By Loraine Debnam
The nuclear family of today can often be a pressure cooker since so many people believe that they ought to be able to handle every difficulty by themselves.
Considering the burdens of the economic downturn, planned downsizing in industry and increased expectations of excellence and achievement, often the pressure grows until something explodes. This may be the greatest cause of the rising divorce rate and increased statistics of family violence.
Families deserve our respect for their strength and tenacity and their attempts to create circumstances in which they can learn, grow, love and care for each other. The way we see ourselves and others is shaped in the scene of our family. The principles we develop there remain in place throughout our lives. As adults, many of us find ourselves reverting to the actions of our parents which we vowed we would never do.
Perhaps the secret is to recognize that growing is a process which never stops.
We are continually learning and if we have unwanted behaviors, we can change them. Influence is the ability to recognize what we (and others) need and to act on that recognition. We can do this without losing our sense of person and our integrity. We create our own personalities and our own feelings and therefore have the power to change or modify them.
We hope our children will know love and joy, will have success and happiness, will have a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, will believe in themselves and will feel loved and capable. Research tells us that children need to be loved so well that they come to love themselves.
But a feeling of competence and self-worth is also vital to adults. We build these feelings by recognizing the positive (and negative) messages we experience and by making healthy decisions about those experiences. True self-esteem comes from within us.
Conceivably, we can look to our own family histories for the basis of our adult conduct. Each family has rules, both spoken and unspoken.
The basic reason for these rules is to maintain balance and to govern how its members relate to each other.
Some are spoken rules – about courtesy, manners or behavior.
Others are unspoken rules – about dealing with anger, fear, sadness or other strong emotions. Often the unspoken ones are those with the greatest impact.
Each member develops and evolves a distinct personality in response to these rules and other family members.
This development gives us the skills to form into mature adults with, it is hoped, the ability to be close to others while not becoming enmeshed in their opinions, needs, or expectations.
Healthy adults can nurture their own children by recalling the best from their parents, by finding what works well with their own children as individuals and talking to others and thinking about their advice before acting upon it.
We can only guess about the development of the other adults in our world but we do know about our own family experiences.
If we are selective about choosing the best parts, perhaps this knowledge can assist us to better understand ourselves and thus better understand those we love.