A family is a microcosm

For me, and I guess for many of you, Christmas is all about family. It might be the only time of year we all gather. Or the time of the year one becomes most aware of not having a family, or not wanting to be a part of one’s family.  It is a time of tradition and repetition, of habits (good & bad), genealogy – and, because nothing ever stays the same – great challenges.

I find these words, written by the American psychotherapist Thomas Moore, capturing the complexity of family life in a beautiful way:

Nothing is more suitable for care of the soul than family, because the experience of family includes so much of the particulars of life. In a family you live close to people that otherwise you might not even want to talk to. Over time you get to know them intimately. You learn their most minuscule, most private habits and characteristics.

Family life is full of major and minor crises—the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce—and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.

But family life is never easy:

To some extent all families are dysfunctional. No family is perfect, and most have serious problems.

A family is a microcosm, reflecting the nature of the world, which runs on both virtue and evil. We may be tempted at times to imagine the family as full of innocence and good will, but actual family life resists such romanticism. Usually it presents the full range of human potential, including evil, hatred, violence, sexual confusion, and insanity.

In other words, the dynamics of actual family life reveal the soul’s complexity and unpredictability, and any attempts to place a veil of simplistic sentimentality over the family image will break down.

The sentimental image of family that we present publicly is a defense against the pain of proclaiming the family for what it is—a sometimes comforting, sometimes devastating house of life and memory.

from Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore

Morning walk by the fjord, December 24 – 2019

3 Comments Add yours

  1. bluebrightly says:

    What a great piece of writing by Moore, and such wise words. Yours, too! The photo has a spare beauty that is open to interpretation – a good way to think about the sacred. Thank you for keeping close to the truth and not letting the holiday “magic” deceive you.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you! I very much enjoy reading Moore, his books are new to me, even though he has been writing and teaching for many-many years. But last year I spent a lot of my reading hours with another Jungian psychotherapist, namely James Hollis, so I recognize many of Moore’s thoughts from previous studies.
      I find “the Jungians” to be especially relevant for creative people.

      1. bluebrightly says:

        Yes, the Jungians are good sources of inspiration….Jung’s “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” still sits on my shelf, and though I’m familiar with Moore and Hollis in general, I haven’t really read their work. I lean more toward zen Buddhist writers these days for nourishment – in America we might say they’re kind of in the same ballpark as Jungians. 🙂

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