A New Kind of Family: 1 — The Underlying Assumptions

This continues the series of the Light Morning Renewal Pages, an attempt to clarify and communicate the vision and values which anchor us here. “A New Kind of Family” has three sections: The Underlying Assumptions; Five Core Social Skills; and A Social Covenant.

The Underlying Assumptions

Black Lilly
Black Lilly

A healthy community provides not only for the physical needs of its passengers and crew, but for their social needs as well. This is no small challenge! Twenty-five years has taught us that learning to love one another is far from easy.

Traditional families get some significant boosts—from the peculiar chemistry of physical intimacy; from the hormonal bonding magic between parent and child; and from the support and sanctions of society.

But the new kind of family that is emerging here at Light Morning has none of these. Nor were we drawn together by the magnetic lure of friendship, or by the economic incentives that bind employees to their workplace.

So it’s hard to describe the curiously durable glue that holds us together as a social entity. And it’s equally hard to talk about what it’s really like to live here, in this common table, transformational, high-impact style of community. It would be like trying to describe marriage to someone who’s never been in relationship. Or parenthood to a couple with no children. Both the hardships and the joys can hardly be conveyed.

What may be offered, however, are some of the understandings that we have grown into over the years. The following handful of core assumptions speak both to our past and to our pending renewal.

The first assumption is that interpersonal conflicts are unavoidable. This is true for any relationship. Whether you’re my friend, lover, co-worker, child, or spouse, I am sometimes going to say and do things that you don’t like. And you are going to say and do things that I don’t like. When these inescapable conflicts are not responded to creatively, they turn corrosive and/or explosive.

A second core assumption is that our surface problems usually have deep roots. We were raised by less than perfect parents, in a less than perfect world. The child’s remembered fears of powerlessness and abandonment, moreover, are very much alive within us. And are easily activated.

We peer out from behind our well-crafted masks of adulthood. Yet as a recent song title suggests, “the heart remains a child.” So you’re a pushy bread-labor focalizer. Or I’m not putting enough food on the table. And these surface problems will be insoluble, especially if we are unaware that they are being fueled by deeper anxieties.

The third understanding, intimately tied to the first two, is that anything unresolved from the past is re-created in the present. These highly creative “performances” are staged both inwardly and outwardly, in our dream life as well as in the dream-like world of our waking circumstances. And they are staged with varying degrees of conscious awareness. The casting director for these dramas has an unerring eye, we have learned, and is quick to cast us into the appropriate roles in each other’s plays.

This may sound like karma. But isn’t it also grace? For how better to free ourselves from the outmoded, energy-robbing, sleep-inducing patterns from our past than to re-create them in the present, where they may be healed. And especially in an environment like Light Morning, which offers at least a sporting chance for lucidity and transmutation.

A fourth premise is that we have a visceral predisposition toward fight-or-flight. This is the psychological counterpart of a biological survival instinct. It may be overt, such as unleashing a torrent of anger, stalking out of the room, or leaving a marriage or community. Or it may be more subtle, such as fantasizing violence, compartmentalizing, or engaging in denial. But whether subtle or overt, this fight-or-flight syndrome is the default setting whenever we are confronted by emotional situations that are uncomfortable or threatening

A final core assumption is that any significant transformation of these hard-wired patterns requires both willingness and skill. Developing relationship skills is essential. Without sufficient willingness, however, we won’t have the stamina to even learn the skills, let alone practice them. And where does such willingness come from—the willingness to face our interpersonal challenges with a warrior’s spirit and an open heart?

This is the question that drives us, both individually and as a community, as we explore the renewal of Light Morning. And only as we find a viscerally personal answer to this crucial question will we truly devote ourselves to the mastery of the following family-building skills.