Reaching back into your personal ancestry can be revealing in terms of the conscious and unconscious patterns of behaviour which run through generations of your female timeline. We will discuss not only learned behaviours from our predecessors, but also ancestral memory which is very subtle.
The expectations of a daughter are made up of generational beliefs about how a daughter should be. A mother naturally wants her daughter to become like her or wants her to fulfil roles she never had an opportunity for. Often as daughters, we do not question what’s handed down to us until we find we are hurting or our relationships aren’t working and want to understand why this is so.
As detailed in Chapter One of Mothers and Daughters, scientific research shows that the egg you came from was formed inside the ovary in the first few weeks of your mother’s life, while she began her gestation inside the body of her mother (your grandmother). The cell you came from was once inside your mother’s foetus inside your grandmother’s womb. This means the egg you came from was in your grandmother’s body for months and then in your mother’s body for years. Gaining greater insights into the women who came before you and how your own beliefs, behaviours and responses have been formed, will help you to deal with your own emotions in relation to your mother and with relationships in general.
Nothing influences children more than the silent facts in the background - Karl Jung
‘‘The child is so much a part of the psychological atmosphere of the parents that the secret of unresolved problems between them can influence its health profoundly. The participation mystique...causes the child to feel the conflicts of the parents and to suffer from them as if they were its own. It is hardly ever open conflict or the manifest difficulty that has such a poisonous effect, but almost always parental problems that have been kept hidden or allowed to become unconscious’’ Psychology and Education, C.G.Jung
The enmeshment which can happen within intimate relationships stays within the family tree and gets passed down the generations when an individual doesn’t do the inner-work to heal their unconscious pain. This is what Jung calls ‘‘participation mystique’’. The inner work you choose to do now and as you read through the contents of this book, will allow you to move through your ancestors’ archaic suffering. Past wounds will no longer be passed down and those who follow you will benefit.
Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands - Linda Hogan
With advances in research, many theories discuss epigenetic, ancestral and biological memory traces being passed on through DNA. One such study lead by Rachel Yehuda, a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital on Holocaust survivors indicates an association of parental preconception trauma. Epigenetic alterations are evident in both exposed parents and offspring; the intergenerational effects of psycho physiological trauma make for interesting reading. I would personally love to see more research developing in this area.
Inherited memory is a fascinating subject, when we begin to understand it is possible to be influenced by the collective suffering passed down through generations. These memories are not memories of actual events but formed of instinctive behaviour patterns as a result of the circumstances of our ancestors. It is worth considering how our ancestral memory in addition to our early learning, form beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. We may find ourselves making connections in new situations.
From childhood through to adulthood our subconscious drive is to seek security, it would have been the same for those who came before us. We seek out the situation which will model what security looks like, feels, like and sounds like based on our early learning. We have a deep compulsion in our relationships to re-create what we subconsciously believe to be normal. If we have experienced pain, neglect or abandonment in childhood we may subconsciously set ourselves up for the exact same thing to happen. This influence runs from birth through to the day we die, unless we are able to explore our patterns of behaviour and make changes to our perceptions and beliefs. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung used the phrase ‘collective unconscious’, while others may call ancestral memory ‘genetic memory’ or ‘inherited memory’. If you have a specific interest in the area of ancestral memory, Terence Watts offers additional insights in his book Warriors, Settlers, Nomads: Discovering who we are and what we can be. He shares revealing information about the skills and psychological attitudes we have inherited from our ancestors.
Your mother is the origin of you, the intricate bond between generations, your source and your blood-line. Through her, you are connected with the female blood line and all the women who went before her. To understand ourselves, we need to explore the experiences which shaped our mothers’ lives. Although each of our mothers had her own unique experiences and life story, we carry a portion of our mother’s DNA and her life blood within us. We may also share similar looks and features, mannerisms, behaviours, beliefs and even aspirations. We may even have the same hopes and fears, the same health conditions and complaints.
We deepen the connection with our own lives when we reach out to others who knew our mothers. Perhaps, you too, will find similarities between your mother, her mother and their predecessors. By asking your mother’s family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to share their memories of your mother, you may be able to see her through fresh eyes and learn things about her you never knew. You will gain a greater understanding of your mother when you are able to voice your questions and gather information shared about her. For example, if your mother has been critical of you, you might find out that your grandmother behaved in this way towards her or, she may have been self-critical, based on her own lack of confidence. When you are able to talk to your mother’s peers, you will not only establish ties with other women, you also gain awareness about who your mother was and where you come from.
