Essay, Reflections

(Soul) Family Dynamics… A Tribute

Family dynamics is a subject of much professional research, especially with regard to dysfunctional families, like those associated with alcoholism, mental illnesses, and the cycle of abuse. While much good has no doubt come from such research, it implies that these family dynamics differ in some way from “normal” family dynamics. Having only ever met one person claiming to come from a “normal” family (and he with some chilling tales to tell), I cannot help but wonder if such a thing even exists, and if it doesn’t, then where does “dysfunctional” truly fit on the spectrum of normal to not?…

I only ask this question rhetorically because the answer does not truly matter in my mind; it merely lays the groundwork for what I really want to talk about, and that is family dynamics on a soul level. There are those who believe that a soul, once “created”, is eternal, and that it chooses to wear many forms in the course of its existence. Such people, myself included, believe in reincarnation, in the idea that a soul will choose to live in mortal form over and over again, although the question of why, or for what purpose, is often left open to debate. But for those of us who believe this, most will also accept that we often incarnate in the presence of familiar souls, those we have somehow “known” before, from other lifetimes and other relationships. We may choose to be family, lovers, friends or enemies, but we will encounter one another across the vastness of Time many times.

In my mind I see the Source/One/God as a giant sphere (or perhaps an exceedingly tiny one), made up of interconnected cells held together by some energetic binding. Each of those “cells” is a unique soul, separate and distinct, yet still a part of the whole. During the course of our incarnations we will encounter many of those cells in their chosen forms, and the fact that we are all part of the same whole makes us related. But there are those, closest to us in this cosmic gathering, with whom we have frequent incarnations and interactions with, and those souls comprise our “soul family.” There is such a strong bond of Love and Trust, grown through lifetimes of work together, that it is with these souls that we entrust our most challenging soul “lessons.”

So back to dysfunctional…

I grew up in a classically dysfunctional home, as evidenced by the three most widely attributed dysfunctions: alcoholism, mental illness and abuse. And I grew up hearing that my childhood, my family was an unfortunate tragedy. I even believed it for a long time, owning the role as victim, and using it to justify my poor life decisions. But I have grown now beyond that limited understanding, and as I’ve taken up a “longer” view of my family interactions (one that covers “soul time”), I have come to see things quite differently…

The “lessons” my family and I chose to learn were harsh, and yet, each of us played our role to perfection. When I see these people as soul family, I realize what a wonderful gift they have shared with me. Three of the five of us are now gone from this mortal lifetime, and with today (or yesterday now) being my brother’s birthday, I find myself reflecting again on how lucky I have been…

Consider my mother first. As an active alcoholic (no doubt raised with it) who was psychotic with bipolar tendencies, as a military spouse during wartime who was left alone in the states for long periods of time, as a woman trying to raise three living children while dealing with the ghosts of two who didn’t survive infancy, she was under incredible pressure! She acted out her pain in self-destructive ways, and became abusive towards us children and my father. Many claim she acted selfishly by abandoning all of us, but I cannot help but wonder if that was true. How difficult must that decision have been? To simply walk away, and never look back? To never contact them, or anyone who might tell you how they fared? And yet…

And yet that decision likely saved my life and my sister’s as well. My brother was 8 when she left, but my sister and I were still babies, as yet only partially damaged by the experience of living with her; my brother would never recover from the years he spent with her, and the suffering that followed her loss. But my sister and I did! From that perspective, was her leaving not an act of kindness, the greatest kind of selflessness, an act of courage and love? For all the consequences of living motherless, I know that I had a better chance of survival without her than with her; so I choose to see that primal rejection, that betrayal, as an act of motherly sacrifice and love…

And in the process, my soul has grasped a new understanding of Compassion and Love, while transcending Betrayal and Abandonment…

And my father? Also an alcoholic, non-confrontational in the extreme, always accepting what life had to offer without fighting back… Except once. Because back in the 60’s when all this occurred, single fathers did not get custody of children, even if the mother abandoned them. And single fathers in the military simply did not exist! My father fought the courts, the military, the social welfare system, the opinions of the public, all to try to keep us kids together, while simultaneously dealing with his own sense of loss, betrayal and abandonment, his alcoholism, and his obligations to the military which kept him overseas! For a wuss, which I believed him to be through much of my childhood, he was probably one of the most courageous souls I knew! Of course, I wouldn’t see that until much, much later…

