“Family, where life begins, and love never ends.”
It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? This is on a plaque my wife bought. It’s in our downstairs powder room. It’s a great sentiment. But, it certainly doesn’t resonate with everyone. This week in the Afterlife Topics group on Facebook, someone asked a question about soul planning. This person could not believe she would have chosen the family she was born into. “Was I high at the time?” she asked. “Why would I do this to myself?”
This weekend I watched Rocketman, the movie about Elton John’s life. There are familiar themes in his biopic. Maybe that’s why it resonated with so many people. First, there is the relationship with his father. Elton’s father is a cold man who cannot show love. This lack of the ability to show love isn’t uncommon among men of a particular generation. But, children crave a parent’s love, the way a plant needs sunshine. As I watched the movie, I thought of the “father wound” that John Eldredge wrote about in his book “Wild At Heart.” Reading that book nearly 20 years ago now gave me insights about myself and my family dynamic that were huge leaps forward on my road to discovering myself.
Eldredge writes about how boys seek the approval of their fathers. We expect the father to show us how to be a man, and most importantly, once we have achieved that to acknowledge it, to tell us how proud they are of us, to christen us “a man.” In the film, there is a scene where years after Elton has left home; he returns to his now-divorced father. He’s worth millions of pounds. Elton’s songs are topping the charts. Even Elton’s much younger half-brothers are fans. The longing in Elton’s face as he awaits any sign of approval from his father is palpable. The tears he cries as he leaves dejected again are tears we have cried in secret. In case you’re wondering, we do not outgrow this need. Men can carry this craving, and this wound with them for a lifetime. We often feel like boys pretending to be men because we never got this validation.
Another theme in the movie is imposter syndrome, which is incredibly common among celebrities and often leads to destructive behavior. They feel unworthy of all of the money and adoration. Often they never got this from the people who matter most to them, parents and family. The more worship they get, the more unworthy they feel. They think, “If you knew the real me, you wouldn’t love me.” They end up in tremendous pain, which they try to numb with alcohol and drugs.
Going Back to The Beginning
We return to family for affirmation, at times. As shown in the movie, even as a grown, wildly successful man, Elton wants that approval from his father and his mother. As human beings, we seek the approval of other human beings. Having this desire for affirmation from others is necessary for socialization to work. This is how we learn to fit into a functioning society Family is where we get this first socialization and validation.
It’s natural to return to family for this, even as we get older. After all, it’s where it all started. But, what we often find is family is there to teach us another lesson. That lesson is continuing to need this outside validation is fleeting and fickle. fleeting.
The Lessons from Family
Real, lasting self-worth comes from within. When we find that family doesn’t give us the validation we crave, this is where we have the opportunity to turn within. We learn to rely on ourselves.
As I pondered why are we born into the families we are born into when they can cause us so much pain, I thought about it in terms of soul growth.
In the groups I hang out in, the people who are digging deep, the ones trying hard to discover who they are and why they are here, more often than not are the black sheep of their family. They grew up feeling like square pegs in round holes. They were never quite loved and accepted for being just who they were. But, this discomfort prompted them to become the shining lights they have become. Maybe that’s the answer to the young woman’s question. She knew that family would be a catalyst in her development. They played a crucial role in making her who she is today. No, you weren’t high when you chose your family. There was a method to your madness.
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