Q. How can family-of-origin work help me and my relationships?

A. Your question reminds me of a cartoon I show in some of my brain-function seminars. It pictures a car stopped in front of a giant road map. There is a large dot on the map beside which are written the words, You are here. The driver’s face shows stunned disbelief. Not very helpful to a traveler!

In a similar way, it is difficult to develop a map for the rest of your life if you don’t know where you’ve been. Without that knowledge, many individuals spend their lives metaphorically driving around in circles. As Winston Churchill said, the further backward you look, the further forward you can see. This does not suggest that we are to live in the past any more than we are to live in the future. We need to know where we’ve come from, identify where we are going, and live in the present.

I define family-of-origin work as the process of getting to know who you are individually against the backdrop of nature and nurture. It’s a journey of awareness. The idea of increasing your awareness through family-of-origin work is an old concept, although the term itself may be relatively new. Your personal history is unique to you as an individual. This is true even if you were a twin or triplet. One of you was slightly older than the other(s) and that fact alone can change environmental dynamics.

Metaphorically, think of yourself as a plant. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to learn as much as possible about the garden in which you were planted at time of conception and after birth, and whether or not it was a good fit with your type of plant. If yes, wonderful! If not, you have information to make an informed choice about the way in which you want to live the rest of your life.


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