Exploring Your Past to Live in the Present
What was it like growing up in your family? What did you learn about yourself and how to relate to others? How has it impacted the decisions you make today? What were some defining moments?
In order to create understanding into who you are and why you make certain choices, it’s important to look at your family of origin. This refers to the significant caretakers and siblings that you grow up with, or the first social group you belong to, which often is your family.
Our early experiences have a major influence on how we see ourselves, others and the world and how we cope and function in our daily lives. They heavily influence our key choices such as selecting a partner, how you parent and in our personal and professional relationships.
Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forward. Many people don’t want to look at the past because they want to forget it, they don’t think it really matters or they don’t want to be victims of the past. It’s not to get stuck, blame, dwell or be a victim of the past, rather it’s to create understanding and awareness about you and why you think and act the way you do.
Anxiety, depression, anger, fear and recurrent relationship problems are often tied to unresolved or unconscious issues from the past. Our family taught us how to interact and communicate, how to manage our emotions and meet our needs. Most of our values, beliefs and our sense of self originate from our parents or primary caregivers.
Once we have awareness and become conscious of our choices, we can make changes that can lead to more clarity, happiness and peace.
Here are some helpful suggestions to get you started:
Create a timeline. List all the significant events and circumstances that have happened in your life. Think about things that had a major impact on who you are such as moves, parental separation, accidents, traumas, deaths, key relationships, etc.
Journal about key memories and experiences that come up for you when thinking about your childhood.
Talk with a safe person that can help you process, explore and work through your early experiences.
Remember, no family is perfect. We do the best we can with what we know. This process takes time; however, it is valuable in facing and overcoming fears and changing unhealthy relationship patterns. It helps you achieve deeper understanding and peace so you can move forward.
-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained
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