Managing My Energy Within Family Dynamics
I have been paying a lot of attention to my energy lately--what builds it, what sustains it, and what drains it.
It used to be that I'd often feel drained after teaching or practicing yoga. When I mentioned this to my mentor Greg, he gave me the advice to examine why this was the case. I quickly realized my ego was wrapped up in my teaching, and I often pushed too hard in my practice. Thanks to those realizations, I have remedied those problems, and now I almost always feel energized after teaching and practicing.
It seems I still have much to learn when it comes to managing my energy within relationships, however.
I recently spent three full days with a family member who is going through a tough time. It was heart wrenching to see her suffering. I wished I could have taken away her pain, but all I could do was listen, give hugs, and “hold space” for her emotional process.
But after three days, the act of doing so left me feeling very drained. This got me wondering, why? After all, I would much prefer to be the kind of confidant that can hold space for loved ones while maintaining my own well being.
After some reflection, I realized this less-than-desirable outcome had its roots in family history. Like many families, mine went through a bit turmoil when I was growing up. In order to cope, I developed some unhealthy relationship dynamics. For instance, I took the role of the strong, stable person in the family, even though I was the youngest child. I often felt I needed to be secure no matter what, as the emotional storms of others raged around me. I was so successful in projecting this stability that other family members felt they could lean on me in times of need. But I was only a child, so I really wasn’t capable of taking on such a role.
So when it comes to family, my pattern of thought is that I must always be there, be strong, and take on others’ problems in an attempt to relieve their burden. In yoga philosophy, this mental tendency is known as a samskara, and it's exactly the type of thing we try to overcome with our yoga practice.
So as a grown adult and yogi, I’m ready to see beyond this particular samskara. It’s time to create new, healthier relationship dynamics. Perhaps I need to accept that trying to take on my loved ones’ problems is neither appropriate nor effective. Perhaps I need to be honest about my capacity to be “the rock”--maybe it’s not as great as I like to think it is. And that’s ok.
Though I’m not yet sure what this healthier dynamic will look like moving forward, I’m grateful I’ve had these realizations so I can start to change for the better. I think learning how to more effectively manage my energy in regards to family relationships will make me a better friend. I think it will make me a better teacher as well—the kind of teacher a student can confide in if she wants. I think this is the first step in learning how to be a REAL rock, not just someone feels they must stand firm out of obligation.