and inner pain builds within. Our masks grow heavy and are tiresome to carry. We think we are protecting ourselves, but in effect, we are hiding ourselves from ourselves and the world. How can we feel love in that state of hiding?
We hide because we are afraid that who we really are is not good enough. And that feeling of not good enough is easy to feel when we are around judgmental people. But the cycle stops cold when we stop giving it energy. In being honest, raw, vulnerable and real with ourselves and with others, we stop the cycle of disconnect. We have taken the leap into connecting with ourselves. And once we do, we can tune in, powerfully, to find out if it is right for us to share that feeling with others.
4) Share what feels expansive and witness the rest
It is not always right to share with another person all and everything that you are feeling. But it is always right to share whatever feels expansive to share of what you are feeling, from a place of personal connection and honesty with who you are. Whatever you say from that vantage point, everyone has the opportunity to gain, whether they decide to open to that opportunity or wish to continue to judge. What they do, you cannot control. But what you see and say, you totally can.
5) Manage your relationship
Define the relationship as it suits you. You are in charge of all relationships in your life. You never need to feel, in any relationship, that you are powerless. All relationships in your life need to work for you. So ask yourself, with regard to your family,
- What kind of relationship do I need in order to feel healthy?
- What changes do I need to make in my behaviour with them to honour my needs?
- In what way am I still looking for their approval?
- How do I give them power?
- In which way do I still see them as the source of my love?
- At what point do I start to feel like I am losing my energy when I am around them?
- Do I feel this way with all my family members or just a few in particular?
If you are learning new self-management techniques, let your family know that you are changing things in your life so they can expect changes. They may not understand. They may even react. That does not matter. If you need to, you can let them know that you need some space to figure things out and that it is not personal.
Take care of yourself first. Unless you have a positive possibilities relationship with yourself, you cannot have a healthy relationship with others. And just because you have a positive possibilities relationship with yourself, that doesn’t mean you will ever have a positive possibilities relationship with certain people. Those people just may not want to go there.
I do believe it is not possible or even healthy to have relationships with certain people. It is always healthy to wish people well, to sincerely wish them happiness. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is not interact. No one benefits when two drowning people cling to each other and pull each other down.
Next time you know you are going to interact with people who tend to judge you, see if you can set up boundaries that support you having space to keep tuned into how you feel. Also make sure you have the space you need to leave, if you need to.
- Before you engage with any of your family members, prepare yourself to practice seeing their behaviour as a reflection of their own state of consciousness and not as a reflection of you.
- When you feel people judge you, take a deep breath and go within to shift your perspective. It is not “happening” to you. Their judging reflects their own state of fear and subsequent desire to control.
- Ask for clarification. “You said [this]. Is that what you mean?”
- Should you feel judged, take a deep breath and shift your perspective into seeing that the judgment is a reflection of their own disconnect and fear and has nothing to do with you. Then you can choose to voice, if it feels expansive to do so, that you feel judged by what was said. Not because you want their approval, but out of self-love; it is healthy for you to be honest with who you are. Being honest ultimately mirrors back to them how their behaviour makes you feel and provides them with an opportunity to see you better and to learn to love.
- If you do choose to voice how you feel, practice being not attached to what they say in response. Remember, you are doing it for yourself, not for approval.If you choose not to voice how you feel, continue to practice witnessing how the other is behaving. If you feel like you are losing energy by being in that environment, leave. Doing what feels expansive for you is best for everyone.
- Everyone in your life is a teacher.
- Everything in life provides an opportunity for you to embody wisdom-compassion and realize your true nature as Love.
- Set healthy boundaries. You don’t need to hang out with anyone that does not make you feel expansive. Sometimes people come into your life to teach you to say no.
- Being real, honest and raw is powerful. The more honest you are with yourself, the more honest you can be with others. The more you live by honesty in all you do, the less burdens you carry and the freer you will feel. The freer you feel, the more love you will feel, and therefore, the more able you will be to share and enjoy living.