Holding the Vision of who you are

The first thing I recommend to people whenever they meet with difficult family members that exhibit toxic behavior is to maintain their physical and emotional safety. This, above all other skills, is what enables us to put a stop to abusive remarks or actions that leave us drained, depleted, confused, or worse. But there is another skill that has been emerging more and more, with people in the support groups, that has proven to be helpful to us. This skill ensures that we continue to keep our focus, and establishes and reinforces our identity. The concept I speak of is to hold the vision of who you are.  

Too often, when we meet with family members, like siblings, there can be a pressure to regress back to past roles we had with them as children. Be it due to what they say or do, or due to some past responses that we may have had that end up resurfacing. After such short interactions, we may say to ourselves that we somehow regressed, and get down on ourselves for having bitten the hook with some remarks that they may have said about us or to us.

And yet, we can be free to be ourselves with any other person. Most of us know ourselves to some degree. With friends, we may bring out our attributes, our strengths, our vulnerabilities, our voices, and what we seem to enjoy. Oftentimes, we feel validated by the people we choose to have in our lives precisely because they like us for who we are. Nevertheless, we have a harder time keeping this vision of ourselves when we interact with our difficult sibling-s. 

So here is the challenge: Simply, to be ourselves. To keep being the person we are. Asking ourselves: “How am I when I’m enjoying myself?” “How do I act when I’m in a non-threatening environment?” Let yourself bring out these qualities of you, to remind yourself that you can still make this choice. This part of you doesn’t need to go away even if you’re busy making sure you stay safe. Both of these can co-exist together. If you see yourself as more inquisitive with your friends, then bring that level of interest into your conversations with some family members. If you like to laugh, bring in lightheartedness around certain family members. That way, you’re respecting your nature, your personality, and just how you know yourself to be.

This can take a few times before you get the hang of it, and that’s fine. Once you start to put this into action, you may well find that it makes things easier to stay connected with the “You” that you know yourself to be in challenging situations with your sibling. Most of all, by doing so, you’re prioritizing your feelings, and making sure that anyone who attempts at misconceiving your identity will not succeed at thwarting the wonderful person that you know yourself to be.  

So while it’s good to keep an eye open for when you need to protect yourself or bow out, be sure to continue to be your true self and hold the vision of who you are if and when you choose to meet with your sibling or your family. After all, you are so much more than what your sibling thinks of you.

** So let me know how you do with this in the comments section! Also, please feel free to reach out if you need some help in developing ways to know yourself better. Therapy can serve us well for reasons just like this. **

Ali-John Chaudhary is a Registered Psychotherapist with offices in Ontario and Quebec. He helps clients from different parts of the world going through sibling estrangement issues, and produces YouTube videos on the same subject, with author Fern Schumer Chapman. He also hosts a twice-monthly online support group and an intensive workshop both on zoom (see groups) for those looking to empower themselves with this rarely discussed subject.

2 thoughts on “Holding the Vision of who you are

  1. Heading to a few family weddings this spring, I will try this and will let you know …how it went …I will re-read the morning of the events ….wish me luck…thanks for the advice


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