In the beginning, there was everything. Then, a singularity appeared - something split off of that everything and became separate from it, individual. That something was you.
Ever wondered why babies cry when they’re born? It’s the pain of being cut off from infinity of ‘nobody’ and becoming a ‘somebody’, someone in a body. It is worse pain than dying.
Birth is a traumatic experience and we all go through it. There has not been a single person in this world in the history of mankind that did not come here other than by birth.
The moment you come out it’s like you’re struck with the most severe case of amnesia - you have no memory of what came before, you don’t know any of the faces that surround you, you don’t even know who you are or what any of it means. We say you start life as a clean slate, as pure innocence. But what do you think happens, when a clean slate is presented to a dirty environment, stained people and colorful ideas floating around in the wind?
Your innocence gets smudged, greased, tainted, stomped and crushed from the moment you are born to the moment when your personality solidifies. It is like walking to a boiler room on one of those old steamer ships and shoveling coal while wearing a pure white wedding dress. You’ll get it dirty just by standing there from coal dust suspended in the air.
And the same thing happens to you when you come to this world as a baby. You get imprinted with emotions, feelings, thoughts, ideas, concepts, values, beliefs and goals that are not your own but are presented to you as the only truth there is. And for the sake of survival, you take them on as your own. When you’re young, you have to learn quickly or perish. As a baby and a young child, you’re completely dependent on your environment to survive. You can’t feed yourself, you don’t know what anything means, what dangers lurk out there, what’s beneficial to you and what’s harming you. You rely on your parents to tell you that.
And this is where the problems start. Your parents have no idea what life is really about and what the world is like - yet, they try to teach it to you. To them, it looks like they’ve figured everything out. They consider themselves ‘veterans of life’ - having lived it for decades surely they must have cracked the puzzle by now, right? But what we forget when we look up to our parents for truth and guidance, is that they themselves were once in our shoes, born oblivious into the world, brought up by their own parents who likewise didn’t know anything.
It is like a cycle of amnesic people trying to explain where they left the keys to their car so you can go get them while forgetting that they never actually owned a car in the first place. You cannot explain to someone something you yourself do not understand, just as you cannot give away that which you don’t have.
It is a disturbing thought that family, the mechanism that is supposed to support your best interests and help recognize your true self, the mechanism that should seek to operate in honesty, sincerity and the willingness to change, has become an indoctrination mechanism. The majority of families, not just a few but the majority are dysfunctional and toxic.
Just imagine this for a moment.
We consider family to be one of the noblest things we can value. “Family is all that matters.” “Family is where life begins and love never ends.” “People will come and go but family is forever.” You would probably agree that if there is one thing you can place your trust in, something that can provide support and an anchor in this confusing world, it is your family. And so if the very thing you perceive as rock-solid is actually dysfunctional and not aligned with your best interests, then your whole foundation for life is compromised.
Family is a transactional system. Your perception of the world is grossly shaped by your childhood. During that time you were conditioned to behave in ways that pleased the environment; every time you did something that was not approved of you were rejected and denied love, and every time you did something that was approved of you were given that love. We like to say how family is unconditionally loving. But if you were to go against the family’s established values and systems of belief, you’d soon find out that that love was never unconditional.
You abandoned yourself, you literally denied aspects of yourself, so you could get love from mommy and daddy, so you could get their approval and feel like you belonged. And every aspect of yourself that was rejected by your family, you’ve grown to hate, suppressing it deep into your shadow self, so that today you have no idea it's even there.
You could be highly artistic, but you don’t know it; as a child, that trait was beaten out of you and replaced with something else, perhaps valuing ‘hard work’ and an ‘honest job’.
You could be a highly confident person, but you rejected your assertiveness, as your family believed that little girls or boys should be seen, but not heard.
You could actually have so much love and compassion in your heart that it could heal away any suffering you may have, but you’ve suppressed that aspect of yourself, put up a wall around it to protect yourself from your father’s constant criticism and negativity.
The problem is that you could be in denial about this. Your parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts certainly are in denial about it. How could anyone admit to themselves, that their family is not perfect? That things don’t work? After all, society, culture and religion feed us this notion that we should value family, that it is a crime and a sin to go against it. “Respect your mother and father and you shall live a good long life.” Respect does not mean enduring your father’s alcoholism or your mother’s emotional manipulation. Respect, both for your parents and for yourself, is setting up personal boundaries, addressing what’s not working and focusing on solving it, so peace and harmony can come.