By understanding yourself, your mother and your family tree, you will find a way to acknowledge your mother’s life and also recognise the child inside you who is searching for a mother’s love, approval, recognition and acceptance. You may even discover what you wanted was there all along, you just didn’t realise or recognise it. Perspective is everything and the more we know about our mothers, the more we understand ourselves. I for one now understand my mother’s depression and low moods, she had given up who she wanted to become to do what other people and society expected of her, it comes as no surprise now why she was depressed.
Claire’s Words of Wisdom
Claire shared with me that it wasn’t until the day of her mum’s funeral when she met up with her mother’s neighbour, she was told how proud her mother had been of her. From an era where too much direct praise for a child was frowned upon, Claire’s mother secretly shared with her neighbour how much she loved her daughter and how proud of her she was, but found it difficult to tell her in case she became self- centred. Although Claire regretted not hearing this from her mother’s lips, it left her with a deep sense of comfort. Knowing her mother did care, even if she never voiced it on personally she was able to attend her mother’s funeral with an even greater sense of love.
Historically it’s been hard for mothers and daughters to see themselves as unique individuals independent of each other and whole in their own right. Depending on the culture we grow up in, I know for many women this is proving to be a challenge, though with persistence we can to break away from the cultural norm. With diplomacy and willingness for each of us to live our lives on our terms and appropriate to our individual needs, daughters are gradually changing old paradigms.
Pushpa Case Study - Pushpa sought intervention for assertiveness and anger management
Whilst working with Pushpa, although she felt some emotional release of anger and frustration using EFT, she explained she felt she had to follow the cultural expectations laid out for her as a daughter, wife and mother. She was in fear of speaking up and became anxious at the thought of doing so. It took courage for her to be assertive and to stand up to her family, husband and in-laws stating she wanted to continue her studies as well as be a mother. This didn’t go without argument and a whole barrage of abuse stating it was her duty to look after her husband, home and children and not have any career ambitions of her own.
After some confidence and assertiveness training and discussion, Pushpa was setting clear boundaries and not backing down. She gave up on her need to please others and fit to the cultural norm. Pushpa shared with her family her career aspirations, she let them know clearly that without fulfilling her dream, her life would not be complete and she would feel resentful having to live under someone else’s rules and conditions. This story has a happy ending, as both families and the husband rallied round to help with childcare and eventually respected Pushpa’s decisions to fulfil her personal goals of becoming a solicitor and the family are in fact very proud of their daughter and her achievements. Cultural traditions do not have to stay the same as we have seen in Pushpa’s example.
Learning about your mother’s life
What date was your mother’s birth? Take into account the generational and societal changes women have gone through over the years.
How might the era your mother grew up in, shaped her and in turn her ability to nurture and express love?
What changes have become apparent to you about the role of parenting from the time of her childhood to yours?
What societal or cultural influences have impacted your mother’s behaviours?
What have you learned directly from your mother’s parenting style? (both positive and negative)
How is your parenting style different to your mothers?
If you are not yet a mother what do you imagine your parenting style will be?
It is my belief that you and I are here right now in this time and space to create positive change in the world and to shape a different reality for the daughters who come after us. We do not have to copy learnt behaviours and patterns. History can be a teacher and improvements made and in turn, beliefs about how women and daughters ‘should be’ will change.
Discovering the women in your blood line:
What was the size of your mother’s family and that of your grandmother and great-grandmother?
Were your female relatives married, widowed, divorced, co-habiting or single?
What hardships did the women in your blood-line suffer?
At what age did they die?
What was the cause of death?
How many siblings did each of those women have? (Did they all live through childhood?)
How many of the females in your blood line worked outside the home? (If so what was their job title)
Where did they live?
How many other people shared the living space?
What additional information can you find out about the lives of the women who came before you?
Within each of us we carry our mother just as she carried us. There might be times when you think ‘mum would be really proud of me’, or ‘mum would go mad at me’. Echoes of her voice, behaviours, mannerisms, moods, hopes, joys and fears all reside within. It’s deciding what aspects of your personal ancestry, behaviours and beliefs you wish to continue with as an individual or as a mother.
‘‘I frequently wonder about my own female heritage and the epigenetic emotional impact passed down through my time-line. My grandmother’s mother was a wife, mother and widow all in the same year’’.
Find out more about the relationship with your mother and the women who came before her right here
Do reach out and make contact if you would like some personal support, I have a range of programmes to suit your needs.
To unlock the Mother Myths and the secrets to life, we look to the forces that shaped our lives, of the woman who came before us - Patricia Commins