Family: what do we think of when we hear the word “family”?

download (2)  Does it evoke positive emotions, negative feelings, or a mix of contradictory reactions? Family is about attachment; emotional attachment to other people. Family can mean many things. It is the elemental social unit of human beings. Family, in a basic sense, generally begins with the biological connections to relatives from our childhood – namely parents and siblings, if we have them. Some people add grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles to this list, with significant memories of a loved one’s contribution to their well being. Family can also be romantic partners, whether married or not.

Today’s modern families are often blended with a combination of parents, stepparents, siblings, stepsisters or stepbrothers, half-siblings shared with one biological parent, and even step-grandparents as well as grandparents, aunts, & uncles. Some individuals make the decision to pick and choose with whom they interact from a family perspective and some individuals are not connected to biological relatives, either because they didn’t have that choice, or because they made a choice to reduce or eliminate interactions that felt harmful to their well-being. Essentially, family is about whom we have a sense of attachment and connection. Expanding to a community of supportive others, whether friends, neighbors, co-workers, or people to whom we share common interests, can enhance mental and emotional well being.

Human beings are social creatures in need of connectedness in order for their lives to be experienced fully. Social psychologists study this aspect of humanness and often state that all psychology is social. Either way, family can be a loaded word – as we impose on that word all the beliefs and experiences that come from this primary social unit of human bonds. Counselors encourage individuals to consider both their family of origin relationships and their family of choice relationships, while exploring how to best be in those relationships. Take stock of your relationships today and choose an action, however small, that will enhance your life and a healthy connectedness to others.

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