Being an Empath in a Toxic Family: Innovation and Empowerment Through Feeling.
As I even write the title of this article, I know this will be the juiciest and most personal I have ever gotten in my public writing. This has been a part of my life that I have yet to bring to the surface, yet find it is part of my strength in how I work with my clients and how capable I am of helping them overcome transformation.
My gratitude for my family is as strong as it would be for any other "perfect" family. I have compassion and understanding, forgiveness and self-preservation in-the-bag because of the lessons I have been gifted through my family of tumultuous loudness. They have been my teachers and my guides, just not in the way they would have liked or expected.
As I am still clearing my own feelings of occasional doubt regarding the separation of my family, I recognize my own emotional body reacting physically as a reminder that it is okay to feel. My body tells me that it is imperative to finally share my story and go deeply into this as others also empathize deeply. I write this with a pain in my neck- literally- purging the physical to navigate my time to share and let go of the burdens that I have been carrying.
Recently, I posted an article about Mother's Day called " A Toast to all Brave Kids who Broke Up with their Toxic Moms." This article was crucial to me being a witness to how many of us truly are out there wondering and feeling alone in this journey.
No more shame.
No more feelings of abandonment.
There are five things I have learned from this journey of walking away that have been so huge and transformational in the steps towards feeling balanced, safe, loved and successful in both business and my lifestyle.
1. Being an Innovator
I am done believing we are the "black sheep" of the family. While we may seem totally different from our family we are quite similar if we allow ourselves to look deeper at the characteristics of our family.
I believe the only difference that I face with my family is that I am okay with connecting to my feelings by evaluating and check-in with myself regularly. I am also very comfortable talking and sharing my feelings before they become something I cannot express effectively.
This is why I declare myself as an innovator. If we really investigate deeply we are not so different than our family in many ways.
If our family members- mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters- set their intentions to connect and express their feelings in a healthy way we would probably be a lot closer to each and every one of our members.
For example, if a family member that thinks it is not okay to speak up when something is wrong and learned to "suck it up" started to transform their perception of feeling things would change drastically. If, all of the sudden, they started speaking up when they felt hurt, not heard, or angry then things would look remarkably different. In turn, the relationship dynamics in the family would shift completely and the ability for exchange would become that much more widened.
Another example is someone in the family constantly not working on self-love and asking the family for validation where that cup will never feel completely full. If that member started to focus on connecting to his or her own feelings of lack and love, the dynamic of “neediness” would then also change.
While we all have our shit, it is important to a. recognize that it is our shit and no one else’s and b. be working on ourselves. We cannot help anyone. We cannot facilitate change for someone who doesn’t know what his or her issues are. If we have family members who are unwilling to check in with themselves and work on resolving their issues then it is an unsafe space to be around.
2. Our Family is OUR gift.
As much as it is important to hold gratitude for what we learned from being in a toxic family, it is also important to see the gratitude for what they have given us.
Your gift is knowing exactly what you don't want in any relationship, whether family or friends. Your gift is that you have learned how you do not want to be as a family member.
To not only forgive but also see our past as a gift FOR us as a step towards complete empowerment. Instead of feeling as a victim to grave circumstance, I can see the power I received from having the family that I had.
It took me a long time to realize how I was grateful for the yelling that I received because it taught me that yelling is never necessary AND that I can walk away from anything at anytime.
I am grateful for them. They were the BIGGEST lessons I have ever received in life and the universe chose to give these lessons to me because I am resilient and strong enough for them.
I am grateful for being a witness to my power and resiliency.
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3. Family is Everywhere.
I don’t believe in that clichéd line, "blood is thicker that water" when regarding family and creating relationships in life. I have built some amazing relationships with people I know will be there for me for the rest of my life that are not blood related. They are people of their word and people that have so much love to give that I feel honored to be in their presence.
Secondly, I believe the universe gives you exactly what you need all ways. When I took the leap of faith in walking away from my toxic family and learning how to give myself love fully and deeply I was immediately given a second family. Both my fiancé’s family stepped up and an entirely new family in Mexico as I was traveling showed me what a healthy family of love looks like.
The universe not only showed me the sympathy and support of friends but a family dynamic that I was seeking. I met a father figure that was compassionate and listening and understanding that wanted to show me how to build things and saw my strengths without shooting me down. He saw and respected my gifts and didn't lie or manipulate for any of his benefits. He was there.
I was shown even more recently by my extended family what it looks like to be listened to and heard without yelling or misunderstanding. I cried and was not attacked for feeling. I was given hugs and welcoming with deep empathy. It was overwhelming in all the good ways.
