At some point, you have to reckon with your behavioral patterns and beliefs from childhood. For most people, that means dealing with their family issues.

In many respects, people are dealing with family issues from day one of their spiritual journeys. That is because if you were raised in a family situation, then you created a whole lot of invisible and unconscious beliefs by following what your family was doing. If you didn’t have a family growing up, you still absorbed a lot of ideas and copied a lot of patterns from the people around you at the time. Any way you look at it, you’re going to end up doing a lot of spiritual work on the stuff that happened and got learned when you were young because all of that forms your mental and emotional foundation. That foundation dictated to you most of what you thought was possible to do or be, and the levels of your life all got built off it. Now, it’s time to take down the “family house.”

The History of Family

While I haven’t done much research on the history of families, a couple of things do seem to be fairly evident. One of which is that family was central to survival. This is especially true when we’re less than 5 years old and can’t do anything for us. It’s extremely likely that we would die if we did not rely on our families to feed us, protect us, clean us up, and so much more. This is a fundamental human truth.

However, in centuries past where there weren’t social safety nets–and for many societies in modern day as well–family was the social safety net. There was no unemployment, food stamps, welfare, or anything else to help out. Trying to survive on one’s own in many civilizations and climates was extremely difficult. Having more people around to gather resources, protect you from warring factions, care for you if you got sick, and other additional tasks were extremely important supports to your survival. Being that our survival is one of the driving forces inside of us, relying on family became an unsaid and deeply accepted belief for most people around the world.

Once again, I haven’t researched this, but I encourage you to do so if you need to check into it. As I often say, I don’t have your truth for you, and it is important to be engaged with your growth process. However, I think that what I am saying makes a lot of sense. To get started inquiring about family, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Why do you need family?” See where your inquiry takes you.

Your Family History Unveiled

There’s a lot that goes on in early childhood, and a lot of it isn’t mentally remembered by most people. However, it is emotionally remembered, physically remembered, and energetically remembered. That’s why for many of you going deep into old pain and issues, you may not really have any memories to go on. You’re just working with the upset of your baby self when you weren’t taken care of for a half hour on day, or if you endured long periods of neglect, then there may be a great deal of pain and discomfort arising with no general thoughts. In this way, your healing work addresses things you don’t remember and helps you resolve old pains that have probably influenced you in more ways than you can imagine.

For some of you, I may be getting ahead of this work. The first step is a willingness to unmask the family karma inside yourself. Doing so will invariably challenge a lot of your beliefs about your family members. It is very natural to accept the stories that our parents tell us about ourselves, themselves, and the world. While the teenage years and early twenties bring about an individuation process, there are limits to that process. A lot of the deeper core beliefs stay in tact. A son may affiliate with the Republican party in the U.S. while his father is affiliated with the Democrats, but they both may still cling to a core belief system around right-and-wrong. Thus, that foundation dictates how the son can believe. A lot of the possibilities for understanding life are eliminated by that underlying belief system, and unveiling that is part of a critical process of moving towards greater freedom.

That’s just one small item in a huge list of family behaviors and beliefs to unveil if you want to truly be free and to know yourself.

Opening the Pandora’s Box of Family Issues

Once you start opening the box of family issues, it’s very difficult to close it again. I am sure that some do, but the more free you become, the more you look inside that box. You typically find that you don’t want anything inhibiting your freedom. So you look again and again, and you will very likely find more and more ugliness.

While things like abuse, alcohol addiction, and more are often discovered in the box of family issues, many of the things like the right-and-wrong belief system are much more insidious than they seem at first glance. A lot of that has to do with social norms. In a society that likes to believe in life in very black-and-white terms, a right-and-wrong belief system seems like common sense. It is, however, only one way to view the world, and such a belief system tends to be extremely limited because so much of what happens in life does not really correspond to such a simplistic view point. Is a tsunami that kills lots of people wrong? Not really. It’s a painful event for all those effected, but it isn’t being done maliciously by the Earth. Is helping someone take out their garbage right? I suppose it is a helpful thing, but sometimes, people also need to do things on their own. Helping can sometimes inhibit someone’s growth. The complexity of human life makes belief systems like that inherited from the family extremely problematic.

And the number of family beliefs and issues goes very beyond that example. There are beliefs about how to interact and what is okay to say and not okay to say. There are beliefs about how to eat. So many people don’t know how to take care of their bodies because they inherit such poor beliefs and patterns about eating. There are family patterns and beliefs around exercise, jobs, dating, marriage, children, using utensils, choosing clothing, voting, travel, driving, fighting, entertainment, and everything else you can think of. This is a really big box, and as you go, you may be amazed at how little you’ve consciously chosen your life. You basically have been just doing what you’ve been told to do from the time you were very little right into adulthood.

Entering Your Spiritual Adulthood

Unwriting the Family Code

I am using the term unwriting here because creating new beliefs and patterns tends to happen in response to the old ones. For instance, if your family is very negative, there is a tendency to write a new pattern that says you’ll always be positive. Now you have two sides in your head–one ego self says something critical, and another ego self now says you should be positive inside. This inner war can become truly exhausting.

Thus, we learn to turn towards the family beliefs inside us to break them apart first. We learn to listen to them and look at them without reacting. Non-reaction is one of the most critical aspects of the unwriting. There can be such a strong reaction to do what the belief says we should do or to do something opposing it, and that energy keeps the belief in tact. If you do the opposite of the belief, you’ve already validated and energized the belief’s very existence. Because your action is a reaction, your choices and viewpoint on life is inherently limited.

