Spring is here and besides the spring cleaning that is helpful for your outer environment, I seem to be continually working with people who are doing some internal spring cleaning.
Being a licensed family therapist and therapeutic coach, I never expected to be assisting so many people who need to put their F.O.O.T. down and get the F.O.C. up! I thought it would be all about helping family members create more healthy dynamics together. Instead, I seem to be more often working with adult clients whose families, and often their parents, are so toxic and abusive that there is little to no hope of creating a healthy dynamic.
Many years ago, and I’m sure I didn’t make it up, I started using the term ‘Family of Origin’, especially since not everyone grows up in their family of origin or stays in a family of origin or birth family. I often also talked about people creating a ‘Family of Choice’ meaning framing those people who are not our blood relatives (and maybe some who are) who you choose to consider your family when your family of choice cannot or will not meet your healthy relationship needs and boundaries.
Because I specialize in trauma related issues, I end up seeing a lot of adult clients who have really abusive and toxic families of origins where there really was no hope of healthy relationships since the other members were not willing or able to do their personal growth worth and were really just stuck in blame and their own trauma and woundedness. This toxicity and abuse made me add another letter (because if you read my musings, you will remember that I like to play with words and acronyms)—T for Toxicity and/or Trauma. So it was a natural progression to start discussing Family of Origin Toxicity/Trauma or F.O.O.T.
Sometimes, the only thing you can do is put your F.O.O.T. down both figuratively and literally. When my clients do this, and stop believing that they HAVE to stick with abusive people because ‘they’re family’, they get better. They can use the freed up energy from not fighting an abusive system to focus on building their Family Of Choice. Often, they already have some people in their life who can be in this new family.
Someone I used to be connected with on social media so often had such nasty comments on her own posts that I approached her directly and asked why she tried to ‘discuss’ things with such people instead of just blocking or deleting them since they were clearly not ‘friends’. She replied that ‘well, they’re family.’ I told her she deserved to be treated better, especially by family.
Why should we allow family members to be more abusive to us verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually than any stranger would get away legally? Family members are supposed to be those who care for us, despite our imperfections and not attack us not only publicly on social media but directly in person or indirectly in other ways.
How you allow people to treat you is a reflection of self worth. I often bring up the concept that ‘we train people how to treat us’. This is true for adults, not for children who have little to no power over how grown-ups treat them. But if we take that child’s mind into adulthood (which is easy to do when you are abused, neglected or in toxic environments as a child), we will forever remain stuck not claiming our power as a human with an inalienable right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Laws for prisoners of all kinds around the world lay out the rules for a minimum of decency. Anyone who can’t abide by at least the standards that imprisoned people receive should be cut out of our lives with a sharp knife. This may sound harsh but the world is so full of toxicity, abuse and trauma, if we let it go on for one minute too long, it contributes drop after drop to suffering in this world AND it is extended to all subsequent generations. I see the patterns continually generation after generation and it can only stop when each of us chooses a different path.
Traumatized people make traumatized decisions and relationships. So, when a client decides to put their F.O.O.T. down, we do the transformational work so they can do so with compassion for those in their family of origin that cannot, for whatever reason, do the personal work to heal their own wounds. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is say goodbye. My client is then affirming life and ending a pattern that will not go on into future generations.
Since we all are social creatures that do best when loved and supported by a group, we must have a family and a Family Of Choice can fulfill our needs. I coach people to be explicit with those already in their life about being ‘in’ their F.O.C. and have them go out and look in their network or new networks for their parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. More and more people are living in intentional ways and even in intentional communities because it is literally life saving to put down the F.O.O.T. and get the F.O.C. up.
Families of Choice create new holiday rituals, new birthdays, new vacations, new day to day life with their family of choice. Fortunately, there are so many others out there who do not want or can’t be in relationship with their F.O.O.T. that they also are happy and willing to get the F.O.C. up. They also need to do the relationship work- building communication, emotional intelligence, and resiliency skills so that when inevitable conflicts arise, they don’t just stomp away from each other and think they will ‘just’ go find a new F.O.C. Getting the F.O.C. up means commitment—to doing your own personal work as well as asking others to do theirs and sticking with it when it’s hard, getting outside support whenever necessary and the reaping the rewards of staying in a healthy dynamic.
None of this is easy work. Cutting off a F.O.O.T. is difficult and requires help for most people as they have a lot of grieving to do, as well as dealing with the scars of trauma and toxicity, but all of my clients know it’s worth it in the end. Loss and grief are inevitable parts of life, but it’s what we do with that reality which helps us grow and find joy and gratitude again. Our cultural notions that family members can and do treat us however they want without consequences ‘because they’re family’ is something from the dark ages. We can and should demand at least as much if not better treatment that we give to strangers and by law.
When we put our F.O.O.T. down we will get so much healing from our F.O.C. that future generations will not carry this toxicity into their own future relationships and there will be less need to cut off the F.O.O.T. in the future. We can have more peace in our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries and our world then. By putting your F.O.O.T. down, you are paving the path for all to walk on in peace and connection and F.U.N. Let’s not forget about our Fundamental Universe Need!
Putting your F.O.O.T. down usually needs some help from a trusted group or professionals. If you don’t know how to play and have F.U.N. because of the pain of your F.O.O.T., reach out for help. If you don’t know where to start to get the F.O.C. up, reach out for help. You, future generations, and the world itself deserve to not pass on trauma.
Put your F.O.O.T. down today! First, put on some boots you will use to put your F.O.O.T. down in and go out and have some fun in those boots. Go dance, go play, go stomp in some puddles to get ready. It will keep your energy up and contribute to better mental and physical health.
Consider my upcoming healing and wellness retreat with the wild dolphins of Bimini to jump start your transformation. Check it out here: www.YourLifeWellLived.net or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org