Here’s How To Connect With Your Family When You’re The Black Sheep

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How To Communicate & Connect When You’re The Black Sheep Of The Family
Family, Self

When you feel rejection from your family of origin or experience isolation for being the "black sheep" what do you do?

Feeling isolated in a family is unfortunately common — especially if you've spent many years feeling like the black sheep of the family; as though nothing you do will ever be right.

In some cases, you can even feel rejection from the family you've married into, and it's them who isolate or reject you.

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Do you know how to deal with social isolating you feel from your family? I’m learning how this works in mine.

I’m blessed — and that’s the word I mean to use — by the family I married into. My stepdaughters are amazing in so many unique and beautiful ways. I’m over the moon about my wife. I’ve never known happiness like this.

But here’s the thing: I’m also the outsider. I’m certainly the fifth wheel, the newest member of the family, the one who’s trying to catch up.

Much of the time on family outings, I’m literally walking behind the rest of them, trying to catch up. But it’s more than that: I’m actually still trying to find a way in — a place at the inner circle of my family.

Much of the time, I feel isolated; some of the time I feel rejected.

So, this question of how to deal with feeling isolated from my family is very personal for me.

And I need you to know right now that I don’t have all the answers … but I’m glad to share what's working for me so far. Maybe it will help you, too.

Weaponized isolation

First, let’s discuss the family that uses isolation as a tactic, either to help heal or to hurt itself. There had better be a good reason to deliberately push parents or grandparents, siblings, relatives, or other extended family members out of the family circle.

When family members get hurt, it’s destructive. When it’s done to protect, it’s justifiable.

If you're being hurt in a weaponized family situation like this, please get professional help. You deserve an active partnership to help stop the hurt.

If you're isolating yourself and/or those you love for protection from a toxic family situation, kudos for your bravery and courage.

In either case, if you would like more hands-on help, please reach out. In addition to professional assistance, your city or county may have resources that can aid you in your specific situation.

For example, you can connect with resources public and private in many counties across America, by dialing 211 from any phone.

Surrender

I mean this in the most altruistic sense possible. When nothing can be changed through my own effort, I surrender. When I cannot impact the outcome, I surrender. To be clear, surrender is not the same thing as giving up.

Here are some examples of surrender:

I can’t make my family walk beside me, so, to be with them, I surrender to walking behind them. It’s the same love either way.

The choice for isolation would be not walking with my family at all, and I want more than that. While I still feel separate, I’m not isolated.

The beautiful thing about surrender is that, with practice, one recognizes how little can actually be changed through effort, and the energy formerly spent in resistance becomes available for more productive tasks.

Do you see how surrender is not the same as capitulation? Stay with it.

Acceptance

This is more difficult than surrender. There can be a “hold your nose” quality to surrender, but acceptance means to take in the whole messy putrid stench of what irks us and love it. Appreciate it.

Most importantly, allow it. Acceptance has a “go with the flow" quality about it.

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For instance, you could try saying something like this:

“I accept you, (hurtful family member) for what you are, without judgment or condition.”

This is “being the bigger person,” but with full knowledge and understanding of the other person’s flaws, faults, limits, and hurtfulness.

It allows for a connection, however poor, to supersede building a protective wall and cutting off communication.

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Given the opportunity, saying these words might also be the trigger for change. Likewise, accepting the other person for who they genuinely are in a judgment-neutral way might unlock their potential in some way.

Choosing connection over isolation is like that, and acceptance unlocks that possibility. Why? Because practicing acceptance is loving of the toughest kind.

Impermanence

Said another way: Everything ends. There’s a temporary sense to the universe. Stars flash into and out of existence, people are born and pass away, and the shapes of the continents from eons ago would be unrecognizable to us today.

A family, regardless of the size of its family tree, is just a random organization of a number of people, some blood-related, some not.

We are all connected in this way … and paradoxically isolated in this way as well when racism, nativism, nationalism, economics, even religionism are used to separate us.

What is permanent is the notion of a connected family of all humans. What is impermanent is that this notion actually informs how you behave toward each other.

If you’re feeling this is Buddhist teaching, you’d be mostly correct. I’m not a Buddhist, but practices that generally make sense to me often turn out to have deep roots in Buddhism. On the other hand, do you see any Christian or Muslim principles at work here?

Conversely, if you belong to an organization of any size, do you see how these three practices might transform that organization? How about politics? There’s no reason why, if families can start trending toward connection, people can’t scale that up to enterprises and governments.

These practices are effective, or they wouldn’t still be in use. And they are in widespread use!

Connection to a family — of any kind — is a powerful thing, and much better than isolation in so many ways.

When I stopped attempting to force my family to connect in the way I wanted and began to accept a connection in the way they wanted, things began to change for good. That change isn’t over yet, but it was one that I initiated.

Eventually, that process won’t be necessary anymore, so it will be replaced by a whole new series of challenging surrender, acceptance, and impermanence.

You don't have to feel isolated or rejected by your family. By reaching out and trying to accept these principles, you'll begin to see things changing and work toward a better, closer future with your loved ones.

RELATED: This Is Why You Feel Like The Black Sheep Of The Family (& How To Deal)

Bill Protzmann is the founder of Music Care Inc., a for-profit corporation dedicated to teaching practical ways music can be used for self-care. His latest book, More Than Human, explains how and why re-engaging the human spirit can make a practical and positive difference.

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This article was originally published at Practical Heart Skills. Reprinted with permission from the author.