One of the statements I hear so often from my clients is that they don’t want to be “like their parents”. This is usually in response to them telling me something that they are doing that is “just like their parents.” Of course, this causes great distress for them. Now I get to tread a tricky line.
There is no way that we can NOT be like our parents. We come from them, and we have learned how to be in the world from them. Even if we do the exact opposite (whatever that is) of what they do, we are still being like them. Give me 5 minutes and I can show you how, but that is another topic.
If we could manage to not be like them, doing so would not serve us. When we disrespect what we came from, we disrespect ourselves. We are, after all, half our mother and half our father, DNA wise. You can’t take the “father” half of your DNA out of you. Who would you be if you could do that?
Since there is no way to not be your parent’s child, I have the strange job of helping my client find ways to be OK with being like their parents. It sounds tricky, especially when what they are asking me for is a way to not be like them. It sounds like I am trying to get them to do something they really don’t want to do. So many things in life seem opposite of what they truly are.
One of the very basic principals in the Family Constellation work that I do is: In families, everyone has a proper place; no one can be forgotten, cast out or denied. The entire family can be put into distress when someone is not given or refuses their proper place. I’m not talking about physical details like their proper place at the dinner table. I’m talking about their “belonging” in their family. Belonging does not mean liking or getting along. Each person instinctively knows where they belong and will make adjustments in their lives to stay in their proper place. They will seek to “belong” no matter what the cost.
These are not normally conscious moves. This is why when you are trying so hard to not be a certain way, you sometimes are. The soul level desire to belong trumps the cognitive choice to do something else. The argument inside that ensues usually isn’t so pretty.
When we try to not be like one of our parents, we are trying to deny them their proper place and something in us knows this isn’t a good idea. Our unconscious then makes adjustments to set things back to where they need to be. If we understand this process, we can use it to align our cognitive wishes with the soul level need. Done properly, this is satisfying and empowering.
What’s the trick? It’s a two step process. Just because there are only two steps does not mean it is always quick and easy. Sometimes, it requires a little outside help.
The first step is to find a way to respect each parent. Respect them for who they are, even if you dislike or disagree with the way they live (or lived) their lives. Respecting is not the same as liking, approving or even forgiving them. Respect also requires that you allow them to be just as they are, and not try to emotionally take care of them. See them exactly as they are without judgment.
A small side note: respecting someone does not require that you actually interact with them. In cases where the parent is dangerous to you, you can still respect them and keep yourself safe.
The second step can only be done after you find that place of respect. In this step, you notice the qualities in your parents that you do admire; you notice their strength, love, talent, charm, tenacity. These must be things that you truly admire about them. Noticing these things about your parents, you own them as your own; you notice that you too have these qualities and that as you express these qualities; you are affirming your proper place in respect to your parents.
By doing these steps, you reaffirm your place in your family, and free yourself to be like your parents in the ways that you choose consciously. This aligns your system and feels right all the way through. When we respect and value where we came from, we can do and be what we want in the world; we are ultimately valuing and respecting ourselves. I’ve seen my clients find a peace within themselves they didn’t know was possible, and that’s really what they were asking for all along.
Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work: www.nlpinseattle.com