I love having “ah ha moments” in counselling sessions when I can help a client make a connection to what is interfering in their happiness.
I look at intergenerational patterns and themes that repeat in a person’s today life. How is this detected? First, I want to hear what is currently driving a person’s fear. I want to hear how my client describes their early childhood experiences, and what they know about their grandparents’ trials and tribulations that share the same themes in their challenges. I have chosen to share a clients’ journey into experiencing how the past has shaped her fear about taking risks and in celebrating her daughters graduating to the next stage of their lives.
Maureen by all accounts has had a good life! She is in a good marriage of 20 years, with two daughters one in University and one still at home. She is a programmer at a Community Centre. Maureen’s mood had been low in the past year and asked her doctor for advice. Her doctor suggested she try counselling. Maureen had never seen a counsellor before. From Maureen’s perspective, she was having strong feelings that she would like to be a stay home Mom, citing there are some personality conflicts at work between colleagues and her manager and she is finding work uncomfortable and wants to avoid the conflict. What was interesting to me is Maureen’s second daughter was applying to out-of-town Universities, so why was Maureen wanting to be a stay home Mom when none of her children would be living in the family home full time?
The unique and unconscious answers lay in the events from her ancestors in what I call intergenerational events from both her childhood and from the events that happened in her father’s early years. Maureen is the oldest of three children, raised by loving parents and grandparents who also lived on their property. This provided her with a safe and sometimes sheltered childhood. When her younger brother Ted, was 17 years old, he was in a bad car accident. She remembers coming home to an empty home, which was unusual, later to learn about the shock of his car accident. Shortly after the accident, Maureen recalls her father hugging her tight and telling her that he failed to protect Ted, and that he will do a better job of keeping the family close. From that day onward her life became even more protected where she didn’t go on overnight high school trips and was discouraged from taking a gap year abroad. When Maureen finally moved out of her family home, she didn’t enjoy living alone. When asked to describe what she knows of her parent’s history, Maureen first tells me about her father’s childhood where he lost his brother, also named Ted, at the age of 17 to a farming accident. This event, plus the early death of his father, I was certain accounted for Maureen’s father’s protectiveness over his children, including naming his child after his deceased brother. The intergenerational connection has been made! What Maureen could hear and understand was the family legacy of losing life at age 17, its impact on her father’s parenting of his children, as well how this fear of losing a loved one was affecting her mood. Her low mood started the year her first daughter was graduating (17 years old) and had made plans to study abroad. Maureen’s words were “I’m happy for her” and at the same time, Maureen was preparing emotionally for her second daughter to leave home. Maureen needed to let go of her fear of “losing a loved one” in a healing ceremony to help herself launch her children successfully.
The family constellation work included a double candle vigil for the Uncle Ted who passed away at 17 and for her Paternal Grandfather both of whom she never met. Her Grandfathers’ early death impacted Maureen’s father in profound ways. The protector of the family was gone, and his family became more vulnerable. As well, her father did not have a male figure to guide him into manhood. Her father lived with the fear “life is fragile and scary.” Essentially Maureen’s father grew to become more fearful of life when his son was in a car accident. Why did Maureen go ahead with my suggestion of the candle vigil? I was able to give her meaning and a context for what her father had missed out on; having a parent launch him into adulthood (the stage of life she was in right now!). These early events affected him whether he knew it or not and in turn, affected Maureen. She now could express joy about launching her daughter. An added bonus for Maureen besides feeling happier, was she decided she liked her work, and she made plans to travel abroad with her husband.