Summary: This article is intended for those who have tracked down their fears of repeating the fate of their parents; those who do not want to live the way their parents did; those who are ready to abandon the scenario of someone else's life and start living their own.
In many families, parents but also grandparents are the key figures in a child's life. They accompany us in this world. They teach us, becoming an example in many things: how to walk, how to eat, how to react to a painful remark, how to build relationships with people and even how to end such relationships. It's great if this example is a positive and harmonious one. Often, however, an example is not an inspiring one. In this case, we clearly don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. At the same time, we cannot help but notice a similar pattern in our own lives: a repetition of the same scenario or behavioral patterns. We feel cornered: I don’t want to repeat the same fate but I don’t know how to do it any other way.
Let me share with you a short life story. It may sound familiar as there are enough people among us who follow a similar life pattern.
There is a rather successful businessman A. His career goes well but his private life is almost non-existent. Witnessing as a child a painful divorce of his parents, he has taught himself not to fall in love and not to enter any serious relationships. He doesn’t see any good in romantic relationships as many of them end in bitter divorce. This self-imposed denial of love worked until he met her. She was so different. She talked a lot about her own family, which differed so much from what he had known in his life. Her parents loved each other, they shared their meals, they went on holidays together. Until he met her he was convinced that he had found the best recipe to avoid life sufferings. But now everything looked different: instead of praising his own prudence in love affairs, he saw himself in the future as a lonely old man without a partner, without a family. Something happened inside him and for the first time in so many years he was afraid. He was honest with her: Nobody ever loved me, - he said. But have you ever tried to love somebody? - she answered back.
How to stop worrying about repeating the same life pattern?
As a rule, we are afraid to get ill, to fail in our relationships, to get divorced, to fall into financial troubles or to live a lonely life.
Whatever the problem that bothers us is, it won’t be solved by itself. The number of years lived is not a guarantee of wisdom and skills that will help overcome difficulties. At the same time, if you have noticed certain recurring patterns in the lives of our parents, grandparents, or, perhaps, even great-grandparents, you do not need to give up on your own life. This is the road to nowhere.
What we need to do instead is to stop, analyze and identify potential lessons: What has this situation taught me? Why have I created it? (Yes, it is us who create any situations in our lives). What benefit do I get? (Exactly! Any situation we create can be beneficial for us. Some benefits are more explicit - money, love, praise - other benefits are more hidden - sympathy, attention, support).
Often, we do not realize the hidden benefits. Just one example: a certain negative situation occurs, a person decides not to go into conflict. Instead this person chooses to remain silent and at such a price to maintain harmony. The problem is that this harmony is only a seeming one: it is skewed and illusory. The absence of conflict (unwillingness to get involved into one) creates the illusion of harmony. The result, however, is a passive destruction of personal or business relationships. At first, this happens slowly, but gradually the pace picks up like a snowball. And, finally, we are confronted by the rupture of relationships with loved ones, business, income.
Why do we keep repeating our parents’ mistakes?
Often, even after realizing the fear of repeating the scenario of our ancestors, we continue to follow their path. Why do we do that? Someone identifies with the family in this way. A particularly vivid example of such an identification can be traced to those who in childhood did not receive enough attention from their parents. For example, a drinking parent, or a workaholic parent, who, as a rule, was not in the child's life. As an adult, this child will behave like their parent (drink or go to work), because being “like my parent” means being a part of my parent, being their continuation, which was so lacking in childhood.
Another reason for the repetition of the scenario is an unconscious unwillingness to go the other way and be a black sheep in the family. That threatens to become an outcast, to be left alone and, like the apogee, to die alone. One way or another, a person enters a vicious circle: I don't want it, but I can't do it any other way.
How to get out of the vicious circle?
It is easy and difficult at the same time. We need to make a few steps:
Realize that we can be a full member of the family without having to repeat the mistakes of our parents or grandparents. We can freely build our own lives.
Take responsibility for our lives, without blaming our ancestors for our own failures.
Revise our thinking, emotions, and goals (who am I? What am I? Where am I going?). Realise our identity, talents, and needs. Accept ourselves in different contexts.
The phrases “I will never forgive my mother / father” are destructive. After all, we are the only ones who need this forgiveness: after working through the grievances, we will finally be able to begin living our own lives. Otherwise we are simply living in the past and not living in the present.
The right to build and live YOUR own life is given to everyone by birthright. Sometimes it is replaced by the realization that you are living your life according to someone else's scenario. There is a fear of asking for help, becoming dependent on someone else, a desire to prove that I can handle it myself. It is this desire that signals that there are unresolved family conflicts, in connection with which many areas of life suffer.
Some clients who came to us with similar questions, agreed with the correctness of this judgement but often felt that they didn’t have enough time, strength or even money to tackle the issue. Well, to tell the truth, there will always be some ‘BUT’, which would hide the fear of going the other way. But think for a moment about where the usual path leads? Over the years, any unresolved problems accumulate and can pour out at the physical level, resulting in numerous health issues (from headaches and insomnia to cancer).
Apart from ourselves, no one can decide whether to accept or reject family scenarios. Just as no one except us can decide whether to follow them or live our own lives.
Leaving these matters for later in a hope of their magic resolution is a trap. After all, ‘later’ will be much more expensive - and it's not just about money. It is also about family and business problems. It may turn out to be a very high fee to pay compared to what you might have paid in the beginning. Or even in the middle. What you need to do already today is to track the trends and behavioral mechanisms that lead to a particular problem and promptly seek qualified help.
Our clients (and they come from such well-known companies and firms as Credit Suisse, UBS, Novartis, Nestle, LOnza, GSK) get in touch with us at different stages. Some come at the very beginning of their problems and they succeed in saving family and business relationships. Others come once they have lost everything but they manage to rediscover an inner strength and rebuild everything from scratch. Regardless at which stage of your problem solving you are at the moment, we sincerely wish you to succeed!
Our clients resonate with our stories or stories of our clients and would like to reach their own goals.
And what about you? Do you feel that family scenarios (happy or otherwise) define your own life, leaving you with little space for your own life choices?
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”
(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)
We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!
With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.