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Creating Family

July 2, 2013

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In the Behavioral Health field much time is spent looking at our families, both our families of origin as well as our current immediate families: at our relationships with our parents and siblings, at how we were raised, and how and if we continue these patterns, for better or worse, in our current relationships.   Family, in our culture, is typically defined by blood lines and genetics, which doesn’t allow us for much choice in the matter, but of course, marriage and adoption expands a bit, who is included in “family”.

The other day a friend commented that my son looks “so much like his mom”. I don’t think she was aware of how much this touched my heart. Just a few weeks ago, this son, who of course, knows that he is adopted, was hurt by his friend’s mother, commenting that we look “nothing alike”. And so what prompted one person to see our “likeness” and another to notice that perhaps we are not “related”? I can only theorize that my friend possibly recognized some similarities in our mannerisms and behaviors, naturally developed from shared experiences, rituals and love, and yes, “family”.

Much of our preventative work in Vista Hill SmartCare includes identifying and expanding our patients’ and clients’ circles of support. We look to “family” first, and hope that there are supportive, encouraging family members they can turn to. Even if in the past there have been challenges and difficulties in these family relationships, we, and our patients, may choose to continue to keep these family members in our lives for the positive things they continue to provide. Alex Hamby suggests that, “we are but what we do with our story”. Rather than blaming our present on our past, we can use it to create something better for ourselves. This may mean continuing to include those family members, and/or creating new “family”.

We can look to the next circles, those people we purposefully choose to include in our lives because they enhance, encourage and support us in various ways. These are those special people that we also consider “family”. But, we should be cautious and selective with our friends as well; if we’ve continued to include negative, energy draining, and non-supportive people in our circle of friends, it may be time to “feng shui” our friendships!   We have the choice, each and every day, to include those in our lives that are positive, uplifting and supportive, and to gratefully include them as “family”.

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”
― Trenton Lee Stewart

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Pamela Sachs Bryson, LCSW

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