Just before the summer break, I was lucky enough to attend a talk with Bibiana Rueda-Bueno, a holistic psychologist who works with Body & Soul clinics, and delivered a talk entitled “Psychogenealogy – knowing and befriending your heritage” to a small group of Shanghai Mamas. It was fascinating, and I found myself thinking over some of the points that we had discussed for several days afterwards, so I’ve written this article to share some of the things I learned. It’s a huge topic, and I’ll try my best to deliver only Bibiana’s message and try and keep my opinions out of it….
Psychogenealogy allows us to understand better our own family’s history, and some of our ideas and feelings connected to our upbringing. Psychogenealogy holds that understanding our heritage is essential to understanding the roots of our issues, so it encourages us to become aware of all the traits that we inherit from those who parent or raise us, not only personality or genetic traits, but also beliefs and values. By considering the thoughts and feelings of several generations, we may come to see patterns or trends in attitudes towards or feelings about raising children. And, if we find ourselves limited or constrained by such elements embedded in our family memory, by becoming aware of them, we can begin to treat their potential negative effects.
Our belief system is developed between the ages of 0 and 6 years of age, and is influenced by inherited beliefs, cultural and social beliefs, familial behavior and of course genetics. In order to develop a balanced belief system, we need a balance of energy from both parents. Traditionally, children would expect to learn about emotions, values and creativity from one parent (often but not necessarily the mother), and practical skills, the value of work and money from the other (often but not necessarily the father). We often absorb family values, shared knowledge, and potential emotional baggage without being aware that we are doing so.
A central belief of psychogenealogy is the basic human desire to belong, and one of the best ways to ensure you belong is to repeat and imitate the behavior of those around you, both consciously and unconsciously. The belief system that we construct as children can have long lasting effects. Even if we don’t speak to or are not in regular contact with all the members of our family for a while, we’re still connected and are likely to still be influenced by their behaviors, past and present. We often carry with us unconscious knowledge that will be present in the dynamics of our family tree (such as the feeling that your parents wanted to a boy instead of a girl, or that you may have been a surprise or that your arrival created a further financial burden for your parents to bear). Once we begin to understand these shared or inherited beliefs and knowledge, we can begin to examine the impact that may have on our life today, and make changes to break these patterns. It’s important to remember that relationships always involve at least two people, and like yin and yang, if one partner changes their behavior or beliefs, the other partner must also do so to maintain a balance.
Bibiana mentioned several patterns which she sees recurring in families time and time again, and they can be grouped into the following categories:
Statements and phrases of belief that we here again and again throughout our childhood can follow the pattern of programming: “You will become a lawyer like your grandfather”; restricting our behavior “In this family, appreciating art is a waste of time”; predicting our behavior “If you are not married by 30, you will be an old maid” or condemning our behavior “In our family, nobody has ever become wealthy by being self-employed, and neither will you.”
These are unhealthy behaviors which become normalized within the family, such as overtly favoring one sibling over the other(s), emotional blackmail (“we love you because you’re the cleverest boy in your class”), or adults seeking emotional support from children. This also includes any form or physical or emotional neglect.
Since the family tree is a system that works as a whole, in order to maintain and keep the family tree alive we tend to unconsciously be or become the polarity needed in the family, and alter our behavior in order to maintain that balance. For example, if the mother exhibits traditionally “masculine” characteristics such as being physically strong or earning the most money, the father will come to show more traditionally “feminine” characteristics such being more nurturing and patient. In the case of a parent who still acts in a very childish manner, the child will need to demonstrate more mature behavior.
- Failure neurosis
Typically, an adult with a failure neurosis may feel that they grew up without a place in the world, and will feel the need to constantly prove themselves. Unconsciously they either sabotage themselves to fail or push and force themselves to thrive whilst struggling the whole time.
- The King, the Queen or the Victim
The king or the queen like to be in control, and quickly paint themselves as the victim when they don’t get things their way.
More importantly, she also mentioned several tricks that we can use to try and overcome some of these patterns:
• Do your own family tree (names- dates-situations-experiences- emotions).
• Do your own belief system (write down- realize, check on a daily basis).
• Realize your patterns on a daily basis (what do I feed- nourish with my patterns?).
• Create daily rituals to realize-change your patterns.
• Use creativity to heal- change your patterns.
• Create your own healthy patterns and ideas.
If you would like to find out more, please register for one of our upcoming talks, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with Body & Soul clinics: