I wanted to be therapist since I was a young kid. That’s weird, right? For as long as I can remember, this was my dream job. Other kids were dreaming of being professional basketball players, Hollywood movie stars, doctors, etc, and I was dreaming of sitting in an office listening to someone talk about their mental health challenges. I wanted to be exactly like Gabriel Byrne in HBO’s “In Treatment” (loved that show, by the way) or the therapists in Hoarders (these people had it all figured out- obviously).
I can tell you exactly why I wanted to be a therapist and it began, where most stories do, in my own family of origin. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize by saying that my own family dynamic fascinated me. I was a female living with two males, and I always felt a little bit out of place, a little bit “too emotional” and a little bit “overlooked” as a result of this. I was also the youngest of two. This role that I had in my family became one that was powerful for me back then, and it carried into my adulthood.
Roles that we take on early in our families have a potency and power that can’t be measured. If you think about it, our first message about our value, we receive directly from our parents. For example, if you learn early on from mom and dad that you are “intelligent,” you will tend to believe that statement throughout your life. If the message that you are given in your early developmental stages is that you are “not good enough,” than you will continue to carry that message into your adulthood. These messages are powerful because they come to us at impressionable and vulnerable times in our development. Moreover, these messages become the monopoly message because of the amount of time that we spend with our families of origin. For most of us, we spent more time with our nuclear family than anyone else, by a long shot. Families are powerful and the roles that we play in them, even more.
Many of us, subconsciously, are still trying to fulfill the role that we took on in our families of origin in some way or another. Maybe we have changed in some ways, maybe in a lot of ways, but I promise you that in other ways: you are still trying to fulfill that role that you had when you were 7. It has a potency that can’t be eradicated completely. Think for a minute: how did you feel when you were a kid? Fast forward to today: what situation in your life causes you to feel this way? What other relationship reminds you of this one?
Change is possible and happens for many of us with deep levels of awareness, understanding, and honesty. We are not cemented to these roles; I promise you this. We can leave them for new ones; ones that we choose to have. The point I want to make is that our tendency, will always be towards our Family of origin role. We have to actively choose not to fall back into it when it beckons us. We have to actively choose our new role.