I had a conversation with a friend about John Bradshaw’s book Family Secrets. I also shared that I’m creating some new genealogy workshops to help people look at their lives and the lives of their families from different perspectives. When she heard that, she shared something interesting with me. It kind of revolved around how people are raised and whether our energies are primarily feral, perfectionist, lax, lenient, etc.,
My friend approached this conversation through examples of the other women she works with. There are three women in this office and each has a different energy they live by. My friend is more a perfectionist and rule follower. Her boss is more of a feral energy. As she described her to me it was along the lines of letting her kids grow up and run more wild, less restrictions, less rules. And the third woman is a pastor but more lenient – sounded like a balance between the other two women.
I viewed these energies as a triangle and it felt very balanced. I wondered then if we all seek out jobs or volunteer groups or friends that hold these different energies so we have more balance in our lives?
I asked my friend this and the conversation then went to how she was raised. How her mother was raised. How her grandmother functioned as the wife of a prominent towns person. See, my friend’s grandpa owned a coal mine so the family was affluent, prominent in the town, and had influence. His wife and children had to be raised a certain way to carry off this image of a well to do businessman. Meek, submissive, quiet, always in control, perfect.
One thing we didn’t discuss in our conversation today, but I know exists in her family and mine, is war trauma and mental health issues.
We have to ask ourselves how our veteran’s service may have impacted the behaviors of his or her family. If a veteran suffered from mental health issues as a result of the war, what energies and behaviors did that create within the family to help keep the veteran “stable, feel safe, calm……”
Quite often children will report they had to walk on eggshells and not upset daddy. Wives report the same and that they were always on high alert to make sure their husband or partner was not upset or startled, which meant having to keep the children under control, quiet, peaceful, almost perfect. Just these behaviors can create stress, anxiety and forms of PTSD within the family members that will later have to be examined and healed.
When we grow up in atmospheres like that we often unconsciously perpetuate these energies. Our behaviors revolve around not rocking the boat, not upsetting anyone, low self-esteem if we aren’t perfect or make someone angry. Perhaps we have anxiety, depression, our own mental health issues or physical issues as a result.
It’s important to examine how the families of our veterans lived and how that changed after military service to get a bigger picture of our family. I believe for my friend and myself, growing up through families with unaddressed war trauma, we have both had to deal with depression and anxiety, PTSD, and behaviors that we didn’t realize we lived until something triggered us to look at our lives and families more closely and honestly.
My friend’s mother grew up in this atmosphere and then raised her daughters the same way she had been raised. According to Bradshaw and others I’ve studied, sometimes these patterns will swing wildly the other direction every generation so you see a generation of control and perfectionism then a generation of wild abandonment then a generation of control and perfectionism. Families can go either way and the patterns are always interesting to observe.
Another thing my friend mentioned was that all the women in her family suffered from anxiety and she felt it was because of the high standards by which they were raised. To step out of line, break a rule, not be perfect creates a great amount of stress for each of them.
The Energies & Behaviors We Live
Identifying the family patterns and behaviors by which we live can help us shift the direction of our lives. Heal mental and physical issues. Create greater abundance, joy, and love. But first we must do the sometimes harder work of figuring out where things began.
One way to do this is journal about how you grew up. The rules by which you had to live. Then ask your parents about their childhoods and teen years. What rules did they live by? What were the consequences if broken? Why did they choose to raise you with the same or similar rules OR the opposite rules and behaviors?
Then take it back another generation and try to find out how your grandparents were raised. Sometimes this requires us to dive into social history to better understand the times in which someone lived, the culture or religion in which they grew up with. Or perhaps the educational or political system. All of these things affect the way people behave and the way they raise their children.
What do you think about how you were raised, the way you raise your children if you have them, and what generational patterns you’d like to break and release?
Explore your family’s patterns
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