So often we do things in our day to day without thinking about why. The “right” way to hang the washing, the “best” way to make bechamel sauce, the “only” way to really eat a burger. They all sound a little silly, but do you ever stop and wonder why you do some things in certain ways.
I heard a story once about a woman who was slicing the ends off her roast before popping it in the oven. Call it a habit if you will. She did this every time without thinking, until the day her new husband asked her why she was cutting the ends off the roast. She responded that she didn’t really know, but that’s what her mother had always done, so that’s what she did too. This intrigued her husband, so they called the mother and asked her why she always cut the ends off the roast. Interestingly, her mum didn’t know either, confirming that she had done it because her mother always did it when she was growing up, so she figured that this was what was done.
The woman decided to call her grandmother to ask why she had cut the ends of the roast. She called, she told her what was going on, how both she and her mother cut the ends off the roast and didn’t know why. She asked her grandmother and the old woman’s response was to laugh at her. Confused, the woman waited until her grandmother had calmed down and asked why she laughed. The grandmother responded that when she was cooking those roasts, they were too big to fit into the oven tray and the oven in her first house, and so she cut the ends off so it would fit! This hadn’t been an issue for years and the grandmother hadn’t cut the ends of a roast for many years since getting a bigger oven. Two more generations of women had been cutting the ends off the roast without even understanding why it was done.
It’s a funny story, but when we start looking beneath the humour, we begin to see how insidious family behaviour patterns can be. We see a person who does something so subconsciously she isn’t even aware of it, and when we dig into it, it’s due to a restriction fifty years ago that is no longer relevant, the size of her grandmother’s first oven.
It makes me wonder how many “habits” we have that are from generations before borne of a need or restriction that has no relevance in our current lives. What about our attitudes to money, food, scarcity, parenting, friendships, and self-talk? What unwanted behaviours do you engage in because that’s how your family functioned?
Have you ever noticed that if your parents didn’t have a lot of money to spend when you were a kid that you really struggle to buy yourself things that aren’t absolute necessities? Spending money on others is easier, but justifying a “just because” purchase for yourself is nearly impossible. In fact, the thought of spending money on yourself often sends you into a flat panic.
What about our behaviours with food? How many times do you struggle with having to finish all the food on your plate now because as a child you were always told to “eat everything on your plate”, “it’s rude not to eat all your food”, or “there’s starving children in Africa, be grateful for what you have”. Now you find you have a terrible relationship with food, don’t really know when you’re full and have significant difficulty seeing food being “wasted” if it’s left uneaten on a plate.
For many of us, we came from families where appearances were everything. Any public presentation was of the perfect, happy family, but behind closed doors a multitude of sins occurred from excessive physical punishment, neglect of children and even sexual assaults. You learnt to look perfect in public and to hide every imperfection and stain. We crush our feelings inside, allowing nothing negative out.
These unconscious experiences invade our life and impact us in ways we don’t even see. We are often aware that we do things that don’t feel “us”, that don’t fit the person we truly feel we are, and yet we are stuck, not knowing how to even begin to address this feeling of discomfort. Learning how to recognise our family patterns and what to do to change them takes a practiced eye and support. This isn’t about unpacking trauma (although you might need to), it’s about finding the root cause so you can unlink it from yourself and your identity. You need to understand what the links are to be able to reframe or remove them. Awareness is half the battle, the other half is a clear plan on new ways of responding so that you are living in a way that feels good.
Let’s talk more about these unwanted patterns, you’ll know which ones, because they popped into your mind as you read that line. I remember the moment when I realised I was engaging with my kids in a way I hadn’t ever wanted to. It was like I had no control over how I was responding, even in the midst of hating what I was doing. I felt so ashamed, wondering how I had turned out like this. It took time for me to work out these unseen patterns. I had to learn about how I unconsciously picked up these behaviours and then develop my own plan to move forward. I didn’t need to deal with why it happened. My awareness of where I had learnt things allowed me to be able to change my responses with careful planning.
Sometimes we aren’t aware that family patterns are keeping us stuck, but we know that we do things that make us feel uncomfortable. If you feel that you may be repeating old family patterns, working with me can help you find them. Then you prepare to work with them and then overcome them. If you think you will benefit from addressing your own family patterns, register your interest to be guided through your journey by entering your email address and clicking on the button below. I don’t like spam either, so you won’t be inundated with my emails.