Have you ever found yourself saying something along the lines of ‘I hope I don’t turn out like my mother’, or cringing when someone says you sound ‘just like your dad?’. Who hasn’t, right?! If we dive a bit deeper into this idea of repeating our parents' patterns or behaviours, we might decide that this is something we want to put a stop to. As therapy and self-awareness becomes more and more popular, many more individuals are making the active decision to break their own generational cycle. Read more to find out more.
What is cycle breaking?
When an individual grows up in any family dynamic, each generation of parents will unconsciously pass on negative traits to their children in similar ways. These patterns repeat themselves from generation to generation until one generation becomes aware of it and decides to break the cycle. It’s worth noting that this can apply to all sorts of circumstances, even if we had a positive childhood. It might be that we want to change a particular attitude we got from one of our parents as we become parents ourselves. Even though our upbringing was very pleasant, it’s okay if there are still things we’d like to change.
Our parents, or those who raised us, are the biggest influence on our lives. They teach us how to communicate, love, deal with our emotions and, well… live! We learn these things from them and have no reason to question or challenge them. If any of this is unfavourable behaviours or habits that they are teaching us, this is usually something that they have been taught, and may not have the awareness to know why it’s unfavourable. This is why cycle breaking is important to many of us. Having the awareness to understand why something happened to us, why we think a certain way or why we experience things a certain way, can help us to process these things and learn to deal with them in a healthier way.
Should we blame our ancestors?
An important thing to remember is that our parents or guardians did the best they could with the tools they had. And this really is true. Each person has an individual and unique life experience, and the way they think, act and behave is down to the experiences that have moulded them into the person they are. If we were that person with that experience and understanding of life, we would act in the same way. This can be hard to see when we don’t have their understanding and experiences.
Thinking with empathy like this can help us to acknowledge that their actions were a consequence of things beyond their control - how they were raised and introduced to the world. They know no difference, and that’s nobody’s fault. It’s important to really understand this in order to remove any blame, and therefore avoid frustration and anger in a negative light. It helps us better deal with the challenging emotions we might have towards those people in our lives by not placing blame on them and being compassionate instead.
Like with many things within the topic of self-development, it usually takes first being aware in order to make any change. If we’re not first acknowledging and aware of our circumstances, we can’t do anything about them! And yep, this is one of those things that are easier said than done, for sure. But as we all know, therapy is on the rise and people are making that choice to better understand themselves. Processing our experiences and traumas with a trained professional is a really beneficial way of dealing with hardship especially and allowing us to be aware of them. It’s not always something we can do alone, and that’s ok. Learning with someone who is capable of helping us to learn makes perfect sense, right? Right! A therapist can help us to process the things our parents have passed onto us and start to unlearn them and learn new, healthier habits.
Acceptance comes with time. It’s hard to accept that maybe your parents didn’t act in the most favourable manner, or that you were passed on their unfavourable traits. It’s not easy to come to terms with the fact that you have to take some responsibility for these patterns by making the choice to break the cycle. It seems almost unfair that other people’s actions need to be stopped by you! Accepting that this is something you need to do to heal from these patterns and experiences is really important. We must accept our past and parents’ mistakes and try to move forward in the right direction. And not everyone has the awareness to be able to break the cycle, and the fact that we might is a big deal, and one to be proud of.
Your feelings are valid: If you’re angry, sad, disappointed, or any other emotion for that matter - it’s ok to feel that way. Don’t feel guilty for your emotions, they're valid and important. Feel them out, try to understand them and avoid pushing them down. Only you understand your experiences and they’re also valid, even if it’s not how someone else remembers it. You’re processing your trauma and experiences, no one else's. And however you choose to do that is ok. Breaking the cycle is a huge responsibility, so if you’re ready to do that, you should be really proud of yourself.