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Thomas Maples
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
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From where do resolve and inner strength come? Is it a personal blessing received through the genetics we inherit, or is it instilled into us by our parents, loved ones, and the environment we inhabit? Maybe, it is more significant than the simplistic need to split such complex truths into binary constructs such as nature versus nurture, genetics versus expectations, or eggs versus chickens. Binary systems like this may provide simplistic explanations for one side’s position versus another. Still, they do little to treat the complex dynamics that arise when emotional states go wrong in the person and the family.

In family treatment, I often see complex personal and family dynamics reciprocating and amplifying upon one another, creating joint degrees of misery and suffering. A vicious cycle forms where family dynamics grow around the individual suffering, and, in turn, reciprocate the individual dynamics to create more from which to suffer. What we focus on tends to amplify.

So how can we navigate sources of distress within the intrapsychic and family system while learning to create a foundation for personal and family strength-based growth?

Family values are most at play in treating families of children who have depression or anxiety. To change family dynamics, we must learn about the individuals’ strengths that protect the unit as a whole while shoring up the family for the change that is at hand.

A Strength-Based Family Tree helps us understand the individual dynamics a person brings of value to the family. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, yet we cannot focus on weakness to build strength. Instead, we must amplify the individual’s resilience through identification and amplification of their strengths. You cannot combat hatred with hatred, nor can you ever when a competition of anger with more anger. It just amplifies itself. Instead, you have to enact its opposite. To get rid of anger and hate, you have to love. Love to the tenth degree. Or as Jesus said,

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Be lovingly-kind. Through unconditional loving-kindness, our individual weaknesses have nowhere else to go but within. It is here where true change occurs. Through Self-reflection, we open doors to inner growth, where there were once only walls. 

The Family Tree of Fortitude

How can we help ourselves while helping our children adapt to the crazy world around us. How can retrain ourselves to amplify our strengths to such a degree where they naturally dissipate our inner weaknesses. We need to flip the script. We need to focus on what strengths the members of our family bring to the table instead of focusing solely on the actions or behaviors that need correcting. This is a little exercise I call the Family Tree of Fortitude.

  • Spot the individual strengths of your family members. 
    • When you recognize strengths, you amplify them.
    • That which you acknowledge you amplify.
    • What do you want to heighten, weakness or strength? 
  • Appreciate one another for the strengths and quirks you bring to the table. 
    • Appreciating one another helps you build stronger connections both at the genetic and the environmental level of the family. 
    • Your brain will thank you; your loved ones will thank you more. 
  • Discuss your results with one another. 
    • The most beautiful thing about family is to… ignore them and pay attention to nothing but your phone. NOT!!! 
    • Spend Time. Get to know one another. We are social beings and need honest, social connections.
    • Put the phone or devise down.
  • Those who play together stay together.
    • List your strengths on a family tree. 
    • Have your spouse or children list your strengths in a different color. 
    • See how each person perceives you and how you perceive you. 
    • Repeat this exercise until everyone’s strengths and values are understood personally and within the family structure. 

I hope you enjoy this simple exercise in passing on family values to decrease depression and anxiety in the home setting by creating a Family Tree of Fortitude. 

Namaste, my friends. May blessings find you and your family as you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams. 

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