Perfect families? Healthy and well functioning families!

by | Jan 24, 2020 | Family life, Personal growth | 1 comment

Have you ever seen families that looked perfect from the outside?

Families that radiate a pleasant atmosphere and a feeling of love, acceptance, respect and relaxation even when you get to know them better?

We all know that there are no “perfect” families.

And yet I have met families where I perceived a kind of “perfection”.

I have always wondered how that was possible. I too wanted to start a family where you can find this cozy atmosphere!

I knew that the kind of perfection I perceived in those families had nothing to do with the absence of mistakes, weaknesses or shortcomings. The parents did not do everything right. The children were “normal” children with their unique personalities and challenges.

Nor was it a specific educational style, the social status of the parents or their financial situation.

When I read Bradshaw’s book “The family” some time ago, I came across the reality of such a family.

He described the 5 freedoms, which Virginia Satir describes among other sources in her book “Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond ” in a simple but impressive way.

The 5 freedoms

 

1.The freedom to see and hear what is really there at the moment,

instead of what should be, has been, or will be.

2. The freedom to express what I really feel and think,

and not what’s expected of me.

3. The freedom to stand by my feelings,

and not pretend otherwise.

4. The freedom to ask for what I need,

instead of always waiting for permission.

5. The freedom to take risks on your own responsibility,

instead of always playing it safe and not taking chances.

It got more and more clear to me that in all the families that I considered worthy to be imitated I could find five freedoms – or at least the aspiration for five freedoms.

Let us take a look at these 5 points step by step:

The freedom to see and hear what is really there at the moment,

instead of what should be, has been, or will be.

Such a family lives in the here and now, authentic and present.

How often do we torture ourselves with questions like

“what would have been if” or
“if I had known, then”.

Many allow themselves to be enslaved by feelings of guilt and thus miss out on living in the here and now.

But it can also be that we miss living in the here and now because we are constantly thinking about a conversation we had a few days ago. Or that we are annoyed by a situation that happened a few days ago and that we are in a bad mood and annoyed by it.

Or, we long for the next day. We concentrate on what will be when the children are older and we can finally go back to our beloved job, education or leisure activities.

On the time when we will have enough money to afford the house, the car or the holidays in the Caribbean.

There are thousands of things that can be done in the future.

If we are not careful, we will miss the today – and all the beauty, uniqueness and quality times that can be experienced in the “now”.

The freedom to express what I really feel and think,

and not what’s expected of me.

In a family where this freedom reigns, everyone knows that their feelings and thoughts are not evaluated, but serve to know each other more deeply and build an authentic relationship with each member of the family.

No one has anything to hide, everyone is free to reveal his true self, his deepest thoughts and feelings and to be accepted in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and goodwill.

People who have learned to walk in this freedom have no need to hide who they really are, in the hope of being accepted. They have no need to please others through false modesty or humility.

How can this point be applied specifically in a family?

I believe it begins with us, the adults in the lives of the children entrusted to us.

In my family, the thoughts and feelings of us children were neither wanted nor had they a right to exist. It was a long process for me to enter into this freedom, to share my thoughts and feelings and to have the courage to stand up for them. This website, where I share my thoughts and feelings on a weekly basis – supports and accelerates this process.

The freedom to stand by my feelings,

and not pretend otherwise.

This freedom takes the point above further and goes even deeper.

How do we react when we are confronted with the anger of a child? Or with fear? What do we do with the high-spiritedness and exuberance of our children – especially when we are simply tired and need our rest?

In a family in which everyone is allowed to stand by their feelings, there is the whole range of feelings. Every single emotion has its validity, it doesn’t have to be suppressed or blocked for fear of being less loved and accepted if you express it.

The emotional world that each of us carries within us is a map that not only helps us discover who we are, but also helps us understand others. For if we do not know how others feel, it will be difficult to respond to their needs in our relationship with them and vice versa.

There would still be much to say on this subject, because, often, children, regardless of their age, are misunderstood and punished or rejected for their feelings. For the simple reason that many of us adults have not learned to perceive feelings, to stand by them – and to deal with them constructively.

– The freedom to ask for what I need,

instead of always waiting for permission.

I love it when our children come to us boldly and make their requests. Depending on their wishes and age, we also respond to them.

The most important thing is that they know that we will never humiliate or embarrass them for their wishes. We want to give them this freedom to learn to think for themselves and to feel and express their needs.

Here too it starts with us adults, who are role models.

At the moment Benny is working a lot. A month ago he moved his business and now he has a lot to do.

A lot of things are stuck with me. I could become more and more frustrated and out of this frustration I could react impatiently and irritably towards my children. I could tell them how nerve-racking they are right now. Or, I could take my need for a break and take the liberty of communicating this need constructively.

“Benny, I understand how tough you’re having it right now. But I really need a break. Can’t we just take some time off to spend some relaxing days together as a family?”

We will do this soon, when we’ll all spontaneously go on a holiday together for a few days.

The freedom to take risks on your own responsibility,

instead of always playing it safe and not taking chances.

Imagine you have a favourite chocolate and you want to make sure it is never sold out when you need a refill.

In this situation, “playing it safe” can mean that you buy the shelf empty and keep on buying more, long before your reserve is used up.

Taking a risk on your own responsibility here means that you only buy as much as you want to eat until the next purchase. And what if there isn’t any? Well, then you try something new and try another chocolate.

You take responsibility and dare to go in freedom and take a certain risk.

You don’t feel like a victim, even if your supply of chocolate has been used up, but you have the courage to take your life in your hands and try something else.

Life – and especially family life – is full of such situations.

We want to teach our children that it is okay to take well-considered risks. That failure can also mean new opportunities and that problems are a springboard for growth.

I dare say that a healthy and functioning family is a family where every family member can live out these five freedoms.

It is about the opportunity to exercise the powers available to us freely and constructively.

– These 5 freedoms allow each member of the family to live in their true nature and face the world while taking into account their own needs.

– These 5 freedoms are directed against any perfectionist system that seeks to judge the value of the individual human being according to his or her behavior.

– To live these 5 freedoms means that I may freely communicate my feelings, thoughts, wishes and needs. The art is to do this in a constructive and uplifting way.

“I feel stressed and frustrated and need a break” is much better than “you are so selfish and only think about yourself”!

My personal wish is to teach our children to walk responsibly and powerfully in these 5 freedoms, to apply them to their own lives and to live them out in their environment.

1 Comment

  1. Teo

    Amen!!!’

    Reply

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