Why should I thank my ancestors? ~ Pamela

Pamela, Many cultures, especially the Asian and Native American traditions, are grounded in reverence for their ancestors. These cultures are keenly aware that it is only through the sacrifice, choices, and experiences of thousands of years of ancestors that we sit here today. We are the highest expression of our gene pool because we have survived. All of the dominant genes of our past are expressed in our presence, thanks to the ancestors who came before us. Sadly, our fragmented nation has become disconnected from a deep awareness of the part our ancestors play in our culture. Being "self-made" in our culture is hallowed, but in fact none of us are truly "self-made," and would not be here without the lives of our ancestors. Take time to give thanks to grandmothers and grandfathers and those before them for giving life. You may want to make a special display of old family photographs and mementos to keep your ancestors close to your heart.  

Why are family secrets harmful? ~ Joseph

Joseph, Family secrets are family lies. Dishonesty is not just what one says verbally, but also what is held in silence. I have always lived by the statement "Secrets kill and the truth heals." A family secret is like a hidden ticking bomb just waiting to explode. The family constructs a life around the impending time bomb. The family secret may be the adoption of a child or the sexuality of your favorite uncle or the rape of your mother or a mental illness or addiction in a family member. Whatever the secret, it causes separation and suffering in a family. There is an energy to a lie that each member of the family sidesteps in fear of an explosion.

What is shunning? ~ Lia

Lia, Shunning is an ancient practice that is still used today in many cultures, and humans have an innate fear of it. When a member of any group disagrees with the norms or the values of the family, the family may expel that person from the group. The Amish and other religions use this practice to maintain control of the group. In the animal kingdom, shunning can mean certain death. When an animal becomes disabled in the wild, the herd will shun the animal, and the immune system of the shunned animal immediately changes. The animal risks death in isolation. The animal may die, because in a state of isolation it loses the protection of the herd or it may fall to predators in its weakened state. Research tells us that when humans are isolated or shunned by a group, our immune system starts to shut down.

Why might I be afraid of being shunned by my family? ~ Diana

Diana, One of the greatest fears of a family member is shunning. Shunning is an ancient practice where a member of any group disagrees with the norms or the values of the family, the family may expel that person from the group. When a family lives with secrets or dishonesty, most of us will stay in our dysfunctional family because of the pain of shunning, rejection, and isolation. Many of us will walk on eggshells to stay in a family of secrets and pain rather than suffer the consequences of rejection and abandonment. In some families it is very risky to tell the truth. We all want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated, especially by our families. When we begin to question our family values or our family's religion, we risk losing the adoring, accepting looks from those we love. We innately know this as small children. We begin to live secret lives and to keep the secrets of our own truths. Children become compliant for survival. They survive with the love and protection of their family, and without it they could die.

How can I develop an honest relationship with my family? ~ Juliette

Juliette, There are simple ways to help develop honesty in your family. Research continues to reveal the positive psychological virtues fostered by simply eating dinner together as a family. You create a forum for the cultivation of honesty and vulnerability when you take the time and commitment to celebrate food and share stories with each other. Each holiday is an opportunity to teach your children about the value of honesty. As you spend holiday time with other families, neighbors, and friends, you have the chance to observe, listen, and foster your children's honesty about their experiences. This can create the basis for a lifetime of rich, loving memories. Many of us do not have a biological family rooted in honesty. We are then challenged to create a nonbiological family where we can live in honesty. You can seek family in your community through special interest groups such as animal rescue groups, twelve-step programs, yoga and meditation groups, or gardening enthusiasts. Celebrate holidays, rituals, birthdays and losses with your supportive family. Anything is possible when we create a family environment where everyone is supported and loved in their journey to honesty and truth. Like an underground spring, the pressure is too great to keep it from spilling out sooner or later.

How can I find joy in my community? ~ Maggie

Maggie, The neighborhood you live in can be a source of great joy. People love to organize communities around different needs and interests. Please take the time to explore your passions, and then reach out to find people with common interests. You can discover a new family in community. There are infinite possibilities for healing and joy in community. We have an article with even more tips on how to find joy in your community that may give you more tips and ideas you haven't thought of as well.

How can I make sure my family has happy holidays? ~ Lilly

Lilly, Holidays are occasions that instill optimism in a family. No matter what happens in a family during the years -- deaths, divorces, arguments, or estrangements -- holidays create the opportunity for hope, new beginnings, and healing. Don't allow holidays to become stale and rote. Weave new traditions into the fabric of your holiday rituals. Try new food, decorate with new colors, invite new people, or go to new places.

Is optimism genetic? ~ Elliott

Elliott, Science tells us that optimism is actually a component of our deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). You can look back to your ancestors and see the imprints of optimism. About half of your optimism comes from your DNA and half comes from your environment. But if you weren't born with optimistic DNA or didn't receive doses of it in your environment as you were growing up, it is not too late. You can learn how to become optimistic.