“The wounds of the parents become the destinies of their children, unless the children wake up and do something about them.”
When I read that sentence in my book the other night, the words completely knocked the wind out of me. So much so that I actually sat up in bed. This. This is what I’ve been talking about. This is what I know in my bones to the True with a capital T. We are destined to repeat the patterns of our parents – passed unconsciously from one generation to the next, unless we wake up – become conscious of them – and do what we need to heal.
We all have shit from our childhood. Fact. Your parents either neglected you, smothered you or – if you’re like mine – did a fun combination of both. My father was emotionally unavailable, my mother adopted me as a surrogate partner. I was both the confidant and the mediator, the lightning rod* absorbing all the tension in their relationship.
*Lighting rods attract other people’s emotions, give them a safe, comfortable environment to discuss their difficult memories, and in turn get rid of some of their pain. When done consciously, it can be an incredible service to offer someone, adopting the role unintentionally can prevent the formation of healthy emotional boundaries.
My mum derived a lot of her self worth from her role as a ‘mother’, so attempted to thwart my self actualisation by imposing stringent restrictions on my social life. In order to regain a sense of control and power, I acted out by sneaking out of the house to meet up with guys. (I was also using the attention of the guys I slept with as a substitute for the attention and approval I never got from my father #twobirds #daddyissues).
Because mum was so horrified at the thought of me having a boyfriend, I thought it meant there was something wrong with me so all my relationships (and sexual encounters) were covert, undefined and shrouded in secrecy. I developed a pattern of dissociation and ambiguity that lead to me keeping my mouth shut when I was caught in the cycle of DV for over two years, a series of ‘on again/off again’ relationships, the inability to define clear sexual and emotional boundaries (refusing to be someone’s ‘girlfriend’ or declare my relationships publicly) and the gut-wrenching anomaly of being desperate for connection but terrified of commitment.
It’s important to note here that none of this is about blaming your parents. When you trace the wounds back through generations of unresolved issues and the people who bore them, it’s hard not to circle back to compassion. You realise that we’re all just doing the best we can with the shit we’ve been given and – mercifully – the shit seems to be lessening with each new branch of the family tree.
I’ve seen what the future looks like, and I’m not going.
I used to be terrified of ‘growing up’ because I thought it meant responsibilities, obligations, commitments and an overwhelming resentment that encompassed all three. I think part of the reason I acted out for so long in my late teens and early twenties is because I was trying to postpone the transition into adulthood. If I right myself off every Saturday night, I can convince everyone I’m not a real adult yet. I didn’t realise that you could actually create the life you wanted to live, and if you didn’t like the path you were on, you could change direction.
Look at the ideas you have about money, sex, food, work and relationships… Have you adopted the unconscious beliefs of your parents (I’ll save you some time, yes you have). And – the real question – are they serving you?
I could try and forget about my past, until I unconsciously attract someone whose subconscious beliefs lead me to re-enact my parents relationship OR I can consciously examine the way I behave in relationships, create a positive vision for what I want in a long term partner and work on closing the gap between the two.
SIDE NOTE: Don’t just intellectualise this stuff, you have to feel through it. It’s not enough to recognise a pattern and go, ‘Oh, so that’s why I crave approval from my older male boss’. You have to grieve the father who never gave you the attention you wanted, you have to mourn for the little girl who lost her innocence and you have to get angry for the teenager who was robbed of the opportunity to find her voice. (Working with a coach creates a safe space to feel through these emotions, while helping you get clear on what you want to create and the precedent you want to set for generations to come).
What excites me most about the generation coming through is that we’re doing the work. It’s part of what makes me so proud to be a millennial. We’ve seen our parents stumble and flail their way through unhappy marriages, stifling 9-5’s and family feuds, and rather than resigning ourselves to trudging blindly down the well-worn path, we’ve decided to create a new one. We’re going to therapy, hiring coaches, reading self help and investing in our own growth and personal development. There’s no more sweeping secrets under the rug, or hiding skeletons in the family closet, we’re owning our stories with fierce bravery and optimism for the future.
We are healing our own emotional wounds, and breaking generational patterns in the process.
For all the incredible humans doing this work, thank you. You are setting a new standard for not only you and your family but humanity as a whole. Just like the physical Universe, the nature of human beings is to expand and evolve, and the more awareness, compassion and grace we bring to this process, the faster it will be and the further we’ll go.