Spiritual Progress and Family of Origin Issues
By Andrew Shykofsky
During the early years of our lives, we were all subject to the attitudes and habits of our family of origin. Even if we were orphaned, we were still cared for by adults and thus were immersed in their ways of living for a long time, generally at least 18 years and often more. We were essentially powerless to absorb both the good ways and the dysfunctional ways of our families since we were children and teenagers without a lot of options regarding other places we could go. After marinating in the environment of our youth, we have invariably become just like our parents in a lot of ways.
At the same time, we are unique souls and our true personalities aren’t really affected permanently by our childhood. The challenge, as our souls wake up, is to sift through what we learned growing up, keep the positive traits that our parents taught us and let go of the negative stuff. While this sounds obvious, it really isn’t. In fact, it is incredibly hard to even see the degrees to which we have become like our parents until God’s Light comes upon us and we are at a point in our lives when we want to see the deeper reality. This Light generally comes by a Teacher with spiritual sight.
Those seeking to grow spiritually come from a few different camps. One camp is those that recognize their childhood was pretty messed up and they want to heal from the wounds that were caused by the terrible parenting they received. The positive side of this scenario is that the student acknowledges the faults of the parents easily. They aren’t so defensive and protective of the job their parents did. On the flip side, they can also struggle to forgive the wrongs done to them because their anger and righteousness prevent them from getting to the deeper realities of responsibility and forgiveness.
In another camp are the people who feel their parents, though not perfect in their parenting, did the best they could and they have ‘forgiven everything’ so all is well now. While intellectually, that’s a good idea, it is far from the truth and so these souls may struggle to admit their anger and hurt feelings associated with their childhood. It can be hard for them to be mad at their families so they want to quickly fix everything and make it all fine again. This attitude is prevalent in our society of spiritually minded people who actually haven’t gone very deep into their own consciousness. They have accepted the idea that they are supposed to love their parents without question and thus they forgive them without doing the deeper healing work. For these people, working on themselves will only transform them a little.
The final camp is people who maintain that their parents did a great job. They love them and are still very much sustaining the parent child relationship even though the ‘child’ may be well into their adult years. For these people, spiritual growth is quite hard because they will be almost unable to have an objective look at themselves and discern the patterns taught to them that are dysfunctional and thus need to be let go. They can be fierce defenders of the family ways and this will stop most spiritual progress.
Facing the Wounds and Patterns Caused by our Family of Origin
Suffice it to say, everyone wanting to grow spiritually will have to face the full gamut of their thinking, their behavioral patterns, their attitudes, their beliefs and emotional reactions in order that everything representing an obstacle to God be revealed and released. This process is amazing for it literally gives you back your life. But it also is tremendously frustrating because comes a day when we see how ingrained and automatic these patterns are. And how blind we are to the ways in which they limit us.
If we had all put God at the center of our lives, in particular, if our parents had, what was supposed to have happened to us would’ve been much different than what did. Our parents would’ve been in relationship with God and receiving specific Guidance on how to parent us as the unique soul we are. That Guidance would’ve been precisely what we needed when we needed it and while some of the lessons would’ve been hard, if we accepted them, we would’ve grown well and come 16, 17 or 18, we would’ve been well prepared to take on our lives in direct relationship with our Creator. We would’ve been ready to begin our mission as Soul in body.
What a dream that would be! We could’ve honored our parents in spite of their faults and been grateful that they taught us how to use our masculine and feminine energies. We would’ve seen their examples of following God in their day to day lives and emerged from the family committed to carry on that legacy.
Instead, we still carry on their legacy but generally it is stuffed full of ridiculous habits, attitudes and beliefs that represent serious obstacles in our adult lives. Unbeknownst to ourselves, we are actually very loyal to what we learned growing up and have assumed the belief structures of our parents without ever having questioned why. When we open ourselves to the Divine Light or Truth, we will be given the opportunity to review what lives in us but now it will be done within the context of a higher consciousness. In that context, we are often surprised to learn how what we have accepted and believed all our lives is actually limiting our ability to progress spiritually.
One important thing to note is that the family that does not actively put God in the center and doesn’t teach the children to find God within themselves, no matter how religious they may say they are, or even what outer customs they practice, is essentially a tribe that seeks its own survival. It defines those who are inside the tribe and those who are outside the tribe. It comes with all sorts of judgments that separate and protect its members from the outside world and forms an insulated environment filled dysfunction. Now comes the question as to whether you will allow the truth of the family dynamic to be exposed and to what degree you will let go of the family tribe so that you can be united with God.