For example, you love working with your hands, but your family only values being astro-physicists. You become more and more reactive to doing anything mental, not just astro-physics related. So you reject college and other schoolwork. However, that reaction limits your ability to develop your mind. So you don’t go to college because you want to work on cars, and perhaps you may enjoy running an auto body company. But going to college to get a business degree might actually assist you in what you love. You see how a reaction can ultimately stymie our growth or create new problems?

Thus, this individual needs to go within to find peace with this issue of mental understanding. The more s/he becomes at peace with that part of her/him, then s/he can make a conscious choice of what is needed to further her/his passion.

Clearing the Family Imprint and Expectations for Life Work

Family Friction as You Grow

It is the rare family that truly appreciates self development and change. Most families really seem to be predicated on doing what is familiar because–as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog before–what is familiar is considered to be safe. Anything new can be considered a threat. And that sense of threat is deeply intertwined with the need for survival from centuries of social conditioning. Thus, your changes may receive quite a bit of resistance.

Thus, while some of you may have moments of your family appreciating healthy changes that you make, once your inner work takes you beyond what they can understand, you are likely to receive varying levels of resistance. The truly open-hearted family is one that can grow with you, and they can learn from your triumphs. However, most of the rest will not follow you or create their own beliefs based on what they were taught to believe. If they see your change as a direct threat to them, then they are more likely to plan an intervention and try to get you to see a psychologist. If they see your change as unsettling but not immediately threatening, they may leave you alone while still hoping that you’ll go back to the old family behavior patterns and your old role–whatever that was. If they see it as helpful in some way, you may get some encouragement, but as I said, this typically only happens if they can understand something within the framework of their belief system.

Many of you who awaken often spend a lot of time on your own to figure out your issues. It is really helpful to go into issues on one’s own without other people rocking the boat. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes, people awaken and have their families taking care of them. This leads to a lot of family friction at times, but that can also lead to deeper break-thrus. Because you are at the epicenter of where a lot of things went wrong, you can find those tensions and issues inside you extremely quickly. In this way, family is one of the gold mines of the spiritual path. However, this is likely to be extremely uncomfortable for all parties, and if you have an abusive family, I highly recommend finding a new living situation. Enduring emotional or physical abuse is not helpful to healing, and it can cause more new trauma.

Healing Family Issues and Karma

Breaking Free of Layer After Layer After Layer

As you grow, you will very likely be confronted by the many layers of patterns and beliefs your family taught to you. It’s not endless, but it is extensive. As I’ve listed above, your family’s influence on you is considerable. Some beliefs may be more closely aligned to what is true to you than others. A family that is really creative may have supported your interests in art, so there may have been helpful support for you. But it may not be completely supportive, and it may not have had the right discipline for you to thrive. So you have to let go of some of your family’s care-free ways and develop more discipline.

For another example, you may be artistic, but maybe your family only values business and accounting. So you got pushed into the family business of accounting instead of exploring art. Peeling away all the layers to get back to that child part of yourself that wants to draw can take time, and re-developing your life to reflect this truth in your daily life can take extensive work. But if you want to live the life that matters most to you, then this is what is required.

Those who have been traumatized will also have a considerable amount of work. I wish that could be avoided. Although, sometimes trauma drives people to do inner work and find greater freedom than those who have lived too comfortably. It is one of the strange ironies of life.

The Fear of Breaking Free YouTube Video

The Positive Side of Family

I don’t want to leave this topic on the note that all families are inherently diseased. There are plenty of loving and kind families, and I know a lot of my students who are parents are working hard to make space for their children to grow into their own beautiful lights. Many of us do learn very helpful beliefs and patterns, but even some of the helpful ones can often be inhibiting. For example, many people inherit a belief to never quit, and this can help someone have amazing tenacity in difficult situations. But sometimes, life requires us to stop doing something. Thus, a seemingly healthy belief can become unhealthy.

That’s why freedom requires us to let it all go–positive and negative beliefs and patterns. Life is so varied and beyond human understanding that we need to drop into a place of clarity without any predisposed beliefs or patterns. Then we can follow the arising within us as the present moment demands. I know even this sounds like a kind of like a belief system, but all I can do is point you towards that place of pure freedom inside to find out what it is like. See what is believed in that space if anything.

Expanding Into Your Light and Freedom

The more free and loving you become, the more you start to see that family can be a much bigger term than just the people who raised you. As such, you begin to see all of life as your family. You are living in a vast family of consciousness, and this understanding naturally engenders a greater space for love. There are so many people and beings to connect with, and the preference for one specific group of people tends to dissolve away. Certainly, most families won’t understand this. And this isn’t a running away or unkindness towards your family. This is the deepest running towards and embrace there is. To embrace all of life as your family is a space of boundless and limitless love.

I know for people early on their paths that this difficult to fathom, but I can only point you inwards towards your true love and freedom. Yes, many of you had families who helped you a great deal and took care of you when you could not. You can certainly practice gratitude for that, but the greatest way to honor your family as well as the whole world is to open your love to the whole world and all of creation. With the whole universe in your heart, you will always be connected to family in the most profound and beautiful way possible.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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