Toxic Families and Physical Well-Being

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 21st, 2009 • Mind-Body MedicinePrint Print

I had a mystical experience last night.  I stood in front of the mirror for a long time, feeling from inside my being, transforming into a high level of awareness and consciousness. As I powerfully filled up the space in my body, able to feel and touch and vibrate my energetic being, I saw my eyes dramatically shift in the mirror.  I also saw my aura.

Standing there for about half an hour, accessing my innermost self and my source, I re-entered the gateway to my healing powers — from which I have felt cut off for a while. Today, I felt powerful, happy, and vibrantly alive.  In the afternoon, I sat in the living room and began experimenting internally: I not only imagined but also embodied that I had received all the healthy love and support that I ever had wanted and needed from my family.

As I imagined and embodied that reality, I felt a gush of energy flowing through me, my body readjusting and becoming whole internally. It was a powerful, joyful, incredible experience.  It made clear to me a next step in my healing practice.

Then I called my aunt. Or to be more precise, because I wanted to call her, I made a point of doing the grounding meditation before picking up the phone. I had been missing my aunt for awhile, wanting to hear her voice.  I also had been feeling afraid that I might not get the chance to speak with her before her passing, as she is in her late 70s, and who knows when people will cross over.

The thing is, as much as I love her and miss her, and as much she connects me to my ethnic and cultural roots (calling me bthalik and speaking Hebrew with her trace of an Iraqi accent, which make me feel all warm and fuzzy and remind me of her cooking yummy Iraqi foods for me and presenting them to me with a warm heart and big smile), I avoid her. Because whenever we speak, she behaves in ways that leave me feeling some combination of unseen, invalidated, energetically invaded, demoralized, unsafe, weepy, and depressed.

Good times.

And here’s the thing: That’s pretty much the case with every member of my family. Only with the rest of the bunch (and it’s a big bunch), it’s worse. So I’m essentially left pitted against myself: I can avoid contact, leaving me feeling cut off from people I love and from a big chunk of who I am – in turn leaving me clear of their mishugas yet isolated, sad, and depressed to varying degrees, or I can be in contact – giving me a certain amount of love and juice, but ultimately leaving me feeling even worse than not being in contact.

What does one do with this narrative, with this reality. Especially when it’s not just about contact with individual family members or the family as a whole, but with an entire heritage. Especially when that heritage is on the verge of extinction, and you love that heritage with all your heart and soul, and it is an inextricable part of who you are, and your family is your last remaining link to it, to your roots, to your ancestry.

During our conversation today, my aunt asked if I knew that my estranged sister had seen my mom. I said yes and told my aunt that I didn’t want lehikanes lazeh – ie, “to go there,” ie, to talk about my sister (whose very name stimulates distress and energetic chaos for me). My aunt then asked if my mom had told me “the news” about my sister. I said no and told my aunt that I didn’t want to hear it. My aunt went ahead and said it, in a statement so short that I didn’t have time to open my mouth and cut her off. “I wanted you to know the news,” she said.


Not only was it news that I didn’t want to hear, but it was news that had big shock waves and layers of implications and unpleasant associations and bad memories and all kinds of other energetic crap wrapped around it. Of course. How could I possibly get off the phone with a family member without feeling totally distraught.

Immediately, I felt energetically depleted, felt myself crumbling inside. In the past, I have tried to fortify myself and keep going, to get the good juice and be a giborah, staving off the bad stuff. But this time, I chose to wrap up the conversation and get off the phone, prioritizing my energetic boundaries and internal calm.

When we hung up, I looked at the conversation time listed on the handset. Under nine minutes. In under nine minutes a family member can crumble me. I sat down where I’d done my grounding meditation before, and I became internally aware again. My energy was crashing around haphazardly inside. My bones and tissues, which I had felt readjusting and becoming whole just minutes earlier, were tight, in pain, and felt at awkward angles.

The good news is that while it is time-consuming to meditate, dance, do yoga, blog and engage in the other tools at my disposal (and time and balance are big fat issues in the lives of people with chronic pain), I have these tools. I know how to come back to myself. I have the will to make myself the top priority. In addition, I have ever-growing awareness of how my toxic family members have been affecting the flow and alignment and wholeness of my energy. And I am developing the power to master that energy flow and heal.


Diana Lee August 21st, 2009

I’ve often thought no one can hurt as us deeply as our families. It is HARD to adjust your expectations and know they are who they are and aren’t going to change. I’m working on it, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.

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