Because my father was also on a path of self-destruction, and while he would ultimately succeed in getting his family together, he would suffer many more losses and many more betrayals. And he would act out his frustration at home, behind closed doors, because what else is family for? But many years later, it would be my father who took the first tentative steps toward sobriety, who would later lead each of us children to the path, and then have the courage to step back and let us make our own choices, regardless of what was best for each of us. And each of us would take very different paths…

And by doing so, my soul would come to understand Forgiveness and Unconditional Love, while growing beyond Victim-hood and Possessiveness…

And my brother? Ahh… my dear brother, so severely damaged by life, but so noble in character! His was probably the most difficult life path, being victimized so young, and so continuously through his life. “Forced” to raise two infant sisters, to keep us together through the long battle for reunification, and then after, being the only reliable parent while still being only a child. Emotionally ill-equipped, scarred, and desperate for help that would never reach him, he fought through most of his life, a silent warrior who never complained, but never healed from any of his many wounds. He taught me three life lessons I would never forget, though I would one day transcend: 1. Never, ever trust anybody, because everybody is out to “get something” from you; 2. Never let anyone on the outside know what is happening on the inside, because if they find out the truth, they will know how to use you (this lesson applied both to hiding our true feelings about anything, as well as our family secrets); and 3. If you’re going to be forced to live in a world where rules 1 and 2 apply, you’d better learn how to drink, and hope you die young!

It was my brother who taught me to drink, and it was my brother who provided the alcohol, until my father took over when I was a teen. It was also my brother with whom I made a pact that we would not live past 40; he honored that pact, but I did not. And the abuse my brother dealt out was just a mirror of his own pain, and confirmation that life was about suffering…

Because I was the youngest, I was the most “protected” in a way. My abuse was more subtle than what the others were put through, and more insidious. Because no one in their “right” mind could believe my father guilty of the crimes I accused him of, nor could my noble brother be guilty, for surely everyone could see how valiantly they fought to keep the family together, how much they loved each of us! And when my own self-destructive behaviors finally brought the authorities to our door, it was a unified wall of denial that greeted them; a sad admission that Lisa had a very active imagination and a tendency to make things up…

But it was my brother who set me on the path I’m on today…

The last time I saw him alive was after a family therapy meeting. He was so drugged and so damaged by his alcoholism, his mental illnesses, and the scars of over-medication and electroshock therapy, that he was barely recognizable to me. We all went out to lunch, where he sat and stared uncomprehendingly at the world around him, until a single spark lit his eyes, and he asked me to step outside with him. It was then he took me by the shoulders, stared deep into my eyes, and I saw that he was more lucid, clear-sighted,and full of conviction than I had ever seen before. Had I not already believed in the concept of a soul, I would have been convinced there and then, for what stared at me through my brother’s eyes was so much more than human; it clearly bordered on Divine! And that being said to me: “Everything I ever taught you was a lie! And everything that you remember is the Truth! Don’t ever, ever let anyone convince you otherwise!”

For several seconds he held my gaze, and then I saw the fog slowly descend again into his eyes…

That was the day I walked away from the mental health system, understanding for the first time that my mental illness, or at least the paranoid schizophrenic diagnosis, was a mask designed to protect my family’s secrets at my own expense. I would come to trust my own perceptions, my own memories, regardless of whether anyone else believed me or not. And when my self-doubt would surface, I would remember that light shining in his eyes. And I would seek, with renewed vigor, that light within my self…

And having, indeed, found it eventually, nurtured it, and watched it grow within me, I have now been able to cast it upon my own history, seeing not the tragedy of my youth, but the blessing of it. For how much was I loved that these three courageous, noble souls would choose to incarnate with me into such difficult circumstances, each of us playing our terrible, tortured roles, so that each of us could grow in our own ways?!

Dysfunctional? I think not! My soul family is strong, united, and fierce in its love and commitment to one another! Like a tree, we come together as separate beings with needs, roots becoming a solid trunk, strengthening and guiding each other to branch out, each in our own direction. But I know we will meet again, as we have so many times before, for we each have much yet to learn about our selves, and about our Self…

And to these three who have passed on to some other form, please know that you are loved and cherished still, and always. I am humbled, honored and grateful to have shared this life with you!


