I was born in a large family – I lose count of my brothers and sisters. Needless to say, I had very little contact with my father. He had several wives, and so personal connection with him was next to impossible. He was extremely domineering, he alone had the permission to have a voice, the rest of us did not. We grew in fear of my father. My mother had to take care of a large number of children, and so I experienced the ambivalent attachment style. I had to compete to be seen – there were times my mother would provide for me, other times she could not. I felt unseen and unheard – and all this led to jealousy and unhealthy competition with others. I used to cling to my mother, but I was always afraid that she would leave and not come back. I feared that she would not love me, so I did everything possible to please her and buy her love. I was feeling very insecure.
I grew up with a sense of not being enough. I had to work very hard to be accepted by others. The choices I made later in life demonstrated my insecurity – I denied most of my needs in order to fulfil those of others.
I got into very dysfunctional relationships. I was attracted to people who were domineering – those who reflected my father. I somewhat believed that I deserved to have such people, because I was needy and I constantly needed someone to take care of me, despite the insatiable desire to be recognized through taking care of others.
This training has helped me to understand the adversity I went through that influenced my life so intensely. I have learned that the parenting style my parents used on me was very dysfunctional, but that’s all they knew. Through my family tree, I realized that epigenetic trauma loomed in my family. My grandparents experienced unfathomable traumas, which they passed on to my parents, who in turn passed them on to us. I see myself treating my children the way I was treated, and thus perpetuating these traumas. I have learned that I can break the cycle through awareness. By being aware of what happened to me, I now shift from asking myself “what’s wrong with me” to “ what happened to me”? This has liberated me immensely. I am not to blame for my current situation, it didn`t start with me. My parents gave me what they had – you cannot give what you do not have – and I in turn give my children what I have. Now I have learned that I can change. Through the mindfulness exercises we have learned in this training, I am now in touch with myself and my innermost feelings, and I have come to accept myself as I am, and work towards my goals. I know I am enough – I do not need others to validate me in order for me to feel enough. I have learned to recognize the positive things in my life, and to be grateful. Being grateful has greatly help me to realize that I have so many reasons to celebrate. By so doing, I feel better. I feel more vibrant. It is a great feeling. I feel free. I feel like a huge load has been taken off my back, and I am a new person now. I can now embrace my inner child so that it can feel safe. I am willing and ready to forgive my family – parents, grandparents, siblings, husband, children and myself, because I want to set myself free. My relationship with my husband and children is changing since I learned these things, and I want to bear witness that change is possible. I am so grateful! (A trainee in Mozambique)
Epigenetic trauma has a remarkable influence on parenting styles. Mark Wolynn, in his book It Didn`t Start With You says: “Where we come from affects where we go. What sits unresolved in our past influences our present”. Sigmund Freud called this Traumatic Re-enactment, or Repetition Compulsion, which is an attempt of the unconscious to replay what is unresolved in order to get it right. This unconscious drive to relive past events could be one of the mechanisms at work when families repeat unresolved traumas in future generations. What`s in the unconscious does not dissolve, nothing is lost, just re-routed.
This means that it is essential to identify these patterns in order to understand what influences our life now and prevents us from reclaiming it and living it fully. All that is not said is transmitted especially through contagion in the collective consciousness.
Effects of unresolved epigenetic trauma remain in the unconscious and live in our bodies as somatic memories, and this leads to experiences of being out of sync with ourselves, where we find it hard to control our thoughts and hence our feelings, and since we feel we are the problem, we do everything possible to control our environment in order to feel safe.
However, once we realize this, the healing process begins. We know the truth and the truth sets us free. We start dialoging with our unconscious mind through mindfulness, imagining different scenarios, we understand the importance of forgiveness – letting go of resentments and setting ourselves free from the chains of bitterness. New experiences create new neural pathways which are strengthened through repetition and deepened through focused attention. This stimulates the feel good hormones, letting go of the stress hormones that have characterized our life. We create new thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and a new brain map, leading to an inner experience of wellbeing.
Conscious parenting is about connection, not correction. When we offer children secure attachment, we make them feel safe. Feeling safe helps the child to be themselves, to develop internal protective factors, and live creatively in fulfilment of their goals.
We need to raise ourselves first, being whole from within, only then can we be the best guide for our children.
Every child wants to know if they are seen, worthy, or they matter. Their behaviors mask these needs.
Trigger is never on the outside, it is always on the inside. It is rooted in our fear. Resisting the present moment creates disconnection, because we lose the grace of the moment.
Our parenting styles need to concentrate on allowing children to feel and experience the present moment fully. Feelings can be the portal for growth.