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Family Loyalties and the Need to Belong

September 1, 2017

As I look out of my window, I see a handful of small children about 2-4 years old, playing in the field in front of our house here in the Austrian countryside. What strikes me about this scene is how happy, carefree, and full of excited adventure they are, creating fun just for the sake of it. Their laughter is instantly contagious to me and I ask myself what happens to us as adults… when and where do we lose this ability to live in the moment? What separates us from these young kids and their freedom of expression? I guess one thing is that they are not yet afraid to love.

These adorable small children have also not yet been fully moulded into the model of behaviour established by their family structure. I believe the problem starts when family and sociological programming becomes the main information stored in our minds. The child might become afraid to be punished and therefore also afraid of not being good enough for mum or dad, siblings, or teachers. The need to be accepted and to belong is born.

The need to belong is a basic primal need of our being alive, it is in our DNA to be a part of something bigger than us. Historically not to be a part of something, like a family group or a tribe, meant most probably death. So in order to belong most of us learn from early on to find ways to fit in. We start to put on masks to cover our true self and take up certain roles, changing the way we express ourselves. With our fine-tuned antennas we quickly figure out what and how people want us to be.

Not only do we learn how to behave, think, and feel like our caretakers, we also- unbeknown to us – form unspoken agreements of loyalty to our loved ones. We might watch our parents suffering in their life challenges and form unspoken bonds with them to stay connected. For example, “I dare not allow myself to find true love in my life, because my mother was so devastated when dad left. I might be successful in other areas of my life, for example my job/creating abundance, but I will not dare myself to be happier in love than my mum.” It’s almost like the child inside is saying: “If I remain loyal to mum’s sadness/depression, I will become just like her and in this way I will stay close to her. ”

Another example might be unconsciously agreeing to stay loyal to dad’s anger (at a certain group of people, or a person, etc.), so you will remain close to him. What I am really saying and believing is that I can’t have or dare to be more than my parents. They suffered so much, so I can not allow myself to be happy, successful, healthy, and fully thriving as an individual.

A good way to find out about your own unhealthy loyalties is to ask yourself questions like:

  • Where in my life am I holding back?
  • And in which way is this like my original family, country, culture?
  • Does this belief/attitude etc, minimise or restrict me in areas of my health, success, love, and life?
  • Where am I not thriving?

As we grow, with more self-awareness, resilience and healthy self-esteem, we eventually might be able to release the silent prayer…

Father, grandfather, great grandfather please smile on me kindly if I have the courage to be more successful than you.
Mother, grandmother, great grandmother please bless me if I have the courage to be happier than you.

Starting to reflect on this is just the beginning of an interesting journey of letting go of the many ways we learnt to limit ourselves out of respect for our parents and our ancestors. On The Bridge we dive into this deep subject and support you to release unhealthy family loyalties holding you back whilst honouring and reclaiming your positive legacy.

Gabriele Krueger, Co-Founder of The Bridge Retreat

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