Abraham Maslow believed that if a person’s basic needs were met, then they could strive for self actualization. It is a miracle of our times that we have many folks living at this level now. You can, too.
But to be in recovery, on a spiritual journey — on a psychotherapeutic journey to wholeness and healing — means that one will eventually surpass their family.
Let’s get into that.
Most of us had families who didn’t self-actualize and thus are afraid of and threatened by it. Evolution really wants us to self-actualize, and deep in their genes, our families want us to surpass them, too. But sometimes their dysfunction, fears, and addictions get in the way. And perhaps we will learn eventually that our families aren’t the best people to help guide us to a better land.
Of course, as I said, being in therapy means you will grow beyond your family. You will learn to see what makes your family what it is — what has worked for you, and what didn’t work for you. What you needed and didn’t get, and how that influenced who you became and how you live your life.
At first, being in therapy means going over all of this a million times. You pick it apart and notice things you never noticed before. It’s a lot of being angry and sad, lost and confused. Being hopeful… while also experiencing hopelessness.
In other words, initially it often feels worse — sometimes a lot worse. You wonder why you even started in the first place. And much of the time, you wonder what the hell you’re doing.
But it’s all part of the path. A natural part of the path.
Then (after a long, long time) all that fluctuation goes away and you start to reflect on your life and your family without the emotional turmoil. You begin to see it more rationally and more objectively. There is a sense of detachment where it doesn’t seem so personal.
And then, eventually, you can see your parents for the limited human beings that they are, without your personal lens. You see your siblings’ damage from the same family system. You realize that, in these dysfunctional systems, everyone suffers in some way. No one escapes untouched.
But you also learn there is a gift in every ounce of suffering you have faced. That it all had meaning. And continues to have meaning.
It is no small feat to stop seeing yourself as a victim of your family circumstances and stand up to it. To recognize that you are strong enough to handle it all.
Our family needs us to grow. Our culture needs us to grow. To continue evolving into ourselves and our humanity. To the full potential of who we are.
Most importantly, we need us to grow.