22 thoughts on “(Soul) Family Dynamics… A Tribute

  1. Not even sure what t say. This was a devastating read. Having come from a home of alcholism and abuse, I know some of what you feel, but I suspect my experience would just be the tip of the ice berg for you. So, sorry you wnt through this pain. I hope the “three” are in a better place, resting in piece. I am here for you if you ever need it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ever the knight in shining armor, dear friend! Thank you!

      But honestly, I do not regret my past at all, only that my father was the only one with whom I could share these thoughts before he died. He passed last year, and I was aware of it then, so I told him. But my mother, we discovered, actually died in 1976, and my brother in 1996, long before any of this perspective had come to me…

      But I suspect they know; after all, we participated in the journey together…

      Thanks so much for reading and being here for me!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. writeupmyalleyblog says:

    Wow! This is truly a most inspiring piece. Although it feels sad, I don’t read it as such. I read it as motivational, inspirational, forgiving, beautiful, human, and most definitely brave. I am awed by the way you take a hard knock and roll it around to a positive. I’m awed by your innate intelligence and fluidity with words and brilliance shining from what started as a piece of coal. Thank you for this piece. I needed to read this and give myself a smack on the ass.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. writeupmyalleyblog says:

    You are most welcome, Lisa. I can only hope others read this and gain strength from it. Too many of us run to the hills and hide from adversity, or make excuses. Nothing good comes from that. Really awed. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bonnie says:

    Beautiful Lisa! This is just of many reasons why my soul loves yours. This enlightened perspective of our life’s hardships affords us so much understanding, so much gratitude for the opportunities that are really growth in disguise. If everyone could see our lives in this light, there would be much less suffering in the world. I give you so much credit for seeing beyond the veil of conventional thought and to discard the titles that can keep us mired in victimhood, sadness, and depression. I believe your soul family is joyously celebrating your journey, and your discovering the truth with a capital T. You are beloved.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Courage, beauty, affirmation and forgiveness all in one blog. Keep on keeping on Lisa. In all these blogs you have put out there is a book just quivering to be created.
    I know we come from different sides of ‘Belief’ but you have demonstrated what ‘true’ religion should be all about….in fact just occurred to me from a recent Mass I attended : Faith, Hope and Love (and the greatest of all is Love).
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, dear, dear Roger! You always read, you always share, you always encourage, and your open-mindedness shines as brightly as your empathy! You, too, are a credit to your beliefs, free of the hypocrisy I see so often here at home.

    Thank you for being my friend! And when you figure out this self-publishing thing, you let me know… 😉


  7. Superb post. I could ramble on but I will throw just a few things out there that your post triggered in my mind:

    First: All families and individuals are dysfunctional. Every workplace is dysfunctional with the same dynamic structures going on. A question one can ask is what is the nature of the dysfunction (and there will not be an all-inclusive answer). Another question, and more importantly, is how is that dysfunction and function internalized. [What is considered a functional family dynamic may be negatively internalized by one (or more) of the family members. And so on.] You have seem to have risen above the living with the state of being at the moment of internalization and the on-going experiences looking though that internalization’s goggles. Awesome.

    Second: Going even deeper than the cells, into the world of quantum physics, we find that protons are linked in pairs (at least), that if one happens to suddenly stop, the other one, regardless of vast cosmic distance will instantaneously stop as well (thus “communicating” way beyond the speed of light). Moreover, not only is light both particle and wave, it seems that the building blocks of our cells and more complex structures are also both waves and particles. That we can reincarnate with the memory of lessons to be learned in order raise our consciousness, to connect with those with whom we are familiar is not only not far-fetched, but more than likely true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love reading your comments! They are so thoughtful and provocative, that I learn something new every time. Thank you, sincerely, for that!

      Now I’m going to wander off to work today with these thoughts to contemplate, and I am thrilled. It will likely be the shortest Friday on record in recent memory…

      True story. Today in my meditation, my “message” was that today is about internal work and contemplation; that solutude is a gift not a curse. With most of my “fun” coworkers off today, I was dreading the boredom that would drag the day out… Not a problem now, thanks to you!

      Wishing you a wonderful day, too, sir! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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