I have been given multitudes of women role models that are empowering, balanced, compassionate and loving without making me feel wrong. I have not been yelled at since I walked away from my family and it feels amazing.
4. Self-love Inspires and Inspiration is the Key Towards Universal Progress
To go deeper into self-love and inspiration, well, nothing says self-love like setting serious boundaries!
While I am still growing from my relationship with my family I have realized it is most important to be in my highest space to continue being the awesome inspiration that I am and as I was meant to be.
I have read countless books on how to deal with different personality types, married the "four agreements" into my daily practice, and even studied nonviolent communication.
I had this little voice in my head for a long time telling me, "Brook, if you can communicate with your family then you can communicate with anyone."
I let my obstructed theory beat me for a long time, thinking I would only be the perfect and inspiring coach if I could somehow solve the disparate truths of my families' chosen dynamic. I had shame around the fact I was a coach and bodyworker that did not have a positive relationship with the people that knew me the longest. I allowed myself to continually try new tactics and get closer to my family, thinking there must be a way we can grow together.
I even let that truth take me so far as to try to build a tiny home on the same plot of land with my family!
Woah, talk about bringing forward my shadows and old shit!
Choosing to be with my family gave me the strength that I have today. Through diversity I was given knowledge, truth, wisdom, empathy, and the greatness that I am able to inspire.
After reading about my personality type finally something hit me hard too. In reading about the ENFJ-A -which is what I am- I read ...
"They are empathetic sometimes to the point of being over-involved, and can become exhausted if they are surrounded by too much negative emotion."
- The Art of Speed Reading People.
That is the moment that I was finally gifted with the freedom. I realized that self-preservation was the only way that true inspiration would happen. It was time to set boundaries and build self-care into my life as a priority. Finally, knowing that the boundaries are the best way that my family and I can communicate, I was able to walk away with less doubt.
After stepping into my power of self-love, the shifting finally began and steadily rose quickly. Now, that I am not being told over and over how I am not good enough, I am able to be good enough for me all the time!
I get massages weekly, I give at least 50% of the day to me and I give 100% of my energy when I am with my clients because I give so much to myself. I am able to see such transformations because I am no longer exhausted ever when I dedicate such a priority of self-love and care into my life, with NO exceptions.
I am able to own that I actually live my life for me instead of avoiding drama and in doing so I get to be the leader in self-preservation, listening to your heart, and showing how successful you can be when you do so.
5. Suffering is not necessary for life.
We get hung up thinking that if we can endure the suffering something will come out of it. As if suffering is the only way towards epic life lessons or some piece of mystical gold that solves all the despair we put ourselves through in the first place.
I used to think that, too. If I could suffer through the drama of my family I would somehow be better for it.
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I also saw that I didn't know how life could even look without it! I was in it for so long I had only known what life looked like with the suffering. It took a long time to allow myself to dream and think big without putting myself down for it, thinking it was unrealistic or that something bad could happen.
When you live in a land of worry of future suffering or emphasis on past suffering you are not making space for abundance or love into your life.
The more we allow ourselves to live a life without suffering any longer the more we can create a complex diagram of what that looks like in reality.
If you don't even give yourself a chance to believe it is possible, it definitely won't become a reality.
I believe that suffering is inevitable, but never serves to be the focus. If I am either focusing on suffering as a future worry (creating the possibility/intention towards suffering) or my past suffering (not allowing myself to feel empowered by my gifts in a positive and strong way) I am adding power to suffering itself.
It is hard to make space for creativity and empowerment when you are worried you are going to do something bad, or be broke, or be alone. It is much easier if the belief that abundance is not only deserved but also possible that you can play and have joy in life.
After sharing all of my shadows with you, I know this is an important step to not only my healing, but also, us coming together knowing we are not alone. We are in this together. We are all learning how to love ourselves deeper. Sometimes, making big steps, like setting boundaries with family, is part of the journey of self-care and a joyful life.
As someone who loves to witness amazing transformations in others I invite you to join me on the journey of self-preservation. We can inspire greatness in each other when we pull all the masks down and reveal our naked vulnerabilities. That is what I chose to do in this article and what I urge you to do if you are seeking expansion in any way.
You can be an inspiration, but you can't help anyone. They help themselves - and if they don’t want to change or be helped, it is important to walk away before you allow your self unnecessary suffering and pain.
You deserve love.
You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to be your authentic self without self-doubt.
You are love.
With infinite love and infinite gratitude,
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