Our Children, Our Selves
If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.
— Siberian Elder
Have you ever been horrified by your words and the way you just spoke to your child, recognising them as a direct quote from your own parents? What is more, those words, that tone were often the very ones that made you cringe as a child!
How did that happen we ask? Am I just like my father/mother? Am I giving this to my children? Oh no! I really need to change that! This is an old question: were we socialised, conditioned by our parents, or did we somehow inherit their meaner dispositions?
I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play ‘Pygmalion’, reworked in films as ‘My Fair Lady’ and The Three Stooges’ ‘Hoi Polloi’, among many others. These acted out ‘environment versus heredity’, a burning question in science since the mid-19th century debates on evolution, and the subsequent development of genetics.
Neuroscience, genetics and epigenetics are now exploring how experiences and emotional reactions are passed from generation to generation. It seems individual genes (of which we have about 24,000) are switched on or off by environmental factors, and the genes’ on-or-off status can be passed on in our biological family. We inherit not only broad genetic characteristics, but also specific emotional and personality aspects formed by our ancestors’ experiences of the world.
The good news is that rather than completely hard-wiring us, as was once thought, DNA is acknowledged in current scientific theories as more immediately malleable. This is not done physically or chemically, but through conscious awareness and attitude, or energy and vibration.
Of course, these ‘discoveries’ of inheritance and its malleability have been known for many centuries [or even ages!] in many spiritual traditions, in older cultures, and also acknowledged in recent somatic psychotherapeutic approaches. Even if we did not know how we inherit feelings and attitudes, we have known that we do.
It is quite usual for intense experiences and traumas to be carried through core beliefs, behaviours and emotional responses in families for many generations. This has been most noted recently in children of war veterans and victims, but occurs through any significant life experience.
Each of us lives ‘within the blueprint of [our] ancestors, and modifying it with each choice and action [we] take’. However, sooner or later in each family there comes a storyteller, who seeks to redress this situation, to ‘redeem the family elemental’, as it is put in my theosophical spiritual tradition.
This story teller is the black sheep of the family, who does not just accept the status quo, but wishes to know the family story they have inherited and release its grip on all its members, past, present and future. Are you that black sheep in your family?
Finding our family is particularly significant to Australians who, all but the Aboriginal peoples, are very recent settlers: convicts, soldiers or political, religious or financial refugees. Few of them did not have some trauma associated with coming here – where we proceeded to inflict generational trauma on the traditional owners of this land. How much of these stories are still in you, your family, your children?
These family stories, with their pains and repeating patterns in handling everyday life, encompass loss, hardship, dispossession, addiction, depression, abuse, violence, to name just a few of their possibilities. You can find all that stored in your body. As the Dutch psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk says, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. How do you know that and how do you release that?
Firstly, it is necessary to learn as much as you can about your story. To know who you really are. Connect with your body intuitively for the particular episodes it stores. There are many practitioners who tackle with you the somatic aspects of family memories and patterns – through massage, somatic archaeology and psychotherapy.
‘Memories do not have a voice; they are written in your heart, coded in your cells, dancing in your psyche, dense with emotional energy. The secret to accessing them is to listen with your sixth sense, which is anchored in your soma and designated by your personal blueprint. It is cleverly organized and perfectly designed by the intelligence of creation.’
Ask your parents and relatives, get their stories, research records and understand the places and times your family came from. Just like in the tv show, ‘Who do you think you are?’, which captures some of the necessity and personal impact of doing this, and reflects the pressure of the times to do this.
As you assemble the fragmented bits of stories, and what they contain, you can see their patterns between generations and bring them home to your own life, in your own personality, recognising them in your previously unconscious approach to life.
To heal your story,
‘. . . you’ve got to learn to love it in a way that transforms it.
Otherwise, you will keep passing the unhealed or fragmented stories forward, generation to generation, until someone grabs a hold of them and decides that they have the capacity to remember the truth, heal the wounds, and create a different story.’
 Ruby Gibson. My Body, My Earth: The Practice of Somatic Archaeology (Kindle Locations 220-223). iUniverse. Kindle Edition
 Ibid, Kindle Locations 883-886
 Ibid, Kindle Locations 233-235