We’re in the darkest days of the year – a time for moving inward, being quiet and reflective, nourishing ourselves with warmth and calm. And yet, there’s so much pressure to go out and shop, spend our energy and resources, engage with others in large gatherings.

Rather than slogging through the rest of the season on autopilot, consider following your natural instincts and rhythms. Make like a tree in winter, and allow your energy to pull in and feed your roots.

Take a moment to sit back and observe – yourself, your loved ones. There’s a lot happening beneath the busyness and blinking holiday lights.

As a Family Constellation Facilitator, I see powerful unconscious patterns playing out constantly in the lives of individuals and their families. No matter how connected or estranged people are from their bloodlines, unseen but unshakable bonds still deeply impact their decisions and relationships.

Hidden loyalties compel them to follow in the footsteps of a beloved parent, sibling, grandparent and so on. There are unresolved heartaches, losses, and traumas that play huge roles in their family’s mythology. You see…

Every person we know (ourselves included) is wholeheartedly involved in a much larger collective drama.

3 of the Most Common Family Patterns

We are all affected by situations rarely considered. Here are three family patterns that have impacted nearly all my clients. Are any of these in your life?

  1. Someone is missing. It’s too painful to remember a brother who died in a late miscarriage, so he’s been long forgotten. A grand uncle was estranged for being transgendered. Your father’s previous wife is maligned and ignored. 

    Everyone born into a family system – or anyone who has powerfully impacted it – has a place in that system. When someone is not given his rightful place in the heart of the family members, it is difficult for later generations to feel comfortable and free to move forward in their own lives. The later generations may act out, refuse to thrive, or give up their own belonging to the family in solidarity to the missing person.If somebody has been forgotten or cast out of your family, try giving that person a place in your heart when your family sits down to the Christmas meal or New Year’s celebration (and every day after). Inclusion heals.

  1. Someone carries another’s burden. You feel responsible for your older sister’s accident, even though you were too young to be involved. You strongly identify with how your grandmother suffered during the holocaust. You’re angry at your mom for mistreating your father during their divorce. 

    When we love others, we want to take on their burdens as our own. But unfortunately, there is nothing we, or anyone else can do to change what happened.When someone carries his own burden, it gives him dignity and strength. When we try to carry it for him, it weakens us both and only perpetuates the negative impact of what happened.

    If you’re keeping yourself down to show love for someone who went through difficult times, try shifting your sentiment to this instead: In honor of what you went through, I will do something special with my life.

    It’s a simple difference that turns their tragedy into a beautiful legacy.

  1. A child feels bigger than her parents. A daughter will do anything to avoid “being weak” like her mother. A teenage son is responsible for paying the family’s bills. A mother confides in her young children about her upsets with their dad.  

There is a healthy flow of love and support in a family, and it goes like this:

Parents give, children take. This makes parents big and children small.

When a parent has suffered severe trauma or loss, it can disrupt the healthy flow of give and take, establishing a difficult pattern that continues through the generations. Each child thereafter grows up to become a parent who is emotionally or psychologically yearning, and draws resources from the next generation.

Children grow up learning that they must meet their parent’s needs (an impossible task), and that gives them the illusion of being bigger than their parents. When those children grow up, they tend to feel confused about their place, have a conflicted relationship with authority, and struggle to receive support and love from others.

If you feel larger than your parents, try asking them about their life and intentionally looking for what you admire about them – it will help you appreciate their experience and regard them in a more fitting light.

Movement Towards Peace and Healing

As a first step towards transforming these patterns, simply becoming aware of them can lend our lives new depth and insight. (My recommendation for more in-depth, longterm results would be to consider Family Constellation sessions. You can set up a free consult about those here.)

With the holidays continuing to unfold, let this be a time where you rest and observe. Explore a new perspective of yourself and those around you that may change your interactions in a positive way.

Wishing you a happy end of 2015!

Warmest wishes,