Coping with Family Disharmony


I live with my aunt and mother. My aunt is a temperamental person. When she’s happy she’s nice to us and looks after us, but when she’s angry she’s very harsh, especially towards my mother. I feel very sad when she behaves like this towards my mother.Reasoning with her only makes her more quarrelsome and sullen. A couple of relatives poison her further against my mother, who is a very nice person. What should I do? It hurts me so much to see my mother being mistreated at times.

—XYZ, India


Dear Friend,

What a sad situation, indeed. Let’s start with the admission that we can’t, by will power, change another person if he or she doesn’t wish to change. Right? Those of us who subscribe to the perennial wisdom of the law of karma, strive to step back and see the inexorable operation of that law in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the history of nations and peoples.

The first step is to step back! That is, to step back from over-reacting to your aunt’s moods: and that’s all it is, is moodiness. Start by not changing your behavior towards her whether she’s positive or not positive. Don’t try to change her: just mirror back to her in the reflective mind of your own, inner awareness what you see without being drawn into that mood but being neutral. If we want to be moody, no one can change that. If we want to be happy despite our troubles only we can do that.

I feel badly, of course for your mother, though who can say whether her ill treatment at the hands of your aunt and in the opinions of other family members is but to offer her to be strong in herself, to be forgiving, compassionate, and even-minded in her own way.

So long as we are not dealing with abuse of a nature that no one should tolerate provided one has choices, then the higher path is tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance, and giving kindness in return for unkindness.

This is not easy, I grant you. But I have seen that in relationships of “push-pull” emotions and actions, that if just one person decides NOT to play the game, not to react but to remain the same, it gives space and permission to the other person to relax and become centered, thus ending, even if only gradually, the game of push-pull.

In the meantime, of course, offer prayers daily for your aunt and your mother that the one be infused with wisdom and kindness and the other be made strong in the Self no matter what life brings.

You might also consciously develop the habit of expressing your gratitude to your aunt in those times and circumstances where she is being serviceful and thoughtful. Positive feedback is also helpful provided it is sincere and not manipulative, devoid of expectations.

May the Light of “Ananda,” divine joy, enlighten your household!

Nayaswami Hriman