How do you handle the surge of emotion that different situations can bring? Both positive and negative emotions can become powerful forces that make remaining connected more difficult. People have difficulties staying connected to their children when they tantrum, to their partners when they are anxious or jealous and to their jobs when the responsibilities of the role outgrow the pay, resources and systems that can be accessed. It seems like we have a tendency to shut down when things get intense.
People who experience a traumatic event such as an automobile accident, an assault or armed conflict also describe the scene unfolding around them as they are frozen in the instant of impact. If the act of freezing isn’t resolved- if the person is never able to complete their defense of their physical, psychic or spiritual self, they can unconsciously seek out the same kinds of contexts over and over again. If your parents were abusive, you’ll probably find that whatever patterns you encountered early on perpetuate themselves well into adulthood. If you were punished with the silent treatment, with corporal discipline or if your parents routinely gaslighted you, it bent the narrative of your life.
What felt natural, necessary and normal to you was impacted by those choices. This can manifest down through generations in family systems. Individually, it’s often a spiral that goes downwards or sideways as the same basic conversation perpetuates itself over and over again while the person at the center of the impacts tries their best to break the cycle of negative entrainment.
Preoccupied with the baggage of these past experiences where the defense mechanism wasn’t completed and the offense remained unaddressed or unresolved, the child grows into an adult whose continuous cost of coping exacts its respective tolls on children, partners, friends, professional relationships and even spiritual contexts. We perpetuate these cycles because we are often blind to our own roles in the system.
Once children, we become adults who are more powerful and whose impact is magnified. Roles are assigned in family systems and in social, spiritual and psychic systems without our continuous, conscious volition. Interrupting the pattern isn’t hard. Disrupting and displacing it, however, is often the work of a lifetime. That’s because the facts of our lives aren’t what we have to address when we are engaged in personal work that seeks to reform our marriages, mindset or any other sphere. It’s the feelings that we have about those facts that matter.
Having experienced an impact is difficult enough, but impacts that are unresolved create echoes in our physical, psychic, relational and spiritual selves. “Unfreezing” the place where we experienced being overwhelmed is critical to freeing up our energy and focus in order to build the lives that we deeply desire. Unfortunately, we often normalize our responses and routinely incorporate them into our habits of being, believing and behaving so that we inadvertently perpetuate our own pain, even visiting its toxic overflow onto those we swore that we’d never abuse in the same way.
One person’s alcoholic parent creates a suspicious and controlling son who creates a rebellious and raging grandson who creates a hapless and helpless great grandson who can’t even move out of mom and dad’s basement… Or- one person’s gambling parent creates an insecure daughter who always makes the safe choice and doesn’t feel entitled to courtesy, commitment and kindness from her partner who creates a granddaughter that is angry about mom’s uncertainty and inconsistency and therefore controls everything that she can. HER daughter then isn’t able to make her own choices about career, education and friendships and rigidly controlling mom who is always angry now has a daughter who is anorexic because SOMETHING must be in her control…. And so on.
Think of family systems like galaxies- their members have their own gravity, impacts on neighbors and patterns of movement. But- collectively, they center around one larger location and share many conditions in common. The good news is that we can share good conditions in common as well as undesirable ones. We can literally disrupt the system and its current momentum, motion and movement by simply introducing a new element into the system.
The key to a successful disruption that moves the individual or collective system from a downward or sideways spiral to an optimizing or upward spiral is that the new element must persist in its position in order to have impact. If it is absorbed by the system- that is to say- if it entrains to the motion, position and psychic signature of the current system, it won’t create a shift that lasts.
Introducing a new element can be as simple as declining to allow someone to compel behaviors that have been normalized but that should never have been incorporated into the system. We can learn to speak up for ourselves. We can learn to consciously engage our own narratives and consciously set our own intentions. As we consistently and persistently execute our intended courses of action, we develop a new habit.
The pattern, inevitably, shifts. Sometimes one new habit becomes two… or three… or a whole new pattern that is more functional, optimal and aligned with our values. The inheritance of a consciously aligned, emotionally aware and energetically engaged self is priceless. Passing THAT to the next generation is something we should all aspire to achieve and seriously endeavor to perform. Sometimes, it can be easier to progress with the right support.
If you are committed to making change that matters in your own life or in your organization, one of our compassionate, skilled coaches can help. Call us for a free consultation!