Ohana (Means Family)

“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten”. – Lilo & Stitch

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Interpersonal problems are often at the focus of my work, what my clients are experiencing. What I am often experiencing in my personal life as well. It affects us all. “No man is an island” is a quote that sometimes comes to mind. Although it may sound lovely at times to exist on that island alone, I believe the quote to be true. Throughout our day we are interacting with other people – our family, friends, strangers, co-workers, managers, customer service representatives, etc. I hear most often about the problems that arise at work and at home.

I’m a big believer that we have become who we are by way of our family of origin. It is not a life sentence. It is not impossible to change who we become. But it makes sense that we would view and react to the world through the influence of who was around us in our formative years – parents, siblings, extended family, teachers, and friends. I see it so often, how much pain and suffering we hold onto from incidents that have occurred and relationships we have formed during our childhood and adolescent years. Often we struggle most with the relationships (or lack of relationships) with our parents. Our parents are supposed to love, support, and care for us. They are supposed to be there no matter what we do, or who we are. At least that’s what our culture tells us. So what happens when they aren’t? What happens when parents or care-givers abuse and/or neglect us as children? What happens when they aren’t there for us as adults?

I’m reminded of something that was said to me a few years ago by a good friend who is also a therapist. She reminded me that you can’t go to the refrigerator and expect to pull out a hot meal. It’s not that the refrigerator has something wrong with it; it’s just not possible. That’s what dealing with people can be like. Especially with our families, we want to be seen and heard. We want to matter. We want love and attention. And we deserve it. But there may be some people in our lives that are never able to give us that hot meal. It’s just not possible. And that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that something is wrong with them. It just is.

As adults, we can choose who we have in our lives. We can choose the people who get to be in the inner circle. Blood relatives do not get a free pass. If someone is your life is abusive or neglectful, or if someone in your life causes you more pain and suffering than happiness, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the relationships. How close are they? How much of a priority are they to you and you to them? Relationships can not always be completely equal, but if you are feeling exhausted by someone most of the time you are dealing with them then it’s not even close. Surround yourself with people who stimulate you, bring you joy, and feed your soul. Create space and boundaries with the people who do the opposite. Create your own family! One of my favorite movies is one I’ve quoted at the beginning of this post – Lilo & Stitch. Besides Stitch being adorable, it’s a very heartwarming story about how we create our family, and how that doesn’t always fit the stereotypical mold. Watch this movie, especially if you have kids!

Journal prompt: Who is in my inner circle? Am I receiving as much as I am giving? What would my relationships look like if this was true? How would my life be different if all my relationships were reciprocal?

Resources: The Invisible Scar (blog/website regarding family) & Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry (highly recommended reading for dealing with many kinds of difficult people!)

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Fall Fresh Start

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Whether or not you are a teacher, student, or parent of school-age children, fall seems to have the energy of a fresh start. We trained our brains for so long to look at a new school year as a brand new year. Now that we may be out of school it can still be a time for resolutions. Clearing out, cleaning out, and starting fresh. This can be something as simple as your home or car – separating out toss, keep, or donate. Hoping cool autumn air will be on its way soon so that we can save energy from the AC and open up our windows – letting that stale air out.

What can be more difficult is starting fresh with ourselves and our relationships. Think about what changes you would like to see for yourself. Are you happy? Do you feel fulfilled? Are the relationships in your life serving you – is it a relationship, or a relationshit? Prioritize your needs by thinking of the major aspects of our lives:

  • Love & Intimacy
  • Relationships – Friends
  • Relationships – Family
  • Physical Well-being/Health
  • Spirituality
  • Fun & Play
  • Learning
  • Finances
  • Work/Career
  • Helping Others/Philanthropy

If you had to rate each of these categories on a scale from 1-10 (10 being the highest), what areas shine and what areas could use some attention? This rating system resembles the Wheel of Life that we can use visually to help us see the balance, or lack thereof, in our lives.

While on my Tranquility Summer Camp retreat in mid-August, the lovely Kimberly Wilson had us journal and meditate on this exercise. (*Will be writing more about my experiences from my retreat soon!*)

Don’t stop with your assessment though. Come up with a plan. Look at the areas that have a lower score that you would like to see increased. What are you going to do to get that number up? Or maybe you want to focus on the areas that have high numbers, and think about how you are going to maintain it.

Please enjoy the start of your fall! Take time to slow down in the transition to reflect on where you are in your life, and how you can make the most out of your everyday!