My curiosity about family started from the first time I went to a friend’s house in the town where I went to my first school, and that curiosity continued throughout much of my life as I always wondered what everyone else’s family was like.
Family life didn’t make sense to me. I had grown up in a family of abuse – my mother married a man when I was young and even though everyone told me how lucky I was to live in such nice home, behind closed doors it was anything but nice. This man was controlling, abusive, threatening and aggressive. We all knew what was going on, but no one spoke of it, it was a closely guarded secret and there was a sense of closed ranks because we were family. Being at home was like living with the devil inside, my life was a living hell. I never slept properly for over a decade as I slept listening to the sounds in the house wondering what would happen next, and I never felt safe.
My experience of family led me to wonder why we have these notions that our family is everything, we have to be loyal to family and we have to stick with our family through thick and thin – kin being the supposed only way, when family life for some is far from a loving, caring experience.
So what exactly do we mean by family? Why do we have family crime and abuse and yet family is a so-called bastion in society that we hold up high and preserve no matter what? Why is it that we don’t question the whole notion of ‘family’?
It is likely that everyone has heard about, seen on the news, knows someone or has experienced domestic abuse or a family crime and it may not be as obvious as we realise – it can be insidious and ‘under the radar’, yet still abuse.
An estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (in the UK)
“I regard domestic violence as the single greatest cause of harm in society”
Domestic abuse is an under reported crime as ‘obtaining accurate prevalence figures is hampered by numerous barriers’: the very nature of domestic abuse can occur hidden from view, and victims can be reluctant to report the abuse.
And whilst domestic abuse is – ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality’. Family violence is also an umbrella term used to describe different types of violence that can happen in families.
‘Although families often function as an important source of nurturance and support, it is also the case that many categories of criminal and antisocial behaviour are rooted in family processes or are directed toward family members’.
“All forms of family violence are illegal and unacceptable” so, why is it that we tolerate, turn a blind eye, or even justify (e.g. on grounds of culture or religion, tradition etc.) family violence and domestic abuse?
In addition, it is interesting how contradictory it is when in articles, books, journals and other information about family crime and domestic abuse we are also told; ‘family is a core social institution that exists in all societies’ and ‘family is about creating strong relationships and providing a sense of meaning and belonging. Families should be a source of unconditional love’.
So which is it? Do families safeguard, care for, and enable family members to grow, to shine, to be well and steady? Or are families nests of abuse, whether explicit or insidious?
How can families be so core in life and so strongly maintained as being a positive influence on our lives when many of the most heinous crimes happen within or by families:
- Paedophilia/child abuse/incest
- Honour killings
- Forced Marriage
- Family/domestic violence
- Female infanticide
- Maltreatment and Neglect – sometimes extreme enough that a family member dies
- Parental or family imprisonment
Added to which are some so called lesser crimes or situations that crop up within families including:
- Women forced to sleep outside family homes when they have their periods
- Family businesses, competition and rifts
- Fights around wills and probate
- Social conditions/expectations that you conform to the norms in your family, or that you must behave in a certain way
For all this we often hear it said that family is about love and that we love our family members no matter what as ‘blood is thicker than water’, and yet whether in family circumstance or other circumstances in life “we even kill each other in the name of love” SB
So if family comes from a long held belief whereby we stick with them through thick and thin (no matter what), and in the same breath we could say that abuse is rife in family life, is there an alternative? Is it possible to have family where there is true love and harmony?
If you had asked me that question 15 years ago I would have said no, it is not possible to have a family that are outside of the usual model of family we have, as in my own experience I had not at that time observed anything other than what I have described above. But I have come to realise that there are families that I now know that are not that model of family that is most commonly lived in society today, as for instance, this family breaks the mould with a new model of family. And this family is the greatest example I know of, as it was the first family that I have experienced that didn’t have abuse, disregard, crime, neglect or imposition in any way shape or form.
More so, “This is not a family out of a fairy tale, free of divorce or issues to deal with, rather this is a family that has consistently placed love at the fore, no matter what it has faced” – a family who have put love into every aspect of family life. I have since also observed other families who have put love as a foundation – true love and not the emotional based love and they too are living without the abuse, banter, false tradition, and disregard.
Having experienced this with others, I have also experienced this more recently in my own life, whereby friends, work colleagues and other people I know are family to me not based on blood, or kin, or doctrines, ideals, beliefs or tradition, but based on a quality of integrity of being with one another, one that makes love and harmony.
In this there is warmth, care, understanding and a quality of firmness, but not the kind of firmness I experienced as a child, but a firmness that holds dear these standards of love and harmony and will not bow to pictures or ideals forced upon us in the world we live in.
So whenever I hear or read about family in the media, in life, nowadays I am clear that true family is not the family I experienced when I was young, or the family that is described in the media (with family crimes or domestic violence for instance). True family is based on harmony and love:
"“The three basic tenets that found and make family true:Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 442
True Family is about love;
It is not about abuse and control.
True Family is about love;
It is not about surnames, blood, skin colour or genes.
True Family is about love;
It is not an intellectual understanding, gathering or the making from an egg or sperm.""