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  • Fe Robinson

Understanding your family's unspoken language

A colleague described beautifully to me the other day the power of unspoken communication in families.

You know…the looks. The sighs. The eye rolls. The silences. The walking away. Or crowding in. The body postures. The facial expressions.

Many of us grow up in one family of origin, others move through several families in the course of their childhhod. Either way, in each family with time we learn the unconscious rules by which we are expected to live, and the consequences if we act in unexpected ways. As the patterns embed it doesn't take much to communicate when the usual pattern has been disrupted, as we have all learned the steps in advance the dance can be subtle. Words may not be needed!

So many familial patterns may suit and support us, they can empower us to be our best selves and thrive in the world. And yet, this is not universally the case. Sometimes patterns squash us into behaviours that do not feel like us at our best, and the patterns may hurt and undermine our well-being. Not every family functions well after all.

So what to do? Mindfulness is hugely useful in family interactions. Noticing your internal responses, and the things that evoke them can be powerful, and put you at choice about when to dance the usual steps, and when to try a new rhythm.

First though, we must notice. The good thing is that patterns repeat, what we miss one time we may spot the next time around.

Then, we can choose our actions. Do you comply and resent? Or get defiant and lash out? Or do you point out, compassionately and firmly what you notice, and choose to no longer dance that dance?

This is complicated stuff, and it can take time and self-compassion to unravel. For support, consider seeing a qualified psychotherapist to help you come to know more of your authentic self.


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