This is incredibly hard because we are programmed to love our parents and from the beginning are totally dependent on them for our very survival. We find ways within our thinking to make sense of the abuse and neglect we experience and still love our parents. In the early years, this is absolutely essential because up until we reach our teen years, there really is no way we can make it without them.
When we reach puberty and enter the adolescent stage of life, we begin to distance ourselves from the parents. Part of this is programmed and natural as we explore our emotional identity and learn what we really care about apart from the parents. With that also comes courage and the awareness of those behaviors of our parents that are ‘off’ or out of accord with our higher selves. We begin to rebel against the authority if we intuitively know it isn’t based in love and goodness.
Once we launch out of the family and begin to forge our way in the world as independent beings, needing to find work, earn money, develop a social life, enter into and sustain relationships, the consequences of our attachment to the family begin to reveal themselves. Our task as spiritual seekers wishing to reach our highest knowing and fulfill our mission in life is to examine who we are, what we think and belief and discern what is to be kept and what is to die.
The blunt truth is that we will at points be shocked to learn how much of the negativity of our parents lives in us. For example, we might hate the fact that our fathers got so angry when we acted certain ways. And we have vowed not to get angry the way they did. But the reason our fathers got angry, such as feeling disrespected, or feeling resentful that they carried the burden of supporting everyone, or not being appreciated are likely very strong triggers in us. This is because by his actions, he taught that it was right to react explosively when something of this nature occurred. But did he also teach that we should examine our premise before we decide we are being wronged and get angry? Likely not.
What I mean here is that in God’s consciousness, we don’t jump to the conclusion that we are being wronged until we actually check in with ourselves and ask God. In fact, most of the time, we are active participants in bringing on the very consequences that we are now outraged by. As we mature as souls, we always, always, always aim for the role of owning our responsibility in every situation because this is the Path of total freedom.
Let’s say for example we had an emotional mother who hadn’t developed much masculine energy. She thus neglected to take action for the things she wanted and instead was very passive in her life. That passivity is different from the receptivity of someone balanced in their masculine and feminine energies. Passivity yields results that are less than satisfying because they lack the assertion and decisiveness that is required in the material world to claim and create what you want.
Those who are passive allow opportunities to come and go and don’t strike when the timing is right. They don’t see the signs of where a situation is going and act either in support of it or intervene to steer it right. Then they often watch things go poorly and react emotionally as if they are the victims of circumstance. A mother like that teaches her children passivity and victim mentality. She empowers her children to believe that the world is against them and that bad things will happen that are out of their control.
However, this is a false teaching and quite unfair to the child. Most of the time, ‘bad things’ happen because we were not conscious of what sort of energy and intention we were putting out. We likely seeded the situation with a lack of consciousness and didn’t have the sight and courage to actively steer things right. As well, when other people are involved, we can’t control how they respond so we always leave room for things to go in unexpected directions. The question is whether we are going to react as victims and fall to the ground forlorn, weeping and get depressed… or are we going to meditate and ask God to help us see what is happening and how to fix it?
In this case, the passivity and victim mentality will express as a loyalty to our mother. In other words, we will continue her legacy as a way to unconsciously show our love for her rather than take on the power we have to create our lives no longer as victims.
So working with a Teacher will begin to show up the obvious and subtle ways that we are still being loyal to the family tribe regardless if what we were taught is true, helpful and good for us. The student on the spiritual Path will need courage and intestinal strength to allow all aspects of themselves to be shown up. But keep in mind, this courage is greatly rewarded! How so? Well, because all your power as a creative force and being of love is returned to you. You will learn that it is your own decisions based on incorrect programming that get in your way of a happy, productive, energetic life. There is nothing outside of you that is actively in your way.
And if God is putting obstacles before you, we learn to be grateful because God is only doing so to teach us either about how our energy needs to be refined or else giving us the very challenges that will help us overcome our own faults. How amazing is that!
So now is the time to have courage and find the faith to ask either in meditation or with your teacher… ‘What am I doing here that is right and helpful? And what am I doing here that is based in some incorrect concept or belief?’ You can always pray that God show up the things you can’t quite see. And when that prayer is answered, you are likely to have one of those powerful experiences where we can see the error of our ways so obvious and clear. We call that enlightenment.
Teacher: Andrew Shykofsky