“The great thing about life is that it’s always changing, growing and getting better. You’re not defined by your past. You’re not your fault.” ~Unknown
I remember yelling at my parents when I was an angry 14 year old that I didn’t want to be like either of them.
My father was a workaholic and was never home. When he was home, he was emotionally unavailable, arguing with my mom or escaping the stress of our home by going to betting houses and gambling.
My mother has mood swings, wouldn’t allow me to have age-appropriate boundaries, and told me about the lack of intimacy between her and my father. Unfortunately, these weren’t the role models that inspired me.
When I entered my twenties and experienced adult life for the first time, I kept thinking that my life would be different. And over the years, I’ve lived naive, proud to say they haven’t changed.
One day, when I opened my mouth, I heard my mother’s voice. I don’t even remember what she said, but I do remember feeling utter despair. Despite years of thinking and wishing, I became a parent. Looking back on my life so far, I realize that I have followed the pattern of my parents over and over again.
I became a workaholic to avoid feeling my emotions and was in an abusive relationship, but I didn’t realize this until much later after it ended.
Fuck. Fuck. steal it.
I accidentally became a parent! Why wasn’t this enough to stop this from happening? I thought I had more control over my life than this.
During my own journey of self-discovery, I discovered that there are many reasons why we repeat the same family patterns.
Humans learn by observing and mimicking the behavior of others. A child is a sponge that absorbs everything in its environment.
For example, I remember my father ordering a meal at a restaurant when I was a kid. Instead of sending the meal back and asking for hot vegetables, he complained about how awful the restaurant was and got a cold meal. Even as an adult, I struggled to assert myself in similar situations, which led to a lot of anger and resentment.
Learned behavior is not a one-time event. It is passed down from generation to generation.
For example, my paternal grandparents went through the Great Depression in the 1930s before my father was born.
They taught my father that food was a scarce resource, so he carried this belief into adulthood and then passed this on to me, who was unable to model positive behavior. rice field.
This is called intergenerational trauma because unhealthy family dynamics continue through new generations. Intergenerational trauma is generally defined by events that severely affect people, such as child abuse, parental incarceration, poverty, war, and natural disasters.
Sometimes we are unaware that our family dynamics are unhealthy, and sometimes we are aware but too scared to change them. This is because humans usually have a strong desire to be accepted and to belong. In fact, this is very important for our survival.
For some people, repeating these family dynamics means they remain part of the family unit.
From an early age, I was often referred to as the “black sheep” of my family. Because it voiced an unspoken, toxic family rule. It became easier to distance myself from my family instead of staying entangled in a family environment that was detrimental to my mental health and well-being.
the good news is we can Change the pattern so that we don’t parent (or stay parent).
The first step is to become aware of any unhelpful patterns you have. Without consciousness, we cannot change.
I started by asking myself what emotions I experienced often and if they ever seemed out of context or disproportionate to the situation.
One emotion I often struggled with was jealousy. Whenever a friend shared something positive about their life, such as getting a new car, getting a promotion at work, or winning a competition, my go-to emotion was jealousy.
This affected my friendships because I was constantly comparing my life to theirs and pushing them away trying to find ways to make mine more successful. It led to perfectionism in everything. I couldn’t sustain this lifestyle and felt like I was drowning.
When the relationship ended and reached its lowest point, I sought therapy. Through therapy, I learned that the reason I often compared myself to others was due to the beliefs I held about myself. This makes a lot of sense when looking at relationships with parents.
They regularly compared me to other kids and were proud of me only when I did better than everyone else. As an adult, it was natural to develop a strong sense of jealousy towards others. Jealousy meant that I was always trying to prove my worth to others instead of living my life the way I wanted.
I then examined my beliefs about this situation/feeling and thought about when and where those beliefs developed. It was a great first step. Because you cannot heal what you do not know.
I wasn’t taught as a child what emotions are or how to understand my emotions, so I had to learn how to do this as an adult.
My therapist has helped me better understand the motivations behind our emotions and develop new strategies to deal with these.
My jealousy, for example, has learned that this is a reaction out of fear and anxiety. When you can learn to identify your thoughts and realize that you are not actually worthless but a story you learned from your parents, you will choose different behaviors instead of continuing to follow the same old patterns. I was able to do it as usual.
I realized that perfectionism was working too hard, so I learned how to slow down with mindfulness and yoga. Once I became aware of my emotions, rather than reacting to them unconsciously, I was able to make better choices about how I wanted to react to them.
Having the space to understand my emotions meant I was able to get out of the situation where I was comparing myself to others, and step into the entrepreneurial space to create the business I love. If I hadn’t done the inner workings to change so that I wouldn’t be my own parent, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I learned that this is why my wishful thinking is not working. I knew I didn’t want to be like my parents, but without some extra support from my therapist, I didn’t know what to do instead! Therapy is learning how to deal with old patterns in new ways. was helpful.
From there it was just practice. These habits and patterns have existed for years. I knew it wouldn’t change overnight. But with perseverance and practice, I was able to make meaningful changes in my life. It was helpful to keep a journal to record my progress so I wouldn’t forget how far I had come.
Finally, it was important to remember that my parents are human too. In addition to recognizing the unhelpful habits they taught me, I’ve found it helpful to recall some of the positive traits and experiences I’ve had.
My father was a workaholic, but he instilled in me a strong work ethic. My mother loves to travel and I definitely inherited that love from her.
Remembering these things helps me acknowledge my parents’ humanity, especially in moments when I find it hard to give them grace. It’s a way of respecting the need.