What Are Family Beliefs? : Center for Human Awakening BLOG
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Blogs contained here emanate from questions or responses to themes that arose in psychological and spiritual settings – sessions, groups, training workshops, etc. Please note that blog entries 64-166 are drawn from Richard Harvey’s articles page. This retrospective series of blogs spanned over 25 years; please remember when reading them that some of Richard’s thought and practice have evolved since. We hope you enjoy this blog and that you will carry on submitting your psycho-spiritual questions for Richard’s response, either through the form on our Contact Us page or in the ongoing video blog series. Thank you.

What Are Family Beliefs?

by Richard Harvey on 11/15/18


Family beliefs are the shared and collective judgments and prejudices that appear in a family grouping. The family in this context is usually biological in origin – the so-called nuclear family -- though today it often includes step-siblings and partners who may not be biological parents, but who relate to the children as parents and primary carers.

Speaking of her parents and the prevailing mood of lies in the family, a character in a modern novel describes the experience like this: "It wasn't so much any specific thing they said as the whole family atmosphere. It was the air we -- even that 'we' was a kind of lie -- breathed."

The family atmosphere is the experience we "breathed" in and it was, at least in part, the result of the concepts and beliefs held by the family.

Family beliefs may be shared in the sense of conformed to or they may be rebelled against. Either way we are interested in them in Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) because they reveal the client’s life orientation. It is important to see whether we accept or reject a particular belief, but whichever we choose, it may still become a part of us. In fact all the collective events, narrative, and fabric of the family become part of our ancestral heritage, even secrets and personal, private thoughts. This makes therapy sometimes extremely challenging as we try to embrace the client’s whole experience, including only tacitly known facts or suspicions. As SAT therapists we can hold even tentatively offered experiences, sometimes placing them on the back-burner as the emerging life story reveals a place for the smaller details.

Family beliefs are pronouncements about the fabric of life, about human reactions to life events and relationships. They reflect principles and convictions about trust, love, disappointment, certainty, welcoming, belonging, taking risks, dangers, what can be relied on, what is certain to fail – the list seems endless; it is as long as lives themselves and as rich and varied and diverse.

Family beliefs reveal attitudes to right and wrong, to morality, discipline, and effort. They declare what binds the family together, what is of value and what is not. They come from parents, teachers, relatives, friends, and mentors. They arise out of a broad canvas of assumptions and expectations, colored by society, culture, religion, literature, philosophy, psychology, and the prevailing ethos.

They may stem from conventional morals, communal values, old adages, common folk wisdom, superstitions, collective wisdom, and cultural notions. They may have a flavor of our national identity, class identity, local identity, and conclusions drawn from the place we perceive we occupy in the world.

Sometimes they derive from edicts, aphorisms, axioms, mottos, or maxims -- common sayings and folklore. They can be sourced in poetry, folk songs, and pop songs, and reinforced in comedy, theater, movies and other forms of popular entertainment.

Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]

Blog entry #168

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