You might be wondering, “After reading that title, what are you thinking?” Oh, my goodness. It’s March 2022. It has been a while since everything was at its best. My family included. (And by the way, “family” in this context can be defined in whatever way resonates with you—family of choice, family of birth, family of creation, etc.)
If you think of something similar, you aren’t alone. The challenges of the past two years are undeniable. It can be hard to see ourselves and those we love as our best when we are looking through the lens of loss, struggle and change. The rewards are well worth it. I invite you all to join me in this exploration.
First, let’s consider the value of envisioning our family at its best, just as we can envision our own best possible self. Our relationships are what give meaning and purpose. When we are in relationship, we can see ourselves as a friend or partner, parent, sibling, or parent. We come to know ourselves and the world through our connections—the kindness offered or received, the lessons learned or shared. The wonder that we feel at the smoothness of an infant’s skin or the joy we feel in the resonance of an elder’s laugh allow us to appreciate, attune to, and remember what connects us. Tuning in to what is good, fun, and resilient within our families, especially in difficult times, helps us reconnect with what already exists.
Next, we must acknowledge what’s hard about envisioning our family at its best. Many of us have experienced the loss of loved ones. Many of us have had to lose loved ones because we are suffering from mental illness, differences in personality, philosophical differences or geographical differences. For a variety of reasons, many of us simply don’t feel the connection that we long for in our lives.
This practice of seeing our family at its best is still possible. This practice allows us to see the good in our family, build bridges to it, and take steps toward experiencing more of it.
There are many positive psychology tools that can be used. We can learn to appreciate each member in our family. We can savor experiences we’ve had together. We can look after our whole-person health. We can fill in sentence stems such as, “Something valuable about our family is…” And we can offer ourselves and our families permission to be human, in all its complicated messiness.
As we navigate these times in which some of us have experienced too much time with our loved ones (parents of preschoolers, I’m thinking of you here), and some of us have gotten too little time (parents with grown children and grandchildren living far away, I’m thinking of you), I invite you to pause and try this practice. Envisioning our family at its best opens the door to experiencing more of that “best” in our everyday life with our loved ones.
Michelle invites you to join her for an inspiring hour of building a family vision. This is part of the WBI/JCC Positive Psychology Hour webinar. Register here.