Humans, among other animals, have developed love as an adaptation to ensure the safety of an entire group. Those individuals who had a strong attachment to the others in their group were better able to survive since a group is stronger than the sum of its parts.

The feeling is especially strong for an organism’s offspring since a strong attachment is beneficial for survival. You inherently know that the survival of your genetic code depends on the survival of your offspring and every parent knows that their child’s life is worth more than their own. Those who felt love toward their offspring were less likely to want to eat it or abandon it when it got annoying, thus giving a better chance to the survival of the child.

Most of us are born into a small group, called a family, made up of our parents and possibly other children that our parents have made. When we are born, we see ourselves as the center of the universe and believe that time began with us. It’s understandable, we don’t start out knowing anything beyond ourselves. We create characters of “Mom” and “Dad” and possibly siblings. Since this is your first experience with people, those characters are often given embellished traits. You might think that your mom is all-knowing or that your dad is the strongest man in the world! This happens because you are not yet developed enough to realize the flaws in other people; your caregivers seem all-powerful to you.

The characters that you created early of your parents and siblings are often maintained with exaggerated information since they formed in that way. If you grew up with a younger sibling who you thought always needed to be defended, you might continue to treat them as though you are their protector even if they grow stronger than you. Similarly, if you think that every conversation you have with your parents is one where they are telling you what to do, you’ll synapse the idea that this character will always tell you what to do. It’s why we’re so quick to revert back to our childhood roles when we are around the people we knew best during our childhood.

As the entertainment industry grew in popularity, television shows and other storytelling media began to utilize the social dynamics of a family. The majority of the audience for those shows were families so the shows related to the audience had the best chance of surviving, which for them was remaining on the air. It’s fine to have a family structure for the audience to relate to but when there is such a huge collection of shows and movies that have family structure, a problem arises.

Television shows tend to show only the good parts of a family. Audiences didn’t originally want to watch dysfunctional families, though that’s changed over time. With a huge amount of model families with nice sentimental moments filling TV screens, the audience raised their expectations of how their family should behave.

In reality, there is no way your family can compare to a made up version that you watch through a screen. Your family is real, meaning there are bound to be at least a few negative experiences. The difference between reality and expectation causes a dissatisfaction with your own family. This can also happen if you were to only observe the good parts of a family in real life, you’ll compare your own family to this one and you’ll most certainly be dissatisfied because you don’t see the negative in them. The people who are most dissatisfied with their family are the people who have synapsed too many bad experiences or are unable to reconcile that their family expectations cannot be achieved in reality.

It’s actually okay if you feel as though you’re on the outside of your family looking in. When you try to see what it is that binds you together, you’ll first think of your similar DNA; you and your siblings are made from your parents after all. But when you take a step back, you’ll see that the similarities between you and your family aren’t that significant compared to the similarities between you and every other human on the planet.

Have you ever felt close enough to a friend that you think of them as a brother or sister? Have you ever felt as though a mentor took over the role of your mother or father? It is not necessary for your family, the group of people that you love, to only include your parents and their other offspring. You have the freedom to choose any human to be part of your family.

Family should be thought of as a fluid concept, one that welcomes new people and says goodbye to others. The most successful groups of people see themselves as family: military groups, sports teams, urban gangs, even people in some businesses. Given enough time and cooperation, you can feel a family bond with just about any group of people. Your parents have a Basic Function drive to love you and want to protect and provide for you; nobody is going to change that automated function. I’m sure that they would very much appreciate some love in return but they not the only family that you have. We are all human, we want to love and we want to be loved and you have the potential to form those bonds with anybody and everybody.

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