I am biased to lean more to the negative sides of family due to my own experiences, but there are redeeming qualities to family. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Good and bad are always opinions, never facts. It’s just that there’s so much dysfunction going on and it’s so deeply ingrained that hardly any family in our modern society can be used as an example of a ‘healthy family’. We have no idea what a healthy family even looks like, as we have no examples to look at. The best we have are small tribal communities, living in the wilderness. They did not kill their myths and legends like we did, they did not construct a massive society of illusions like our culture did, and while they might not be as technologically advanced as the rest of the world, they sure are more spiritually advanced. They’re connected to survival in an intimate way. In the wilderness, if all members of the family aren’t working together, taking care of each other and supporting everyone’s best interest, then they cannot survive. It requires everyone to play a part to hunt for food, gather materials and build their home. There is no room, no place and no time for dysfunction. Dysfunction in the wilderness means death.
Your personality is most likely fake. The things you believe in, you did not come up with yourself, nor did you question them thoroughly - instead taking them on faith or for granted. Everybody else around you did the same thing, so you had to do it too, or else you wouldn’t belong, you’d be rejected.
But here’s the thing… your family is but one perspective on the world. If you were born to your neighbors, do you think you’d believe in the same things about the world, about life and yourself? Or would you behave differently?
What about if you were born in a small African village, or to a tribe of hunters in Siberia? How about in a flat apartment in the center of Tokyo? A suburban European town? In the slums of Brazil? Downtown in some US city?
Who you are today is the result of your childhood experiences, the environment you grew up in and the severity of trauma you received. And it’s all mostly fake. You don’t know yourself; the self that you know is not the real you, but merely a mask you constructed, so you received love and acceptance. One simple test is to ask yourself how do you behave in front of different people; are you the same person with your mom as you are with your friends? Do you speak in the same tone with your dad as with your girlfriend or boyfriend? How about a random stranger and your teacher or boss?
You have a mask, a personality, for every person you know; sometimes even multiple masks for the same person. It’s understandable, your parents and society taught you well.
They did not intend to do it, to teach you how to be fake, what they probably thought they were doing is showing you love - in the form they knew it. If your father didn't receive love as a boy, how could he give it to you? Unless he worked on himself to heal his heart and purify his psyche of all his fears and resentments, he could not possibly have given you love and it would be unreasonable to expect it from him. He might have tried his best, but his best wasn’t enough. As a result, he transferred his burden onto you and it is now your duty to solve it in yourself.
Every child is the culmination of their ancestral line; you are the sum total of all the people that came before you. You carry their heritage not only in your DNA but in your heart and in your spirit. The torch has been placed into your hands to heal everyone that had failed in the past, starting with yourself.
Do you ever wonder why each new generation rebels against the old one? It’s because of this healing process. Every child is produced by the old, but he or she is not of the old. With old I mean old belief systems and dogmas, old patterns of thinking and feeling. You are the perfect solution to your parent’s problems, to what they have to solve in themselves to live a happy life. You can see right through them, all their toxic behaviors and patterns, things that they do not see in themselves. They might not realize it, but if they only listened to you, they could heal themselves. And in doing so, create a harmonious, supportive environment for your own growth.
Society is made up of millions of families and families are made up of individuals. You are one of those individuals. It is you and only you that has the power to enact change if you so wish it. It is okay not to value family, it is okay to challenge their established beliefs if you feel those contradict your own. And it is most certainly okay to stand up for yourself, set up healthy boundaries, or, if nothing else works, leave. Yes, one can leave the family. No god, no government and no gossip can ever stop you from doing what’s best for you, what your heart yearns you to do - to live your dreams. And if family stands in the way of those dreams… well, it’s their loss, not yours.
But before you do anything before any action is taken, any change enacted, you need to look inside yourself. Question everything. Everything you believe about yourself, life, the world. Your opinions about money, relationships, education, humanity, society, culture, religion, science. Ask yourself what you believe about these things and what is actually there - in your own experience and the experience of others. Ask yourself what you want out of life. Who do you want to be, what do you want to do, what are the things you find most meaningful.
Question, not in a neurotic skeptical way, but in a way where you’re genuinely interested to know the answer.
Is my family working? Or is there a hidden dysfunction going on, of which I’m not aware of?
Are my relationships with my family members running smoothly, or do I rather avoid them?
Is this person enriching my life, or are they just bumming me out - and are they responsible for it, or is it my attitude?
Am I the one causing pain?
On a final note, I’d like to say that our mainstream notion of ‘family’ is grossly misunderstood. Family, in the broadest terms, is not just your mom and dad, the people you relate to by blood or by name. It goes much further than that. Not only are you related to every one of your relatives, but also to every single person on Earth - you share the same planet, the same ancestors if you go far enough back.
And even then, your family does not stop with the boundaries of our planet. You are made up of the same stuff that everything else is made up from. The elements that comprise your body were forged in the stellar furnaces up on the night sky. You are a child of the cosmos, no less than an offspring of everything there is. And if you are the offspring of everything, that means you are related to everything and everyone.
And you are never alone, nor are you homeless.
Your human family is but a passing thought in the heart of the universe - the one family that truly is forever and one you’ve always been a part of.
And always will be.