Do you feel hopeless at times, that you can't ever seem to get a break or that other people just don't understand your life? Of course, no one other person can ever know the shoes you walk in or the pain you feel. While each person's life circumstances are unique, we also know that much of our pain is self-inflicted. What I have learned from my own struggles and from the work I do with others is this: if we are not willing to accept our flaws and embrace our humility, if we are not willing to truly invest in ourselves and replace destructive habits with life-affirming ones, we cannot move out of the struggle. The fast-paced culture we live in does little to help us feel our ONENESS with all people. In fact, it does quite the opposite, by encouraging competition and drama. And so, a very real effort is needed to shield ourselves from the cultural trappings by which we can, at times, feel so consumed.
Our EGO is a very powerful force – it exists to allow us to develop a separate identity because our present society encourages it. When we entered this world, most of us felt at one with other people and with Love. Then slowly, beginning with our own name, we become conditioned by our family and our culture to develop a separate identity, our Ego. We were taught to be good girls and boys, which would earn us approval, but which also quietly eroded our sense of oneness and unconditional love. We learned to compete for attention and love, forgetting that we are essentially precious and good. Slowly over time, our sense of personal power was replaced with Fear – fear that we might not be good enough, smart enough, attractive enough. In Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love, Reflections of the Principles of A Course in Miracles, she writes, “The Ego is quite literally a fearful thought .. our entire network of fearful thoughts, all stemming from that first false belief in our separation from God and one another, is called the ego. Thought separated from love is a profound miscreation. It's our own power turned against ourselves.” And, Eckhart Tolle tells us “anyone who is identified with their mind and, therefore, disconnected from their true power, their deeper self rooted in Being, will have fear as their constant companion.”
For most people, they are so lost in their Ego world that they have no idea they have disconnected from their consciousness. Consumed by Fear and Self-identification, it is virtually impossible to shift toward Love, because our Ego is so busy preserving the status quo. The status quo may not be one that supports our best potential, but because it is familiar, it is to be protected no matter the cost. When this happens and we are consumed by our fears, we often turn to victimizing our Selves by blaming others for our pain (to assume any personal responsibility would jeopardize the Ego we worked so hard to protect). This is a trap, which unfortunately our culture supports. The more we identify with our Ego, the more restless we become and the more we attempt to resolve the restlessness through more attachments, such as material consumption, toxic chatter or self-deprecation.
If instead, we move past our Ego and see how we are all ONE massive life force, many of our fears are stripped of their power over us. “By making this pattern conscious, by witnessing it, you dis-identify from it. In the light of your consciousness, the unconscious patter will then quickly dissolve. This is the end of all arguments and power games, which are so corrosive to relationships. Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within, and it is available to you now.” Eckhart Tolle
Observing the Ego is our gateway to awareness of and then release of Self. This requires a good deal of practice, as identification with the Ego has become so habitual in adulthood.
Be the quiet Observer in your own life and watch where this takes you. Each time you find yourself stuck in attachments, simply sit in this new awareness. Eventually, begin to disentangle your Beingness from your Ego-identification and you may notice some remarkable things in the ways you feel. Just because you were once robbed of the pure love and innocence you arrived with, does not suggest that you are not absolutely capable of reclaiming it.
Release Ego and Embrace Love – it is Who You Are.
The choice to blend two separate families in remarriage is not an easy decision. In most cases, it takes the new family unit several years to develop an accepted, fluid group dynamic in which each person feels comfortable in their new role. Having patience and reasonable expectations at the outset is essential.
While it is already the job of most children, particularly teenagers, to test boundaries, this becomes all the more amplified in the new blended family. In this environment, a strong, solid couple relationship will make all the difference. Couples who are influenced by being popular or by feelings of guilt will emit signals of vulnerability that will be immediately gleaned by the children. These cracks in the new foundation will only fuel any anger or resentment by kids who are feeling insecure or unhappy about the new situation.
Check in with each other frequently, back each other up and keep to higher ground. Managing your emotions, with keen awareness to resist taking any of this personally, will allow you to maintain a broad perspective on the emerging family unit. Sharing your feelings with one another without blaming, creating conflict resolution plans, and developing rules and systems that are open to re-evaluation all help to guide you along.
Another helpful idea is the Family Meeting. Once a month or so, find some time to all sit down and take turns letting each new family member speak and feel heard. It is so important for children and parents to feel that someone listens and cares about how they are feeling. You could even try Reflective Listening, where you repeat what the person has said to validate that you have, in fact, heard them; then ask “Is that right?” to make sure you are understanding and “Is there more?” to assess if they have more to share. Not only will this affirm the shared thoughts and emotions, it will also prevent talking over one another and model good communication skills for their future relationships.
Encouragement and positive language is also necessary for the new family to flourish and grow in trust and love. Criticism between children or between child and parent is abusive and especially caustic to people in transition. Likewise, it is paramount that children not hear negative commentary about the non-custodial parent, no matter the history or truth of it. It will be particularly difficult for children to learn to trust their parents if they are exposed to negative banter.
And finally, don't forget to allow yourself to invite gratitude into your daily interactions, with your partner, your children and all those around you. Sharing how much you appreciate the people in your life goes a long way toward cultivating the blended family you envision.
While the challenges of creating a blended family are very real, so are the rewards and magic of that co-creation. Stay flexible, open-minded and ever humble to the task before you. Sustained awareness of the many messages - obvious and otherwise - that are shared as you journey together into your blended life will be your barometer – pay careful attention to them.
Certified Health and Lifestyle Coach, Sheryl Melanson, partners with people to transform limiting habits into mindful choices that express their values, create action plans and recalibrate their lifestyle to optimal well-being.