In 2012 (gulp!) I wrote a blog about Soul Family: the people who really get you, see you, know you, accept you, challenge you and like you even when you have been an idiot.

I even wrote about it in my first book Love Being Me.

To help people think about this I use a tool with coaching clients to map their relationships when they were feeling alone and isolated; concentric circles where the nearer the middle where ‘you’, the client have your name, the closer those people are to you. The further out, the less you feel close to them.  Here’s one I made up to illustrate.

I also use another mapping tool to show the different groups we belong to, either formally or informally (here’s an old one of mine, you can tell because my ‘school gates’ days are long gone.

They both work as a way of creating a visual, capturing complex relationships. With both you can draw two; one of how it is now, and then another of how you would like it to be, with the coaching conversation being around what needs to happen to move from here to there.

They work well.

But twelve years on from when I started using them, I see what I didn’t then see.  Some relationships are missing and unaccounted for.

Our ancestors, living or dead.

Where do they sit on both models?  The aunt they say you look just like, the grandad who fought in the war and never spoke of it?  The grandma you loved and who died last year, your mum’s mum who you never met but who is talked about at family gatherings.

Or a gap – the ancestors we know nothing about, the silences, the adoption, the tight lips and burned photos.

Many cultures light candles to the dead, have shrines, talk to them, ask them for advice.  Some families have a store of family tales, passed down and added to.

Then the genes of inheritance; eye colour, height, an ability with languages or carpentry.

Then we are beginning to increasingly understand inter-generational trauma.  I wrote my blog on slavery in 2016 when I didn’t know what inter-generational trauma meant; I didn’t know it was a thing, but it made sense that trauma passes down behaviourally, the scared parent raising their children not to trust.  But now we know it isn’t just behaviour, but biology.  A stressed parents living in Gaza, Isreal, Ukraine, domestic abuse, poverty, passes the cortisol across the placenta into the blood of the unborn baby, changing the structure and function of the brain. We are not pods of live floating disconnected on a sea but rooted in our heritage and our family history.

And our family history happened/s in a place, places.  Some of the people I have taught over the years, have lived on the same farm and lands for generations.  They have no thought of moving away.  Other children move often, service kids, parents with itchy feet, moving for work, for somewhere new to live, to be near water, friends or family.  So part of our network of relationship is our environment, the air we breathe, the view we see.  I am lucky to have a garden,  I know the trees, the flowers, the bushes, the birds.  I know the blocks and fields to walk through at different times of year.  I know where the owl lives, where the lambs are wobbling, where the horses graze.  This land is part of me.

But so too was my terraced house, on a terraced street, in a deprived part of the south, where I would never have walked alone at night, where there was a pub on every corner, dog shit marking the pavement and vomit after a Saturday night. But at that time, it was also part of me, my friends, my work, the parties, taxis, takeaways, pool tables, pubs and dancing.  When I changed where I lived, the land changed me.

Surely this is the biggest unseen relationship we need to appreciate?  We are so lucky in the UK.  We are currently not at war, our water is safe to drink the rivers are full, our soil is still currently fertile.  Some data shows we only have 60 harvest left before our soil stops producing due to the over farming and over use of chemicals.  Other data argues this but doesn’t disagree that farming practices need to change. We need to see this relationship so, like any other, we can take care of it.

And then there is the tree I sit by when I want to think.  The view I have looked out over and cried that soothes.  The sunrise and sunsets with friends, the moonshine, the dew, the frost. Surely this too is part of our network, our family of who cares and supports us. Surely that care, that tending needs to be reciprocal like any other close relationship?

Then the animals, the birds in the garden, the mice, the kite circling, the dog who is now a damson tree, the cat who licks me awake if I try to sleep past 7 am. Then the dogs I had with an partner, the cat who made me feel safe in my childhood bed, the dog I used to walk with my mum and dad. Aren’t they too part of my family?

And for some people, there are objects, their comfort blanket, their fiddle thing that calms and secures?  Isn’t it OK to include that too?

So I smile at my 2012 self and see how I have changed since then.  My circles of friends, my bubbles of connections, my soul family are human, animal, rock and tree, dead, alive, here and away, then and now. So that even when I feel lonely, when the notifications are still, when there are no easy text dopamine hits, I just have to find the cat or walk or sit outside, to find myself connected into the web of life again, and then all is well, all is well, all is well.

If you enjoyed reading this please share it with friends. You might also be interested in talking to me about coaching , or maybe try some of my online courses (some are free), or treat yourself to a climate protecting pamper with vegan friendly, organic Tropic which supports the planting of forests and education in deprived areas.
Thanks for being here.