"Invent Your Own Healthy Family"

by Robert McGarey, M.A., Executive Director

Counselors and psychologists use the phrase "family of origin" a lot, because our parents and siblings have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves as adults. However, there's another vitally important family that we rarely hear about: our family of choice. As adults, we have the opportunity to intentionally create a new family, composed of the people we enjoy and gravitate to, who share our interests and values, who support us, care about us and help us achieve our goals.

This "family we choose" has an enormous impact on how effectively we can grow. I sometimes have Personal Growth Session clients who have tragically surrounded themselves with a "family" that is judgmental and critical of their thoughts and feelings, that discourages them from trying anything new and ridicules their skills and accomplishments. I have watched as that environment has whittled away their self-esteem and self-confidence so much that they began to feel paralyzed, depressed and vindictive towards themselves, their family and their life.

On the other hand, here at the Center I have the good fortune to watch what happens when people surround themselves with a different kind of family-one that is healthy, honest, genuine and assertive; one that encourages them to grow, psychologically and emotionally. This family of choice helps them learn how to have fewer exasperating arguments, botched relationships and spirit-crushing jobs. It empowers them, teaches them healthy communication skills, builds self-esteem and psychological resilience, and encourages them to pursue their goals in life.

If creating an emotionally-healthy family of choice is important to you, you can start to invent your own by participating in events at the Center. We have around 25 activities each month, and most of them are free. And if you like what you feel here and really want to become involved, you can become a member of the Center. By becoming a member, you get to connect with others who are deeply committed to learning and growing. We'd love to have you as a member if you're willing to work towards communicating well with others and knowing more about yourself, since that's what's necessary in order to successfully build a healthy family of choice. As a member, we suggest that you: 1) explore your own feelings, beliefs, reactions and needs, 2) maintain a playful attitude about yourself and your growth, 3) listen from your heart, 4) risk emotional intimacy with others, 5) speak up when you have suggestions, 6) use I-Statements, 7) speak your truth with love, and 8) be yourself.

More members-only events happen in the fall than during any other season. They include traditional holiday events like baking cookies, Thanksgiving dinner, wrapping Christmas presents, a Christmas Eve non-denominational service, Christmas morning fun, and a New Year's Eve party. If you have been longing to be involved with a healthy family of choice, this season consider working with us to invent your own!