I have been reading a book called Emotional Inheritance by Galit Atlas. I was attracted to it by a review I had read, when it arrived I was at first reluctant to actually pick it up and start reading. I suppose I thought it might be difficult, trigger stuff which it did. The premise is basically that we all inherit emotional situations sub-consciously that impinge on our own behaviour. I have no problem with that in principle, it seems straightforward.
In the book there are very case histories, though written in an open non-academic style from the author’s clients from her practice as a psychotherapist. Quite often it seems that the emotional inheritance comes from the things unsaid, the family secrets that one knows but doesn’t know.
Perhaps the more obvious ones are where you accept patterns of behaviour because they are the patterns that you know, are familiar with. I am of an age where my grandparents were literally Victorians, and my parents born in the Edwardian period. My grandparents from what I remember of them were totally undemonstrative and seemingly lacking in affection, my grandmother in particular was a remote, rather detached person. I suspect again she had an inherited emotional pattern, her father was in the Royal Marines as were her three brothers, all of whom were lost in action, and her modus operandi was simply straightforwardly that of a disciplinarian.
My father was brought up in that ambience and from my experience was emotionally quite detached, children should be seen not heard and frankly not seen would have been a bonus. He adopted his mother’s approach to parenting and I now realise in his marriage as well, though married for over sixty years it was very much on his terms.
I have an older brother and I was talking to him about our family life a few days ago. In particular I mentioned that I had almost no recollection of a shared family life in which he figured. I was surprised that he too had little recollection of family life in which I figured. I asked, “where were you?”. He didn’t know really, “out doing my thing I guess”.
What is clear that neither of us appear to have bonded or had the attachment to our parents that is now seen to be a basic building block to a child’s development. That feeling of security created in the initial bonding, there is someone safe, has got your back regardless. My brother and I reacted in opposite ways, he became outward going detaching himself from the family and as he said being entirely selfish (at that time), whereas I went inward and became a people pleaser, exacerbated by my confusion over my gender identity.
To put it in context today we have both made huge progress. One of his relationships involved a large extended family which enabled him to grow and develop away from his previous patterns. We have a good relationship which came as a complete surprise to me having not spoken to each other at all for some 14 years and barely once a year for the previous 20 years.
As for me, I having sorted out my gender identity and have found people I am able to be open and grow emotionally with them. Looking back over my childhood it does maybe give an understanding why I have a deep seated need to “belong” and with that sense of belonging for it to be the basis to get on with living now, to stop searching however subconsciously for that safe haven.